Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Cookie Challenge: Party Edition

Party Cookie

Last week, I attended a panel about women entrepreneurs in the food industry. One of the speakers started a baking business while working full time as a corporate lawyer. She spoke of sleeping just four hours a night, churning out bagels and rugelach until the wee hours of the morning, then suiting up for a long day with demanding clients.

Despite having worked a twelve hour day, I went home right after the panel and baked some M and M pretzel bars--no lawyer's gonna beat me in the overachiever olympics. As I cut into the pretzel bars around 10:30 that night however, eyes drooping, I reevaluated my competitiveness. Baking, for me, is supposed to be fun--forcing oneself into exhaustion to meet some ridiculous, self-imposed "challenge" makes no sense at all.

That said, our annual holiday open house this weekend had no shortage of cookies on the buffet table--some, like the parmesan biscotti and peanut butter oatmeal cookies, were the result of savvy dough freezing earlier in the month. Others, including the linzers, cheddar thumbprints, and cranberry orange walnut drop cookies, were whipped up Friday night. All are repeat recipes--the thumbprints come from last year's Washington Post, which recommends either onion jam or pepper jelly for the filling. The simple cranberry orange cookies have been in my repetoire since 2002, a little bit different every time. The original recipe calls for pistachios, fresh ginger and fresh cranberries, but I left them out this year and they were still a hit. 

Friday, December 09, 2011

Christmas Cookie Challenge: Day 9, Double Ginger Chip

Double Ginger Chip

Twenty-five days of cookies? What the hell was I thinking? More sane food bloggers give you only twelve days of cookies in December. As does the Food Network, and they have an army of cooks.

This is a long way of saying--Day 8? No cookies were made. I managed to eat quite a few, though--including the peppermint splodges, crushed and mixed into vanilla ice cream.

Today, though, I've begun to recover my honor--making these easy Double Ginger Chip cookies from 101 Cookbooks. I made a few adjustments--regular flour, regular sugar, and chopped candied ginger in place of the real stuff. They're spicy, chewy, and small enough that you always have room for just one more.
Christmas Cookie Challenge

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Christmas Cookie Challenge: Day 7, Oatmeal Peanut Butter White Chocolate Chip

peanut butter oatmeal white chocolate chip

These cookies are brought to you by my friend Keisha, as well as a few scotches at Off the Record, and some dumplings at Mandu. I'm not exactly sure how I was able to get these out of my oven this evening--but damn, they are so easy, even an exhausted girl like me can make them.

The recipe is here--I substituted butter for both the margarine and the shortening--though Keisha says the shortening makes the edges crisp up, which sounds delightful, I just didn't have any. Also on Keisha's recommendation, I added about a cup of white chocolate chips. Ridiculously delicious.

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Christmas Cookie Challenge, Day 6: Meyer Lemon Bites

meyer lemon bites

As soon as Jon started zesting the Meyer lemons for these cookies, the smell transported me back to Los Angeles (yes, assistance was required to get these in the oven tonight).  Oh how I miss the land of citrus and sunshine some days. Until we make our millions and retire in Malibu, these bastardized lemon bars--with ridiculously expensive gourmet grocery store Meyers--will have to suffice.

I first made--and blogged--these in 2007, you can find the recipe here.  Though I complain about the price above, Meyers are worth a splurge every now and then, sweet and fragrant, you could almost eat them out of hand.

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Monday, December 05, 2011

Christmas Cookie Challenge: Day 5, Black Pepper Parmesan Biscotti

black peper parmesan biscotti

Merely five days in, and I'm on sugar overload. Time for a savory recipe: Black Pepper and Parmesan Biscotti. All evidence to the contrary, I'm actually a savory gal--I'll take some salty olives and cheese over chocolate any day. Or, in this case, salty cheese, spicy pepper, and--well--still--lots of butter.  Though over at the Copywriters' Kitchen they substituted olive oil for butter with no ill effects.

Biscotti are a treat so nice you bake them twice, ensuring crisp edges all around. The dough freezes beautifully--I tucked away three-quarters of this batch for a later date.

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Christmas Cookie Challenge: Day 4, Triple Chocolate Spice Cookies

Triple Chocolate Spice Cookies

These chewy and dark beauties are my favorite so far--the richness is balanced by tart currents and a hint of pepper adds a kick. They're an elegant after-dinner treat, with a cup of tea or glass of milk.

They come from the San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook, with a few tweaks by me.

Triple Chocolate Spice Cookies

1/2 cup dried currents
2 tablespoons Kahlua
2 oz. semisweet chocolate
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
3 tablespoons butter
7 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
few shakes of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine currents and Kahlua in a small bowl and let sit while you prepare the rest of the batter. Combine the semisweet and bittersweet chocolates and butter in a small saucepan and melt over low heat, stir frequently. Set aside to cool.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, pepper and cayenne in a small bowl; stir to blend.

Beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl until pale and thick. Add vanilla and melted chocolate; stir to combine. Fold in the flour mixture. Stir in the currants and chocolate chips. The dough is very liquidy, but don't be alarmed--it works out just fine.

Drop dough by spoonfuls on lined cookie sheets; bake 9 to 10 minutes, until tops are shiny and they start to crack a bit.

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Christmas Cookie Challenge: Day 3, Chestnut Butter Balls

chestnut butter balls

The author of this recipe, Deb at the Smitten Kitchen, calls these treats "Roasted Chestnut Cookies." That name isn't a lie, but it downplays a critical ingredient: Butter. Lots of it. Two sticks, to be precise. Don't get me wrong, the chestnuts make the cookies sing--rich and sweet, it's worth the effort to roast your own--definitely take Deb's advice, however, and roast more than you think you need...rotten chestnuts are a fact of life, and the only way to know is to roast it and cut it open.

I packaged these up in long-forgotten treat bags for some friends--a three-mile run this afternoon is not nearly enough to counteract a whole batch, so, get them out of the kitchen--quick!

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Friday, December 02, 2011

Christmas Cookie Challenge: Day 2, Peppermint Splodges

peppermit splodges

I should've known better. On what planet would baking a peppermint patty inside chocolate cookie dough at 350 for 15 minutes turn out like this, Rachael Ray's purported Double Chocolate Cookies with a Peppermint Surprise:

 Alas, I now have two pans of splodge--damn tasty, but certainly not worth the effort of wrapping each peppermint patty in sticky chocolate cookie dough. Maybe they can be crumbled up and served over ice cream? Because in a month of cookies, that's just what I need. Some ice cream.

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Christmas Cookie Challenge: Day 1, Peanut Butter Blossoms

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Alright, here's the plan. Twenty-five days until Christmas, twenty-five different cookies. Every day the oven goes on, and every day something delicious comes out.

First up--the ubiquitous Peanut Butter Blossoms. Nearly every recipe I found warned, "Don't use natural peanut butter." Not a one told me why, however, so I threw caution to the wind, and used a butter from the farmer's market with just one ingredient: peanuts. Disaster did not follow, so I encourage you to avoid the oily, high-fructose industrial slop.

As for the Hershey Kisses, I used a mix of dark chocolate and some crazy "aerated" kisses. The airy ones lost their shape quickly, while the shiny dark ones look and taste better.

So, have a favorite cookie recipe for me? Want to play along? Want a cookie delivery? Let me know. Though J. may beg to differ, we can't eat 25 batches of cookies alone.

Christmas Cookie Challenge