Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Now What?

So what does nearly 2000 cookies look like? 

All cookies, all the time. At least from October to December.

Yup, that's my freezer.  And yes it is full of cookies (well, there might be a frozen pizza in there somewhere).  And what does one do with them all?

Well, clearly, you eat them.  But first, you have to pack them up in pretty tins and trays and share them with your friends and family. Everyone loves a homemade gift and my friends and family are no exception.  They anticipate the cookies each holiday.  I've even gotten Christmas cards early in the season with notes telling me how much the sender is eagerly awaiting the arrival of their cookie tin.

I started picking up tins on clearance after Christmas.  These things can be expensive and the whole point of a homemade gift is to fill it with time and love, not oodles of money.  So I'd store them until the next round of holidays.  Then I joked with people that if they gave their tin back, it was a guaranteed refill the following year.  So now not only do people give me their tins back within days, but they'll also find me new tins and send them me throughout the year.  Or they'll wait until they have a stockpile, and give me three or four years worth of tins at once.  It's funny, because I never intended to get the tins back--it's not like I won't give someone cookies because they wanted to keep their tins.  But alas, this is how it's come to be.  And how I ended up with this pile in my basement:

I lost track of how many I have.

And just to deceive you, there are tins hiding inside tins hiding inside tins.

I have a very organized process for filling the tins.  It starts with figuring out which tin each person gets.  I put everyone's name on a sticky note and start sorting the tins, looking for the right size, shape and design for the receiver.

These are just the tins for the first batch.

Once all the tins have been sorted and labeled, I then move onto the cookies.  Using a list of all the cookies I made, I grab the cookies from the freezer and spread them out on the kitchen table and counters.  There isn't a specific order but I do arrange the cookies so I can make a loop around the kitchen.  And I usually pack the tin with the flatter cookies on the bottom (Gingerbread, Sugar Cut-Outs) and the more delicate or soft cookies on top (White Chocolate Coconut, Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip).  Depending on the tin and how many people are sharing it, I may put one of each cookie, three of each cookie, or only focus on the flavors I know someone likes.  And I pay attention to allergies, so my friend who can't have strawberries didn't get any Banana Split cookies in her tin, and my father-in-law won't get any Hotel cookies due to his walnut allergy.

Seventeen different kinds on the kitchen table.

Seven more on the counter and flattop stove. (Yes, this is one of the reasons I like my flattop.)

Once a tin is packed with cookies, I top it with a piece of waxed paper or parchment to act as a cushion during shipping.  Hand delivered tins usually don't get this (I've been told it "just gets in the way").  I don't always tape the lid shut, but occasionally I will if the tin is particularly full, finicky or the shipping box is questionable.

Who wouldn't want to get this in the mail?

For shipping, Dave is a big help, making sure to use boxes that are pretty close in size and well cushioned with packing peanuts, foam or air pockets.  I've also used bunched up plastic grocery bags. 

The alternative to the cookie tin is the cookie tray, which I save for when I give the cookies as a gift at a party or when they are my contribution to a party. The theory is the same, get a cute tray and load it up. I like to make concentric circles, with the bigger cookies overflowing the edges and the smaller ones piled high in the middle.  For a little extra fun, I'll throw on some candy as well. Either my homemade fudge or wrapped Hershey's Kisses, Reese's Cups, or something else I have on hand.

Prepped for a Christmas party this past weekend.

However you share your cookies--in tins, trays, or even zip-top bags--your friends will love them and appreciate your kindness.  My cookies started to arrive in mailboxes yesterday and the phone was ringing nonstop with holiday wishes and thanks.  And once you've finished up, make sure you grab a few for yourself and cuddle up with a big glass of milk.  Hey, someone has to test them for Santa.

Happy Baking,
The Cookie Princess

Monday, December 20, 2010

White Chocolate Coconut

These were a bonus cookie. I didn't intend to make them, but I came across the recipe and Dave loves coconut and I had all the ingredients on hand.  So I figured I had to try them.  I'm not a coconut fan, so I didn't even taste these, but Dave said they were great.  The white chocolate matches well with the coconut, and he liked the crunchy outside paired with the soft inside.

Another Food Network recipe, this one is from Paula Deen, which means it uses 2 sticks of butter.  I'm not sure I've even seen her make anything without 2 sticks of butter.  I didn't change anything about the recipe or the ingredients, so that's saying something.  Although I did do the whole thing in a stand mixer (the recipe says hand mixer, but really?).

