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Joni Woolf: It’s always time for cookies

For the past several weeks my daughters — the one in Rome and the one here — and I have been in a cookie-making frenzy. When I visited the Rome daughter recently, I was surprised at the volume of cookies and candies that were placed around in dishes and boxes — mostly to give away, but plenty for taste-testing. Back at home, the daughter up the hill was busily making treats to give friends at school and church. So, I joined in the cook-fest, and added to her collection (and saved a few for myself). Unlike the richer cakes and pastries, a single cookie can be just the sweet touch that completes a meal, without making one feel guilty for the slight indulgence. Though the holidays are drawing to a close, it is never too late to eat — or bake — a cookie. So here are a few recipes to whet the appetite. Make some to give away. Or enjoy all by yourself as you consider the new year just ahead.
The first recipe is from Janet Siders, retired human resources director at Georgia Southwestern State University. I had written about her some years ago, and have become reacquainted with her at Silver Sneakers, the exercise group that meets three times a week at Southwest Georgia Fitness Center. We talk about food, then we work it off.

Chocolate-Molasses Cookies
½ cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (optional)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ cup molasses
1 large egg
Sanding, Demerara or granulated sugar, for decoration.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and add ginger, if using. Remove from heat and let sit a few minutes while you prepare everything else. In a large bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, molasses, egg, and ginger butter. Using a spatula, slowly mix into dry ingredients, mixing until no dry spots remain. Using your hands, roll small balls of dough about the size of quarter. (Dough will be soft; if too soft to handle, pop into the fridge for a few minutes to firm up.) Roll the balls in the sanding sugar and place on prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake until just puffed and baked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool completely before eating.

Meringues (a simple, but simply elegant confection)
3 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons water
4 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
In an electric mixer, beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and water on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add salt and sugar. Add the vanilla and continue beating on high speed until mixture stands in peaks, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drop by tablespoons-full onto parchment paper that is lining a baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees F. for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Easy Peanut Butter Cookies (delicious — I ate more than one)
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup peanut butter (I used smooth, but crunchy would work, also)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups biscuit baking mix (I used Bisquick)
Sugar
In a large mixing bowl, beat milk, peanut butter, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Add biscuit mix and mix well. Chill 1 hour. Shape into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar. Place on an ungreased baking sheet (I line with parchment paper), 2 inches apart. Flatter with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees F. 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly brown.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net