Holiday Cookie Exchange
This year was the second annual neighborhood cookie exchange hosted by our fun neighbor Deanna. She does cookie exchanges in style, because not only do we get to exchange amazing cookies, she makes the night super fun. This year we had an apron contest, we had entertainment, and the BEST part of all, her husband made an appetizer spread to DIE for. He’s a chef by trade, and as far as I’m concerned, if you’re going to host a cookie exchange, you should definitely get a chef to make food for your event. I’m just saying.
All of the ladies in the neighborhood came with six dozen cookies. I brought a Chocolate Almond Toffee Cookie from Two Peas and Their Pod. You can find the recipe here: http://goboldwithbutter.com/?p=2431. We donated a half dozen to deliver to other neighbors who could use some holiday goodies, and we got to take home 5 ½ dozen different amazing cookies. Some just gave us bags of dough that we could freeze and bake when we were ready for our treats. Some had elaborate shaped cookies with beautiful jeweled centers, or chocolate drizzles. There were cookies of every shape, flavor, color, you name it.
The one thing almost everyone had in common? A terrible cookie baking experience! Really! There were only two or three of us that simply baked their cookies and had no problems at all. Several had trouble with the cookies coming out super flat and thin- even with tried and true recipes. In fact, a few had their mothers bake the cookies for them after a cookie failure. Some tried new recipes that turned out to be harder than they looked, or didn’t come out exactly as expected. One misjudged how many one recipe made and ended up having to run to the store to grab more ingredients so she could make the six dozen quota. Everyone was in despair and desperation over their cookie shortcomings.
All I can say is that we are way too hard on ourselves. I blog about cookie failures all the time. I can blame the Utah altitude on some of them, but the fact is sometimes things just don’t work out right. I’m fairly certain that anyone who regularly makes some of the recipes I’ve failed at will look at my results in puzzled horror wondering how I could get such a different result over something that always works for them. Sometimes failures result from mistakes in measuring- a difference in the fat/sugar/flour ratio. Sometimes it’s the wrong ingredients- shortening instead of butter, baking powder versus baking soda. Sometimes the moon is full, or the tides are high, or magic fairies curse the cookie batch because you didn’t spin on your heels three times before adding the flour. It just happens.
Even that wonderful chart on pinterest (which a few of my neighbors looked at to try to figure out what was going wrong) that shows all the cookie mistakes and what you did wrong to get such a result. I love that chart, but the truth is, it’s really too late to help. The cookies are made, it’s not like you can fix them. You will probably get a different result the next time you make them.
Lighten up. I know, I go to events like this trying really hard to have everything perfect- envisioning the cries of joy as you present your cookie masterpiece. Basking in the glow as everyone exclaims over how delicious they are and asking for the recipe. That’s always when my cookies turn out terribly. Those magic fairies are punishing me for my delusions of grandeur. Forgive yourself. Sometimes these things happen. When all else fails, go buy frozen cookie dough and claim it’s yours. No one will ever know.
The Great Cookie Experiment- Cookie Exchange Recipes
Here’s a sampling of some of the recipes exchanged at the Cookie Exchange Party we attended. Both of these were examples of things that just didn’t work right. Brittany decided to make pinwheel cookies from a Pinterest recipe. Sometimes the picture is lovely, but the actual baking method turned out to be more difficult than she expected. The dough didn’t want to roll up easily, and she ended up struggling quite a bit to get a good looking cookie. She’s smart with her cookie exchanging, however. She packages up the cookie dough in individual bags with the instructions to bake them attached to the top. She had them in a cooler outside on the porch, and we grabbed our cookie dough as we left. Perfect. I have a feeling that Brittany would make pinwheel or swirl cookies again if she had a recipe that was really easy to make. Feel free to send her one if you have one.
Christmas Swirl Cookies
2 cups flour, plus possibly a few more Tablespoons
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup unsifted powdered sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, cut in chunks
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp food coloring of you choice and/or ½ tsp of any desired flavor extracts
1 ½ cup holiday sprinkles
Combine dry ingredients until well blended. Add butter gradually, and continue mixing. Add vanilla extract. At this point, your dough will start to form a ball. Remove all your dough and divide into two equal parts. Return one portion back to the bowl and add the food coloring and any extra extracts. If you are using liquid food coloring, you may nee to add a few more Tablespoons of flour to keep the dough from becoming too wet. Mix until the color is spread out evenly. Roll out each portion of your dough between two sheets of waxed paper until it reaches about 11×9 inches and is ¼ inch thick. Slide both onto a cookie sheet and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours. When firm, remove the top sheets of waxed paper from both. Brush the uncolored vanilla dough lightly with water using a pastry brush. Then flip the colored dough into a swirl, jelly-roll style. The outer layer of uncolored dough may tear a bit. It’s no problem, just pinch and pat those tears then just keep rolling. Gently lift your dough log onto the sprinkles and roll to coat. Cover the log completely with sprinkles. Wrap the colorfully decorated log in plastic wrap twice. Depending on when you want to bake the cookies, either place the wrapped dough into the refrigerator for about 3-4 hours or you can put it in the freezer and keep it there for up to 2 months. When ready to bake, defrost in the refrigerator overnight before slicing. Slice your dough into ¼-1/8 inch slices and bake on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 15-17 minutes until edges are slightly golden. Let cookies rest on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then move them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
Cindy made classic spritz cookies for the party. They were her favorite growing up, and something that her mother used to make. When she made her mother’s recipe, however, the cookies spread out in the pan and went flat. This is an undesirable effect for Spritz cookies. It was many attempts and some help from Mom before she got the results she wanted. This was a tried and true cookie recipe for her, so even with a favored recipe, sometimes things just don’t work out. Give them a try and let us know how they worked for you!
1 pound butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
4 cups flour
1 tsp almond extract
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and extract. Blend well. Add flour, one cup at a time. Put dough in a cookie press and place cookie against an ungreased cookie sheet. Squeeze trigger. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool and frost if desired.