White Chocolate Coconut


1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup quick cooking oats
3/4 cup shredded coconut flakes

For garnish:

8 ounces white chocolate, melted
3/4 cup toasted shredded coconut flakes

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together baking powder, baking soda, flour and salt.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of bowl as necessary.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Fold in the oats and shredded coconut flakes.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls.  On a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet, arrange balls about 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown.  Turn baking sheet 180 degrees halfway through. If using more than one sheet at a time, rotate positions in the oven for more even baking.

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly on pans and then move to wire rack to complete cooling.

For garnish, melt white chocolate to a smooth consistency and toast coconut.  Arrange coconut flakes in a single layer in a baking dish or pan and toast at 350 degrees F for 4-5 minutes, stirring every 1-2 minutes.

When cookies are completely cool, dip them halfway into the melted white chocolate and then into the toasted coconut flakes.

Set them on a tray (I used a lid from a plastic container) and let chill in refrigerator for 5-10 minutes, until chocolate is set.

Makes 5 dozen.

Happy Baking,
The Cookie Princess

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mint Fudge Swirls

Mint.  Fudge.  Is there really any question about how good these are?  Little slices of heaven, might be the words.  I mean, it's actual fudge sauce.  And they are so pretty looking.  I make these almost every year, so when Dave saw what was going on in the kitchen, he was giddy with anticipation.  When I told him I needed actual words from him to describe them, I received the following, almost verbatim, stated with a mouthful of cookie, "Oooh, nomnomnomnom...good."  Ok, not almost verbatim, but pretty close.

Another Better Homes and Gardens recipe, I found this on MSN House and Home in 2002 under the title After Dinner Mint Cookies.  I first had to change the process of the recipe because I was ending up with a crumbly dough.  And the original recipe called for 1/2 cup of finely crushed Oreos as the filling.  I tried it that way once.  Not good results. The dough crumbled when I cut it and the crushed Oreos just didn't have the impact, so I ended up with a broken mint cookie with chocolate cookie crumbs.  Then I had a stroke of genius and thought, what if I swapped out the cookies for fudge sauce?  The result?  Perfection.  It's a soft cookie with a gooey fudginess (nope, not a word) and a perfect mint to chocolate ratio.  They are a crowd pleaser, which is why I have to make them every year.

Mint Fudge Spirals


3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon mint extract
3-6 drops green food coloring*
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup fudge sauce ice cream topping

*Remember last week when I noticed I didn't have any green food coloring?  Yeah, I forgot again, so I had to work my magic and make it green.  Boo for forgetfulness, yea for ingenuity!

Beat butter in a large mixing bowl on high.  Add sugar and baking powder and beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl as necessary.  Beat in egg, mint extract and food coloring.  I go for a light green color, but make it as dark as you want.  Note that the color will lighten slightly when you add the flour.

Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer.  Use a wooden spoon to stir in any remaining flour.

If you are not using a stand mixer, don't even bother trying to beat in the flour.  It will just turn to a crumbly mess if you use a hand mixer to beat in some of the flour.  Stir it all in by hand, in batches.  If you do use a stand mixer, swap out your beater before adding the flour.  Instead of using the wire beater attachment, use the paddle attachment (or even the dough blade).  You want to get all the flour incorporated and create a cohesive dough that you can roll out.

Divide dough in half, form into discs and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill in refrigerator about an hour or overnight.

Roll one disc between two sheets of waxed paper.  Now, the recipe says to roll "into an 8x7 inch rectangle" but if you saw my Almond Swirls post, you know how I feel about this.  Just roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and make it as reasonably even on the edges as possible. 

Peel off the top layer of waxed paper and spread on a layer of fudge sauce.  You don't want it too thick or it will ooze out during baking, but you don't want it too thin, either.  Generally, I put on enough so that I can just no longer see the dough underneath.

Starting at the bottom, roll up the dough jelly-roll style, removing bottom sheet of waxed paper as you go.

Pinch the edges to seal and fold over the ends.  Wrap in waxed paper and chill about 4 hours or overnight.  Repeat with second disc.

Remove one roll from the refrigerator and using your sharpest knife, cut the dough crosswise into 1/4 inch slices.  I like to cut the whole roll in half, and then work from the inside out.  Wipe the knife occasionally to remove any excess dough or fudge.  When you get to the ends, keep cutting, even it the spiral is weak or doesn't have much fudge to it.  Unlike the Almond Swirls, you generally don't need to repair cookies or create spirals where there were none. Since you only have one piece of dough, the fudge sauce acts as a really good glue.  At worst, if you tuck in the ends of your dough after you'd rolled it up, you'll just have some mint cookies with minimal fudge in them.  They're still tasty extras for the baker!

Place cookies on an ungreased or parchment/silicone lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 8-9 minutes.  You want to catch these cookies just before the edges turn brown because you don't want that to impact the pretty color.  Turn baking sheet 180 degrees halfway through. If using more than one sheet at a time, rotate positions in the oven for more even baking.  Cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes, then move to complete cooling on rack.

