June 25, 2008 · Updated 12:49 PM
"All right, so now we're down to the final countdown and the fun begins, or at least it should. These next few days are the most delicious part of Christmas, delicious in the sense of anticipation if you have kids around, and delicious in the wonderful taste sensations associated with Christmas. And is there anything more Christmas than cookies and candy? No matter what else may or may not be done for the holidays, almost everyone I know seems to feel the need for at least a few dozen Christmas cookies and a bite or two of candy.I have a very fat file of great cookie and candy recipes and because I'd like to pass some along while you still have time to make use of them, I'm going to take all the rest of our available space for recipes, except for using this bit of space right here to wish all of you Record readers a very merry Christmas or a happy and blessed Hanukkah, or both.RecipesA coconut cookie from our past (if you're over 40) and a favorite for Christmas, especially with kids.Christmas Coconut Crinkles1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar1 t. vanilla1/4 t. coconut extract1 large egg and 1 egg yolk2 cups unbleached flour3/4 t. baking powder1/4 t. baking sodaPinch of salt1 cup packed sweetened flaked coconut1. In a bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar; beat in vanilla, coconut extract, whole egg and egg yolk.2. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and a pinch of salt. Combine, stirring the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Stir in the coconut. Chill the dough, covered for about 1/2 hour or until firm.3. Flour your hands and spoon rounded tablespoons of the dough into your palm to form into small logs, about 2 1/2 inches long. Put the logs on buttered baking sheets about 3 inches apart and, with a fork (dip it in flour first), press the back of the tines into the logs, flattening them to about 4x1 1/2 inches, with fork marks all lengthwise. Bake cookies in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10-12 min. or until golden around the edges. Allow to cool on baking sheets for 5 min. then transfer to racks to cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen.Forget the divinity and marzipan; bring on the truffles, caramels and fudge. Here's a recipe for caramels I came across in Cooking magazine a couple of years ago; they're addictive. Remember, when making caramels, it's important to keep an eye on the temperature while the mixture is bubbling away. When it reaches 230 degrees on a candy thermometer, you need to begin stirring; when they're at 245, watch it closely and when it reaches 248, get it off the heat and onto the pan - immediately!Holiday Caramels2 1/2 cups pecan halves1/2 cup butter2 cups sugar1 1/2 cups whipping cream1 cup light corn syrup1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil and spray foil with cooking spray.2. Place pecans on a baking sheet and bake 5-10 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Set aside 1/2 cup of the pecans and place the rest in the foil-lined pan.3. Melt butter in a Dutch oven or large heavy saucepan over low heat. Add sugar, cream and corn syrup, stirring to mix. Increase heat to medium and bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Insert a candy thermometer into mixture. Continue to cook, stirring frequently until thermometer reads 230 degrees. At this point, begin stirring constantly and watch carefully until temperature reaches 248 degrees (firm ball stage).4. Immediately pour caramel mixture into the prepared pan (don't scrape the cooking pan; you don't want the stickings). Sprinkle with reserved pecans and let stand 6-8 hours or until cool and set. Remove caramel from pan by lifting foil. Remove foil and with a sharp knife, cut caramel into 64 pieces. Wrap each piece individually. Keep cool until eaten, which won't be long. Here's a very old cookie recipe appropriately called Santa's Whiskers, so named because of the wisps of coconut on the outside of the cookies.Santa's Whiskers1 cup sugar1 cup unsalted butter, softened2 T. milk1 t. vanilla2 1/2 cups flour1 cup finely chopped red and/or green candied cherries1/2 cup finely chopped pecans1 cup flaked coconut1. In a mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy. Blend in milk and vanilla. Stir in flour, cherries and pecans. Form the dough into three 7-inch rolls and roll each in flaked coconut to coat the outside. Wrap rolls in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill thoroughly.2. Cut into 1/4-inch slices. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven until edges are just golden (about 12 minutes). Cool briefly on sheets, then remove to racks to complete cooling. Makes about 7 dozen.If it's Hanukkah, there must be Rugalach. This is but one version:Shirley's Rugalach1 cup unsalted butter, softened1 pkg. (8 oz.) neufchatel cheese, softened (or use regular cream cheese)2 cups flour1/3 cup sugar2-3 t. cinnamon (to taste)1/2 cup chopped walnuts1/4 cup golden raisins1/4 cup dark raisins, or other dried fruit such as apricots, cranberries, chopped1. In a large bowl, combine butter and cream cheese; beat at medium speed until mixture is smooth. Add flour and mix until a dough forms. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape each into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill well.2. Combine sugar and cinnamon; set aside. Grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. On a floured surface, roll out one of the disks to about 1/4-inch thick and 12 inches round. (Keep remaining dough chilled until ready to roll.) Sprinkle the round with 1/4 of the sugar mixture and top with 1/4 of the nuts, raisins or other fruit. Cut into 12 wedges and roll up, beginning at the wide edge of each edge. Shape into crescents and place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool briefly on cookie sheet then remove to racks to finish cooling. Makes 4 dozen.And for an entire new generation who may never have tried this version, here's the very old recipe for everybody's favorite, easy fudge, the first fudge I learned to make and still the most foolproof. Fudge in just a few minutes, when you're down to no time for the fancy stuff. Everybody's Favorite Fudge4 1/2 cups sugar1 can (13 oz.) evaporated milk1 stick butter1 jar marshmallow creme1 pkg. (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips and one 12-oz. bar milk chocolate (or use all semisweet, if preferred)2 t. vanilla2 cups pecans, chopped (or walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.)1. In a saucepan, combine sugar, milk and butter. Over medium to medium-high heat, cook mixture to 238 degrees on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage), stirring constantly. When temperature reaches 238, remove pan from heat, quickly add remaining ingredients, mixing well. Pour into a lightly buttered square or rectangular baking dish and allow to cool completely. (Can be refrigerated in you wish to speed up the cooling.) Cut into squares. "