Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cookie Hangover: Why I’m Already Planning For Next Christmas

White Chocolate Cherry Chunkies

Every year I eagerly anticipate the influx of cookies that inevitably occurs around the holidays. Right around the beginning of December I slowly start to accumulate a stash of these sinful delights. By the end of December I usually declare that I have fallen into a cookie coma from which only a complete absence of cookies will cure my cookie woes. Of course, even though I can barely stand the thought of eating yet one more cookie I find myself contemplating the do’s and don’ts of the exchanges I have attended and wondering what other people have experienced in their own exchanges.

I have never met someone who did not like cookies. It only makes sense that they are featured in so many holiday parties. A great way to obtain a surplus of cookies with out all the grunt work of making a lot of batches is to participate in a cookie exchange. I have attended several exchanges over the years. I have noticed that the rules for an exchange can vary. I don’t believe there is a right way or wrong way to have an exchange. As long as I walk out of the party with an obscene amount of cookies I consider the exchange a success.

Orange Ricotta with Dark Chocolate

The basic premise to a cookie exchange is pretty simple. Pick the type of cookie you want to make. Confirm that no one else is making that type of cookie. Make exactly 1 dozen for each person attending the exchange. Sounds simple right? If you take a look at some guidelines or “how to’s” for a cookie exchange the “rules” seem to vary greatly.

Where to start? Well, you have to start by figuring out who you are going to invite and when to have the party. My first piece of advice is not to get too crazy with the guest list. Keep in mind that you have to bake a dozen cookies for EACH guest. I’ve noticed that the average head count for the parties I have attended seems to be between 6-10. Of course, not everyone you invite will be able to make it so use your discretion in how many people you ask just in case heaven forbid they all say yes. In that case, you may want to suggest exchanging 1/2 dozen instead of 1 dozen to keep the baking time more manageable.

Once you have a guest list in place you need to determine what type of cookie each guest will bring. I have always been given the option of picking which type of cookie I want to make. I have never been assigned a recipe. Most of my invites have been through e-mail and/or Evite where I can see what other people have decided to make and choose my recipe accordingly. One advantage to being the first one to respond YES! to the invite is that you usually have first dibs on what to make.

Ask each guest to make a dozen cookies for each of the guests attending the exchange. Also, ask each guest to bring their recipe with them so that the other guests will have a copy of all the recipes to keep for their own use. Every exchange I have attended has required the guests to bring the cookies already wrapped/packaged by the dozen to make it easy for the guests to then transport their goodies home. I have heard that some exchanges will display the cookies for the guests to then assemble on their own. Again, in my opinion, there are no set rules to an exchange. Do whatever works for you. If you decide to display the cookies you will need to purchase trays large enough to hold each batch of cookies and figure out a way for the guests to then transport those trays home. Your best option is to wrap the trays in plastic wrap once all of the cookies have been assembled on the trays.

Now let’s discuss the grunt work of actually making the cookies. First let me say that I don’t think you necessarily have to make them from scratch or even make the cookies altogether. For me, the exchange is more about getting to see family and friends and having a lovely girls night in. I’m writing this under the premise that most men do not participate in cookie exchanges. If there are some men out there that do participate please accept my apologies. For me it’s always been a get together with the girls.

As far as the “recipe” is concerned, I don’t care if you make them from scratch, use ready bake or pick them up at a bakery. For some hostesses using ready bake or picking them up from a bakery is a no-no. Make sure you know in advance what will be acceptable to your hostess.

If you choose to bake your own cookies make sure you read your recipe carefully to allot enough time to get them done. This year I participated in an exchange where the hostess asked us to make two different batches. I chose White Chocolate Cherry Chunkies and Orange Ricotta with Dark Chocolate. The White Chocolate Cherry Chunkies were a breeze to make. The recipe I used makes approximately 4 dozen. I was baking for 8 guests. I made two batches and baked all 8 dozen within a couple hours on a Saturday morning. The Orange Ricotta cookies were a little more involved. First let me tell you how amazing these cookies are. They are soft with a hint of citrus that is enhanced by the dark chocolate glaze. Now, with that said, this recipe took a lot longer to make. The recipe also serves 4 dozen. The baking part took around the same amount of time. It was the decorating end of it that occupied more time than I expected. Believe me it was worth it. Just keep in mind if your cookie involves some decorating you will need to add that time into your prep time.

As you can see from the picture below I got a little aggressive with the dark chocolate glaze. I think it is supposed to be more of a drizzle. I got a little excited at the smell of the chocolate and the drizzle turned into more of a Jackson Pollack paint splatter.

Once all of the cookies cooled I placed them in a decorative zipper seal bag and then placed one batch of each cookie into a holiday bag. I usually put the cookies in tins with some wax paper but I found these cute zipper seal bags and couldn’t resist using them instead.

I included a copy of each recipe in the bag.

