The final recipe in our “12 Days of Cookies” series comes from a familiar face among local competitive bakers.
Lillian Greenslade of Fort Worth three times has won the Star-Telegram’s Very Merry Cookie Challenge. Most recently, her recipe for “Pecan passion,” with its decadent layers of crunchy pecans and gooey caramel atop chocolate shortbread, was named best confection of them all in our 2013 Very Merry Ultimate Cookie Challenge. The recipe won the paper’s 2005 cookie challenge, qualifying it for 2013 contest.
Her date-pecan double decker cookies won the contest in 2007; Greenslade’s entries also were runners-up or finalists other years. She regularly enters — and places — in the State Fair of Texas cooking competitions.
She made the finals of our contest this year with a decadent layered cookie called Santa’s chocolate almond caramel bars.
Each day, we have been featuring one Very Merry Cookie Challenge finalist recipe in Life & Arts until the big, final tasting event at Central Market Fort Worth on Sunday. If you didn’t buy tickets to help judge the cookies at the event, try making the cookies at home and see how your favorites stack up against the judges’ picks.
Winners will be revealed in Life & Arts on Dec. 11.
This story contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Santa’s chocolate almond caramel bars
Makes 30 bars
For the crust:
- 1 pound salted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla
- 3 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
- 2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur (optional)
- 4 cups flour
- 1 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
For the filling:
- 1 14-ounce can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon Karo light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. To make the crust, in a large bowl combine butter and sugars. Using mixer on medium speed, beat together until creamy. Add the vanilla, chocolate and amaretto (if using) and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth, soft dough forms. Stir in the almonds.
2. To make the filling, mix filling ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat for 10 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then set aside.
3. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, hanging foil over long sides of pan. Lightly spray foil with nonstick cooking spray. Press 1/3 to 1/2 of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Place the remainder of the dough in the fridge to chill. Bake crust until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown and slightly dry looking, approximately 20 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool about 15 minutes.
4. Pour the caramel filling over the crust. Remove the remaining chilled dough from the refrigerator and crumble it evenly over the caramel. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled shortbread topping is firm and looks slightly dry, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool before removing the cookie from the pan by lifting with the long edges of foil. Place cookie on cutting board and remove 1/4-inch edge all around the cookie. Cut and decorate as desired (see note).
Note: Ideas for decorating cookies: Sprinkle tops with powdered sugar, zigzag caramel sauce across the top, or decorate with piped chocolate ganache (equal parts semisweet chocolate and boiling whipping cream stirred together until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth, adding a tablespoon of amaretto, if desired.)
Nutritional analysis per bar: 327 calories, 19 grams fat, 36 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 42 milligrams cholesterol, 160 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 51 percent of calories from fat.
Lillian Greenslade, Fort Worth