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Bake Your Best with Expert Recipes, Advice
(ARA) – If only love alone were the key ingredient for baking success. Filling your cookie tray with delicious delights, however, calls for just the right mix of a great recipe, good ingredients and a little baking savvy.

“Delicious cookies start with quality ingredients like good chocolate, real butter and fresh spices,” says Gale Gand, Chicago pastry chef and Food Network star.  “For example, I use fresh ground nutmeg, rather than powdered, to impart amazing flavor in my recipe for Eggnog Cream Cheese Cups.”

Chef Mary Sonnier of The Uptowner, Special Events and Catering in New Orleans, La., stresses organization in your kitchen.

“Read the recipe before you begin and organize the necessary ingredients and equipment in your baking area,” Sonnier says. “Then pre-measure your ingredients with attention to detail. Spoon dry ingredients into measuring cups and crouch down to read liquid measurements at eye level.”

Sonnier’s traditional Italian Wedding Cookies get a  special twist from creamy Mascarpone cheese. “The rich Mascarpone cheese enhances the buttery flavor and texture of the cookie.”  

Chef Debbie Gold from the American Restaurant in Kansas City, Mo. offers a chocolate-lover's take on the traditional ginger snap with her Cocoa-Ginger Crisps. These crunchy little cookies deliver a delicate ginger flavor balanced by the rich chocolate dough.  

“Keep clean up simple and line your baking sheets with parchment paper,” Gold says. “The cookies will be easy to remove and your baking sheets will be protected from cookie crumbs.”  

Visit to view dozens of holiday recipes and tips for baking. Sign up for the Holiday Magic e-newsletter to receive a daily e-mail with a holiday cookie or candy recipe, along with helpful baking tips from chef Gand.

Cocoa Ginger CrispsCocoa-Ginger Crisps
By Chef Debbie Gold

Makes four dozen cookies.


2 cups all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons cocoa powder, divided
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
1 cup (two sticks) butter, softened
1/4 cup light corn syrup


Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine flour, 6 tablespoons cocoa powder, baking soda, 1 teaspoon ginger and salt; set aside. In a small bowl combine 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cocoa, and 1 teaspoon ginger; set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream together butter and 1 cup sugar until fluffy. Add corn syrup and blend until combined. Gradually add flour mixture; mix well.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in sugar mixture. Place dough 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake for 12 minutes until cookies are firm and tops have slight cracks. Cool on baking sheet two to three minutes; remove cookies to a cooling rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.  

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Additional recipes:

Eggnog Cream Cheese Cups

Italian Wedding Cookies
By Chef Mary Sonnier

Makes six dozen cookies


2 cups pecan halves
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (two sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup (4 ounces.) mascarpone cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
Powdered sugar for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 F. Place pecans on an ungreased cookie sheet in a single layer and toast in oven for 10 minutes; do not burn. Remove from sheet and set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, cream together butter, mascarpone and sugars. Add egg and extracts; mix well. Gradually stir in flour mixture just until combined. Stir in pecans. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes, until edges are golden. Cool on baking sheet for five minutes, remove cookies to a cooling rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week. Sift cookies with powdered sugar right before serving.

Italian wedding cookies

Eggnog Cream Cheese Cups
By Chef Gale Gand

Makes two dozen cookies.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg yolk

8ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Powdered sugar


In large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and mix the ingredients with an electric mixer on low speed until they form a sandy, crumbly mixture -- about one minute.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and egg yolk until very smooth. Add the sour cream and egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 30 seconds. The dough may feel a little dry. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill at least four hours or overnight.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, egg, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg with an electric mixer until smooth; set aside filling.

On a work surface thickly dusted with powdered sugar, roll out the chilled cookie dough to form a 12-inch by 18-inch rectangle, about 1/8-inch thick. Using the tip of a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 2-by-2-inch squares. Place a teaspoon of the cream cheese filling in the center of each square.

Grease the cups of a mini muffin pan. Gather the points of the dough square around the filling to make a cup, open at the top. Place the cookie directly into a mini muffin pan or place the cookie in a mini muffin paper liner and place the paper liner in the pan. Repeat with the remaining squares and refrigerate 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F .

Bake cookies until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cookies cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before removing. Store cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to one week.

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