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For 31 years, Pilgrim Community Nursery School has held what I call The World’s Greatest Cookie Walk. Moms (and less frequently dads) prepare hundreds of dozens of cookies and put them out for the community to buy. You grab a white box and fill it with your picks from a dizzying array of confections, each one seeming like it was probably Grandma’s Best from each participating family.
Many times throughout the years, the people who work the sale have been asked, “Where can I get the recipes for these cookies?” This year, there’s an answer to that question.
Mary Joyce and several others have collected 150 recipes for some of the truly extraordinary cookies on offer at this sale; they quickly found a publisher, and this year you can pre-order a copy of the Pilgrim Cookie Walk Cookbook for $10, either at the cookie walk itself or at the school's website, www.pilgrimschool.net.
Mary makes her special biscotti for the cookie walk, and she was kind enough to share her recipe with us.
According to Mary, “The cookie walk generates revenue for the school, but it also brings people together and helps signal the start of the holidays. Pilgrim is a part of the community, having operated as one of the area’s premier preschools since 1966, and people look forward to the cookie walk because they like to support the school, but they also like getting together and getting into the holiday spirit, almost like a one-day, holiday Farmer’s Market.”
Cookie-making brings families, as well as communities, together. Mary, like other Pilgrim moms, finds that making cookies is something her whole family enjoys. If you want to help your children learn their way around the kitchen, this year at the cookie walk you can order gift packages that include a card announcing the cookbook (available in March), as well as a 17-piece set of child-size play cooking utensils, an apron, chef's hat and rolling pin.
If you’ve never been to the cookie walk, you’re missing one of Oak Park’s most magnificent community events. It’s 9-11AM, December 4 at Pilgrim Community Church (460 Lake Street, Oak Park). It’s highly recommended that you arrive early if you want the best selection.
Mary Joyce’s Holiday Biscotti
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
* ¾ cup sugar
* ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
* ¼ teaspoon salt
* 2 large eggs
* ¾ cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
* 2/3 cup dried cranberries (can substitute other nuts, or dried fruits)
* 12 ounces good-quality white chocolate, chopped
* Holiday sprinkles or sugar crystals, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a large, heavy baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the pistachios and cranberries.
On the prepared baking sheet, form the dough into a 13-inch long, 3-inch wide log (don’t go any wider or it might break). Bake until light golden, about 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.
Reduce oven temp to 300. Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Turn each cookie over and bake 15 minutes more. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.
Stir the chocolate in a bowl and set over a saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate melts. Dip half of the biscotti into the melted chocolate. Gently shake off the excess chocolate. Place the biscotti on the baking sheet for the chocolate to set. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 35 minutes.
The biscotti can be made ahead. Store them in an airtight container up to 4 days, or wrap them in foil and freeze in re-sealable plastic bags up to 3 weeks.