Remove these carefully because the cookie will be set before the fudge sauce is cool, so you don't want to pull to hard and break the cookie.  Just be patient and gentle.

Makes 5 1/2 dozen.

Happy Baking,
The Cookie Princess

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fruit-Filled Thimbles

I love these because I've made them in so many flavors.  I've used apricot preserves, lemon curd, raspberry preserves, and strawberry jam. I imagine orange marmalade would work as well, or any sort of sturdy, jellied fruit.  Perhaps even a pie filling.  These are a delicious shortbread style cookie that provides a great base to present the fruit flavors.  It's a softer version of shortbread. You could also experiment with extract and jam combinations for a really great treat.

Another recipe from the Capital Cookies cookbook, this one comes from Connecticut, submitted by Mary Mullen who shared these cookies with her church.  The only adjustment I've made is to the process, kneading the flour in by hand to get the dough to form without being crumbly (a common occurrence with shortbread).

Fruit-Filled Thimbles


1 stick butter, softened
1 stick margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
fruit jam or preserves of your choosing (I made this batch with apricot preserves and raspberry jam)

Cream butter and margarine together.  Gradually add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add vanilla and combine.

If using a stand mixer, switch to your dough hook attachment and add flour, stirring just until flour is gently mixed in. If doing this with a hand mixer, add the flour and stir as much of the flour as you can with a wooden spoon.  When it starts to look crumbly, stop.

Start kneading the dough with your hands, working it until the flour is incorporated and you have a slightly soft dough.  It will be a slightly crumbly, but should come together easily if you make a small ball.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls.  On a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet, arrange balls about 2 inches apart. With the tip of your middle finger, gently make an indentation on the top of each cooking, being careful not to press to hard and cause the cookie to split. If it does, just reshape it into a ball and try again.

Fill the indentation with jam.

Bake at 350 degrees F until just browned, about 15 minutes.  Turn baking sheet 180 degrees halfway through. If using more than one sheet at a time, rotate positions in the oven for more even baking.

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly on pans and then move to wire rack to complete cooling.

Makes 5 1/2 dozen.

Happy Baking,
The Cookie Princess

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

White Peppermint Snowballs

Not so much on the "ball" part of snowballs, huh?  Well, it's my fault. I'm not going to call this one a flop because a) I didn't actually follow the recipe to the letter, and b) these still taste pretty good.  They're pretty sweet, thanks to added powdered sugar, but I'll hold off on recommending any changes to the recipe until I actually follow it.  Dave thought I could do either just crushed peppermints on top or just in the dough, but that doing both was too much. I disagreed, but it's an interesting concept.

This recipes comes from Food Network's Sandra Lee, queen of Semi-Homemade.  Her recipe says to use refrigerated sugar cookie dough.  For whatever reason I believed I could just substitute a television cooking personality and be just as perfect, so I used a package of Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix and the called for butter and egg.  I think the slightly chilled dough (as well as the consistency of the refrigerated stuff) probably helps the dough retain a ball-like shape, since mine, well, didn't.  I also rolled my cookies in the powdered sugar before baking (Sandra Lee says to roll them after baking while they are still warm).  I wasn't in the mood to handle warm cookies.  Again, guess that's why I have a blog and she's on TV.  So yeah, I'll be making these again, the right way, and I'll let you know how it goes.

White Peppermint Snowballs


1 17.5 ounce package Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/3 cup crushed peppermint candies, plus more for garnishing
1 cup powdered sugar, divided

In a bowl, combine sugar cookie mix, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and butter.  I like to cut the butter in with a pastry blender and then use a wooden spoon or spatula to fully combine.

Not sure how many peppermint candies to crush?  I used 15 which was fine for the dough, but I needed to brush more for garnish.  Unwrap candies and put in a plastic zip top bag.  Put bag on top of a flexible cutting mat and go at it with a meat mallet (or a heavy can of beans or something.)  Measure out 1/3 cup.

Add egg, peppermint extract and crushed peppermint candies.  If your dough isn't coming together, keep working it, adding a splash (up to 1 Tablespoon) of milk, until combined.

Roll the dough into 1 inch balls.

Roll balls in remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar.

On a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet, arrange balls about 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350 degree F for 8-10 minutes. Turn baking sheet 180 degrees halfway through. If using more than one sheet at a time, rotate positions in the oven for more even baking.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional crushed peppermint candies while still warm.  Allow to cool slightly on pans and then move to wire rack to complete cooling.

Makes 4 dozen.

Happy Baking,
The Cookie Princess