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A celebration of cookies Need something that's easy, tasty and travels well? Look no further. Here are some sure-to-please creations.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It's time to gear up for the annual parade of parties, presents and celebrations that won't end till the ball drops in Times Square on New Year's Eve.

Naturally, your first question is: What can be made that's easy, delicious and portable for all the outings sure to crowd your calendar?

The answer: bar cookies.

The best ones layer chewy, crunchy, smooth textures with a sweet, buttery counterpoint. They please young and old. And they travel like platinum frequent fliers, oblivious to wear and tear.

Here are five guaranteed to please: zest-spiked orange and cranberry ginger-oat bars, old-fashioned dream bars, rich raspberry-walnut shortbread bars, a melt-in-your-mouth brownie, and chewy coconut and walnut oatmeal bars. You'll find the recipes on Page 4G.

Jane Freiman's Brownies

Makes 16 brownies

1/4 cup plain bread crumbs

1/4 cup sifted unbleached flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

1 1/4 cups walnuts

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/3 cup sour cream

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter

1/4 cup granulated sugar

Place rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare an 8-by-8-by-2-inch pan as follows:

Turn the pan upside down. Center a 12-inch length of aluminum foil, shiny side down, over the pan.

Press down on sides and corners to shape foil to fit pan. Remove foil.

Place shaped foil inside the pan and press gently all over to fit it to the pan. Spread room-temperature butter all over the bottom and sides.

Then pour fine, dry bread crumbs (such as purchased unflavored crumbs) into the pan and ' over a large piece of paper ' tilt the pan in all directions to crumb it all over, then turn the pan upside down to shake out excess. Set the prepared pan aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Chop or break chocolate into small pieces; set aside.

Cut or break walnuts into medium pieces; set aside.

In a small bowl, beat eggs, vanilla and sour cream just to mix; set aside.

In a saucepan with at least 1-quart capacity, melt the butter over moderate heat.

Add sugar and stir for a minute or so, until sugar is partially melted. Then add chocolate and stir until melted.

Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the egg mixture, then the sifted dry ingredients. If the mixture is not perfectly smooth, beat it briefly with an electric mixer or a hand-held beater. Stir in nuts. Pour into baking pan and smooth the top.

Bake for about 1 hour, until a toothpick gently inserted in the middle comes out almost clean.

Let stand at room temperature until completely cool.

Then cover the pan with a small cookie sheet or board.

Turn upside down. Remove pan and foil. Cover with a piece of wax paper and another small sheet or board. Turn upside down again, leaving the cake right side up.

Chill the cake before cutting it. It will be easy to cut neat squares if the cake is cold enough. Place it in the freezer for about an hour or longer, or in the refrigerator for at least several hours.

With a long, thin, sharp knife, carefully cut the cake into quarters, then cut each quarter into four brownies.

Wrap these individually in clear cellophane, wax paper or aluminum foil, or place them in an airtight box.

Per brownie: 244 calories (69 percent fat); 21 grams fat (9 grams saturated); 1 gram fiber; 46 milligrams cholesterol; 58 milligrams sodium; 17 grams carbohydrates; 30 milligrams calcium

' Source: "Maida Heatter's Brand-New Book of Great Cookies" by Maida Heatter (Random House, 1995)

Orange and Cranberry Ginger-Oat Bars

Makes 24 bars

filling (recipe follows)

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

Make filling first, so it will have time to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

CRUST AND TOPPING: Sift together flour, ginger, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sifted mixture and oatmeal just until blended.

Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of dough for the topping. Spread the remaining dough in an even layer in the prepared baking pan. Spoon cranberry filling over the dough and spread in an even layer. Using floured fingertips, sprinkle small clumps of the reserved dough over cranberries.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the edges and top are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before cutting into bars.

FILLING: In a medium, nonaluminum saucepan, heat 1 package (12 ounces) whole cranberries, fresh or frozen, rinsed and picked over; 3/4 cup water; 3/4 cup sugar; 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger; and 1 tablespoon grated orange zest until boiling. Cook over medium heat until all of the cranberries "pop" and the mixture is thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer to a shallow plate or bowl and refrigerate until cooled and very thick. (The filling can be made up to 1 day ahead.)

Per bar: 197 calories (42 percent fat); 9 grams fat (5 grams saturated); 1 gram fiber; 40 milligrams cholesterol; 72 milligrams sodium; 27 grams carbohydrates; 20 milligrams calcium

' Source: "A to Z Bar Cookies" by Marie Simmons and Susan Marie Anderson (Chapters, 1996)

Raspberry-Walnut Shortbread Bars

Makes 24 bars

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup raspberry jam

topping (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, combine flour and sugar. With pastry blender, cut in butter until crumbly. Press on bottom of greased 9-by-9-inch baking pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until edges are lightly golden brown.

Spread jam over crust. Make topping and pour over jam; spread carefully to cover. Continue baking 20 to 24 minutes or until golden brown and filling is set. Cool completely. Cut into bars.

TOPPING: In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat at medium speed until well mixed (1 to 2 minutes). Stir in 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 1/8 teaspoon salt until well mixed. Stir in 1 cup chopped walnuts.

