Season Stepp: Cookie Swap is a tradition dating back generations
Bake 'em up; swap 'em out
Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 3:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 26, 2012 at 4:12 p.m.
The Cookie Swap (or Cookie Exchange) is a tradition dating back generations. The main idea of the swap is to gather friends together for a fun night during the holidays, share recipes and stories behind the recipes and take home a bunch of cookies to squirrel away for yourself for the next week.
For the actual swap, everyone bakes a few batches of cookies (or brownies, bars, truffles, etc.) two to three days before the big night, arrive at the predetermined destination, munch on appetizers and sip a Christmassy cocktail, then let the swapping begin.
Introduce your cookie, tell a little story about it (history, memories, mistakes) and provide copies of the recipe. You might bring resealable containers or your host might provide festive tins, cartons, etc. Circle the arranged cookie display table, taking a few at a time, and after several laps, everyone should have a lovely assortment of cookies to take home.
Each year, I suggest each member vary the assortment of cookies, bars, muffins, etc. I, however, am highly attached to my Uncle Dave's cookie recipe. I have had folks line up (literally) for my decorated version of this cookie, so I can pretty much guarantee they will be a hit for years to come.
No Bake Cookies
1¾ cups granulated sugar
½ cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups quick-cooking oats
Spread waxed paper onto a countertop or 2 baking sheets.
In a medium-sized saucepot, bring sugar, milk, butter, cocoa and kosher salt to a boil over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil, cook for 1½ minutes. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter, pure vanilla extract, and oats. Stir until combined and thickened.
Use a tablespoon to drop cookies onto the waxed paper. Cool completely and devour.
Peppermint Cream Cheese Bars
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for the dish
¾ cup brown sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
3 candy canes or 6-8 peppermints, crushed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-9-inch baking dish.
Using a mixer. beat together butter and brown sugar until creamy.
Add flour and walnuts and mix until just combined.
Press into the baking dish and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Using a mixer. beat together cream cheese, sugar, egg and extracts. Add half of the crushed candy canes.
Spread into crust and bake until the filling has set and is very light brown.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining candy canes. Cool completely and refrigerate before cutting into bars.
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment or with a handheld mixer, beat together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides often.
Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.
Add dry ingredients, ¾ cups at a time, to the mixing bowl. Do not overmix. Dump onto plastic wrap or waxed paper and form into a disc. Chill for at least 2 hours — overnight is best.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat liner.
On a lightly-floured surface, roll to ¼-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and place on prepared baking sheet. Carefully transfer cookies from surface to parchment. Bake on the middle rack until firm about 6 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for about 3 to 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely before decorating.
Replace 2 sticks of butter with 1 cup vegetable shortening. Increase the amounts of vanilla (double), salt (double), and flour (add ¾ cup). Make sure the flour is completely combined, but do not overmix. That would be one tough cookie. Roll out to ½-thickness and cut out cookies.
Mema's Butter Icing
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 pound powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Splash of milk
Using a mixer, combine butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until all lumps are removed.
Add milk until desired consistency is reached. Divide into separate bowls and color with liquid food colorings.
My Cookie-Decorating Icing
1 stick butter, room temperature
½ cup vegetable shortening
2 pounds powdered sugar
1 tablespoons meringue powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons clear vanilla
1 teaspoon clear imitation butter flavoring
2-4 tablespoons water
If the butter is not at room temperature, microwave it for 10 seconds or until it is soft, but not melted.
Using a mixer, combine all ingredients except water and mix until fluffy.
Drizzle in water until desired consistency is reached.
Separate into separate bowls and color using gel colorings. When using gel colorings, dip a toothpick into the gel and swirl it into the icing. Use a fresh toothpick each time to avoid mixing icing into the gel. Use piping bags and tips to decorate.
Note: If you opt for the butter flavoring, which I suggest, do not buy it in the spice aisle. Chances are, you'll end up with something that tastes more like buttered popcorn than tasty icing. Wilton makes a clear imitation butter flavoring specifically for cake and cookie decorating. You can find it at craft stores or in the craft section of Walmart.
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