Happy 2016, folks!
My end of the year flew by in a whirl of peer-pressured gift-giving, stressed packing and mailing, and blessed 60-degree days. I completely bypassed getting into the Christmas spirit this year — there's something about working in retail and frantically planning for Christmas in October that really burns you out by the time December actually rolls around.
BUT. I did manage to do one thing that was probably my favorite discovery of the season: I participated in a Cookie Swap Party. This isn't a new concept, but I'd never done one before, and in addition to just being a fun excuse to get together with friends and drink and watch Christmas movies, it's also great for another reason.
My friends, what's more impressive than bringing in a single batch of cookies to your co-workers? Bringing in a batch of FOUR TYPES OF COOKIES. And only having made one of them!
The good news is that none of the cookies we swapped were particularly Christmas-y, so you can still enjoy these recipes now in the dead of winter, a.k.a. this wondrous time period where nothing good happens and there's nothing exciting to look forward to except for — way, waaaaay off in the distance — spring.
COOKIE: Spiced Molasses with Orange Sugar
NOTES: I've made these for a few years now, but I typically pass them out to people immediately, so it'd been a while since I sampled and really tasted them. Based on this year's batch, I'd recommend dialing up the black pepper and cloves just a tad. If spiciness isn't your thing, following the recipe as-is should produce enjoyable results.
COOKIE: Flourless Fudge (Show your gluten-free friends some love!)
NOTES: The recipes says that the espresso powder is optional, but I'd argue that it's completely necessary and really makes the cookie.
COOKIE: Maple Nut
NOTES: This recipe came from an actual book. GASP. But they were so good that I'll share it with you here.
1 cup lightly salted butter at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons maple extract
2 cups unbleached flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups (8 ounces) coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts [My friend used pecans]
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cream soft butter and brown sugar.
- Beat in egg, syrup, and extracts until light and fluffy.
- Stir in by hand the sifted flour and baking powder.
- Fold in the nuts.
- Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.
- Bake for 12 minutes.
COOKIE: Toffee Chocolate Chip (I forgot to take an individual picture of these, but they're in the lower left corner above)
NOTES: Another printed recipe, this time from Cook's Illustrated. Leela notes that she melted the butter and browned it slightly before letting it cool and adding it to the other ingredients (fancy!); she also added 1/2 cup chopped Heath bars and 1 cup Choice chips; used a regular cookie scoop to divide the batter; and found that they only needed to bake for 12 minutes to get brown on the edges.
2 and 1/8 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (semi or bittersweet)
- Heat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
- Either by hand or with electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in chips.
- [A complicated diagram followed about how to form the individual cookies. I say skip that nonsense and use a cookie scoop!]
- Place cookies onto one of two parchment paper-lined 20-by-14-inch lipless cookie sheets, about nine dough balls per sheet. (Dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen up to one month.)
- Bake, reversing cookie sheets' positions halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, about 15 to 18 minutes (start checking at 13 minutes).
Doesn't that last one sound complicated? Again, the genius of the Cookie Swap is that I DIDN'T HAVE TO MAKE THOSE.
Another expert tip: Invite friends who are super-ambitious bakers.