Some of the other yummy treats I received were Soft Ginger Snaps and Saltine Toffee Cookies. Both were heavenly.

Soft Ginger Snaps

Saltine Toffee Cookies

I also did a mini-exchange with one of my coworkers. She provided an awesome array of some of my favorite cookies including Peanut Butter Blossoms; Snickerdoodles and Chrusciki’s.

Even though I feel like I am recovering from a cookie hangover I find myself already looking forward to the 2011 holiday season and planning what cookies I will bake this year. For now, I’ll share with you the recipe for each of the four cookies pictured above. If I come across any other scrumptious recipes I’lll make sure to share them.

White Chocolate Cherry Chunkies

Servings: 4 dozen

INGREDIENTS:

1 stick butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons milk

1 cup chopped macadamia nuts

1/2 cup candied cherries

1 1/2 cups white chocolate chunks

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, with electric mixer, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until just combined. Set aside.

Sift together flour, soda, and salt. Add milk to the butter mixture and then add the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Batter should be stiff.

In another bowl, combine nuts, cherries, and white chocolate. Then add to batter, stirring only to blend. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake for approximately 11 to 13 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

*Recipe courtesy of Ms. Paula Deen

Orange Ricotta with Dark Chocolate Cookies

Servings: 4 dozen

INGREDIENTS:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 orange, zested

Glaze:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 cup chopped dark chocolate, melted
 
DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

2.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until ingredients are combined. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and the sugar. Beat the until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, orange juice, and orange zest. Beat to combine.

4. Stir in the dry ingredients. Spoon the dough (about 1 tablespoon for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

5. To glaze the cookies: combine the powdered sugar and orange juice in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let glaze harden for about five minutes. Drizzle cookies with dark chocolate and let the cookies set up.

*Recipe courtesy of Two Peas and Their Pod

Soft Ginger Snaps

Servings: 66 cookies

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups butter (softened)

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup molasses

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Additional sugar

DIRECTIONS:

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in molasses. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger. cloves, salt and nutmeg; gradually add to creamed mixture. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.

Roll into 1 inch balls; roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350º for 8-12 minutes or until puffy and lightly browned. Cool for 1 minute before removing to wire racks.

*Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com

Saltine Toffee Cookies

Servings: 1 cookie sheet=approximately 35 cookies

INGREDIENTS:

4 ounces saltine crackers

1 cup butter

1 cup dark brown sugar

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400º.

Line cookie sheet with saltine crackers in single layer.

In a saucepan combine the sugar and the butter. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Immediately pour over saltines and spread mixture over completely over the crackers.

Bake at 400º for 5-6 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes. Spread melted chocolate and top with chopped nuts.

Cool completely and break into pieces.

*Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com

Need more cookie recipes? Check out The Secret Recipe Club Cookie Party!


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9 Responses to “Cookie Hangover: Why I’m Already Planning For Next Christmas”

  1. 1

    fooddreamer — January 4, 2011 @ 12:55 PM

    The cherry white chocolate chunk cookies look amazing. Well, they all look amazing, but that one strikes my fancy at the moment! I’ve only ever participated in one cookie exchange (at work), and I vowed never to do it again. Why? Because I was the only one who made anything really good, everyone else just brought plain jane cookies, and several even just used storebought cookie dough. Obviously, I have to have a cookie exchange with actual foodies next time!

  2. 2

    Chef Dennis — January 4, 2011 @ 5:26 PM

    Hi Wendy

    you really have your cookie exchange thought out! And your cookies look so very very good!

    Welcome to foodbuzz
    Dennis

  3. 3

    Sara — January 5, 2011 @ 7:57 AM

    wow, what a delicious collection of cookies!
    Happy New Year!

  4. 4

    Lisa — January 6, 2011 @ 2:07 PM

    Wow! You are so organized, I love it. I am not a cookie person but I think I could make an exception for your saltine toffee cookies, those look too good to pass up.

  5. 5

    whatsfordinneracrossstatelines — January 18, 2011 @ 11:39 AM

    Wendy, I must say you sure are organized. I just start making cookies when I get in the mood. I should plan ahead more. Have a great week.
    -Gina-

  6. 6

    Jersey Girl Cooks — December 19, 2011 @ 12:16 PM

    All the cookies look great! I made the saltine toffee last night and keep it downstairs so I don’t eat it…lol! Love how you packaged the cookies.

  7. 7

    Feast on the Cheap — December 19, 2011 @ 6:12 PM

    Those Saltine Toffee Cookies are practically leaping off the page at me.

  8. 8

    Jessica — December 22, 2011 @ 8:43 AM

    Wow this is SUCH a cute idea! I’m definitely going to have to try this with my friends next year, thank you! Happy holidays! x

    • Wendy replied: — December 22nd, 2011 @ 9:27 AM

      Jessica it is so much fun. I love any excuse for a party but with an exchange you get so many cookies it’s an added bonus.

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