Per bar: 147 calories (48 percent fat); 8 grams fat (3 grams saturated); no fiber; 29 milligrams cholesterol; 59 milligrams sodium; 18 grams carbohydrates; 13 milligrams calcium

' Source: 1997 Land O'Lakes Butter Cookie Contest Grand Prize Winner

Dream Bars (Angel Bars)

Makes 12 bars

1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk (divided use)

1 3/4 teaspoons vanilla (divided use)

3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (divided use)

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts

1 cup flaked or shredded sweetened coconut

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

icing (recipe follows)

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 7-by-11-inch or similar 2-quart rectangular baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing it to overhang the two narrow ends of the pan by about 2 inches.

Using an electric mixer, beat together butter, granulated sugar, 1 large egg yolk and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in 3/4 cup flour and knead until smoothly incorporated.

Firmly press the dough into the pan to form a smooth, even layer. Bake for 10 minutes; set aside.

Spread the nuts and coconut in a baking pan and toast in the oven, stirring occasionally, 7 to 10 minutes, or until coconut is very lightly browned. Set aside.

Meanwhile, beat together until well blended 2 large eggs, brown sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons flour, baking powder, salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.

Stir the coconut-nut mixture into the egg mixture. Spread mixture evenly over the dough. Bake on middle oven rack for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top is firm and golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly wet. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly. While cake is still warm, make icing and spread it over the top. Let stand until thoroughly cool and the icing sets. Using the overhanging foil as handles, lift the cake to a cutting board. Carefully peel off the foil. Cut into sections.

ICING: Mix together 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, b cup confectioners' sugar, 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. If necessary, stir in enough water to make a spreadable consistency.

Per bar: 348 calories (53 percent fat); 21 grams fat (7 grams saturated); 2 grams fiber; 70 milligrams cholesterol; 132 milligrams sodium; 39 grams carbohydrates; 33 milligrams calcium

' Source: "Joy of Cooking: Christmas Cookies" by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker (Scrib-ner, 1996)

Coconut and Walnut Oatmeal Bars

Makes 32 bars

2 cups walnuts

1 cup sifted flour

scant 1/4 teaspoon salt

scant 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

scant 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 cups quick-cooking (not instant) oatmeal

1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) shredded coconut, packed

1 3/4 sticks (7 ounces) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons honey

2/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Adjust rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Line a 9-by-13-by-2-inch pan with aluminum foil as follows: Turn the pan upside down. Center a 17-inch length of foil, shiny side down, over the pan. With your hands, press down on the sides and corners of the foil to shape it to the pan. Remove the foil. Turn pan right side up. Place shaped foil in pan and press gently all over to fit it to the pan. To butter pan, place a piece of butter (additional to that called for in ingredients) in the pan and place it in the oven until butter melts. With a brush, spread butter all over the foil. Place the pan in the freezer (preferably) or refrigerator (a cold pan will make it easier to spread the dough).

Break walnuts into large pieces; set aside.

Sift together into a large mixing bowl flour, salt, nutmeg, allspice and ginger. Add oatmeal, coconut and walnuts and stir with a wooden spoon.

Place butter in a medium saucepan over moderate heat until melted. Add honey to the butter (if you dip the measuring spoon in the butter before measuring honey, the honey won't stick to the spoon). Add sugar and stir over heat briefly to partially melt the sugar. Remove from heat. Stir in baking soda and vanilla.

Add butter mixture to dry ingredients and stir well to mix.

Turn into prepared pan. Distribute the mixture all over the bottom of the pan. Then, press down all over with the bottom of a large spoon. Now, to make the layer of dough more compact, cover dough with a length of plastiic wrap and press all over with the bottom of a glass or measuring cup. Remove plastic wrap.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, reversing the pan front to back once during baking to ensure even browning. After 50 minutes, the dough will be golden-brown, but it will not feel done if you press on it with a fingertip.

Even though it doesn't feel done, remove the pan from the oven and let stand until cooled to room temperature.

Cover with a cookie sheet or cutting board. Turn the pan and sheet or board upside down. Remove pan and peel off aluminum foil. Cover with another cookie sheet or cutting board and turn upside down again, leaving cake right side up.

The cake should be chilled before it is cut into bars. This can be done in the refrigerator or the freezer. (In the freezer, 15 to 20 minutes is long enough; if you freeze it longer, it will be hard to cut.)

Then, with a long and sharp knife, cut the cake into quarters, and finally cut each quarter into 8 bars.

The bars can be stored in a plastic freezer box (or any other airtight box), or they can be wrapped individually in clear cellophane, wax paper or aluminum foil.

Per serving: 157 calories (58 percent fat); 11 grams fat (5 grams saturated); 1 gram fiber; 15 milligrams cholesterol; 53 milligrams sodium; 15 grams carbohydrates; 15 milligrams calcium

- Source: "Maida Heatter's Brand-New Book of Great Cookies" by Maida Heatter (Random House, 1995)

Pub Date: 12/02/98

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