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Satisfy the cookie monsters in your life with these holiday treats and essential baking tips18:22
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The smell of buttery, chocolate-y goodness wafting from the oven is like heaven on earth, taking you back to being a kid when the holidays were the most magical time of year.

And now, like last year, even if we can't gather the way we used to, holiday baking still preserves some of that magic.

We're cooking up holiday classics — with some new twists.

Lan Lam, senior editor at Cook's Illustrated magazine and a cast member of PBS' America's Test Kitchen, opens up his recipe book for us, along with Joe Gatto, private chef, culinary instructor and host of "From Scratch" on Pluto TV.

Below are several highlighted recipes provided by our guests.

'Millionare's shortbread'

— The following America's Test Kitchen recipe, highlighted by Lan Lam for our show, makes about 40 cookies. 

"Millionaire's shortbread" made by Lan Lam. (Courtesy Lan Lam)
"Millionaire's shortbread" made by Lan Lam. (Courtesy Lan Lam)

"For a caramel filling with the right texture, monitor the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. We prefer Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate premium baking bar for this recipe. Grating a portion of the chocolate is important for getting the chocolate to set properly; the small holes on a box grater work well for this task. Stir often while melting the chocolate and don't overheat it."

INGREDIENTS

Crust

  • 2½ cups (12½ ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (3½ ounces) granulated sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup packed (7 ounces) brown sugar
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Chocolate

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (6 ounces chopped fine, 2 ounces grated)

DIRECTIONS

  1. For the crust: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Make foil sling for 13 by 9-inch baking pan by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil; first sheet should be 13 inches wide and second sheet should be 9 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan. Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir with rubber spatula until flour is evenly moistened. Crumble dough evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Using your fingertips and palm of your hand, press and smooth dough into even thickness. Using fork, pierce dough at 1-inch intervals. Bake until light golden brown and firm to touch, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack. Using sturdy metal spatula, press on entire surface of warm crust to compress (this will make finished bars easier to cut). Let crust cool until it is just warm, at least 20 minutes.
  2. For the filling: Stir all ingredients together in large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture registers between 236 and 239 degrees (temperature will fluctuate), 16 to 20 minutes. Pour over crust and spread to even thickness (mixture will be very hot). Let cool completely, about 1½ hours.
  3. For the chocolate: Microwave chopped chocolate in bowl at 50 percent power, stirring every 15 seconds, until melted but not much warmer than body temperature (check by holding in palm of your hand), 1 to 2 minutes. Add grated chocolate and stir until smooth, returning to microwave for no more than 5 seconds at a time to finish melting if necessary. Spread chocolate evenly over surface of filling. Refrigerate shortbread until chocolate is just set, about 10 minutes.
  4. Using foil overhang, lift shortbread out of pan and transfer to cutting board; discard foil. Using serrated knife and gentle sawing motion, cut shortbread in half crosswise to create two 6½ by 9-inch rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half to make four 3½ by 9-inch strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 10 equal pieces. (Shortbread can be stored at room temperature, between layers of parchment, for up to 1 week.)

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Sugar cookies

The following recipe was provided by Joe Gatto, who told Radio Boston it was stolen from his mother's recipe card.

INGREDIENTS

Sugar cookies made by Joe Gatto and decorated by his children. (Courtesy Joe Gatto)
Sugar cookies made by Joe Gatto and decorated by his children. (Courtesy Joe Gatto)

2½ cups flour

½ tsp salt

½ tsp of baking powder

1 cup of softened butter

1 ½ cups white granulated sugar

1 egg

1 ½  tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour, salt and baking soda in bowl. In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Carefully add one egg at a time and beat until incorporated. Then add vanilla. Add dry ingredients to the bowl and stir until combined.

Line baking sheet with parchment. Drop teaspoon-sized ball onto the baking sheet. Be careful to leave space between them.

Bake for 10 minutes. They should just be turning golden brown. When done, remove from the oven. Do not touch for 3-4 minutes (they will fall apart). Then place on a cooling rack. Once completely cool, decorate them with whatever you like.

This segment aired on December 20, 2021.

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