VENUES: Serious Eats Headquarters, Chelsea; Angus McIndoe, Midtown
PARTY SIZE: about 20 apiece
TYPE: Festive Holiday Gatherings…with Cookies
MENU: Milk Chocolate Cookies with Ginger and Toffee; Holiday Spiced Snickerdoodles
Recently, Phoebe and I had the opportunity to attend not one but two cookie swaps. I have to say, I’d never been to a cookie swap before, but the idea is pretty genius, and I caught right on. Basically, everyone in attendance makes enough cookies for everyone else in attendance to take one home. Participants put out their own cookies, fill up empty boxes, and leave with a far vaster assortment of cookies than they’d ever have had the patience to make themselves (unless their name happens to be Mrs Wheelbarrow).
As I said, this was right up our alley.
I make cookies all year long–weekly, pretty much always, and sometimes daily. But holiday cookies do seem to up the ante. Last year, we labored for hours over royal icing, dabbing it here and there, and decorating cookie stars, snowmen, and Christmas trees. This year, we decided to nix the icing due to time constraints, but we still wanted to make sure that the cookies weren’t the type you’d just eat on any old afternoon but the kind that screeched “it’s December!”
For Serious Eats, we heightened the soft-and-chewy deliciousness of our classic chocolate chip cookies with stellar ingredients: chopped candied ginger, high-quality milk chocolate shards, and our beloved, mmm-inducing toffee bits. At the party, we ate an assortment of delicious treats–toffee bars, chewy chocolate chip brown sugar cookies, bright green cookies, biscochitos. We got to meet the editors we’ve only emailed with, as well as the other contributors. I strategized the cookie swap by eating as I went, in order to prevent me from overloading later.
Next up, a blogger cookie swap. On twitter, we caught wind that a big event was being planned, and though we almost missed out on it–not quick enough on our tweet, perhaps?–we got our act together, got baking, and made it there to share a quick lunch with some of our favorite Internet friends before running back home to get back on the cooking bandwagon for a catering event that evening. As expected, the cookies at a food blogger cookie fest were pretty outstanding.
We contributed Holiday Spiced Snickerdoodles, meaning regular snickerdoodles rolled in a mixture of gingerbread-ish spices as opposed to mere cinnamon. Though plain, there’s something about snickerdoodles that’s just festive. The one that stands out in my mind was at least eight inches in diameter. I bought it at a bakery somewhere in a small town in the mountains of Vermont, on a long drive. I think the bakery was in the back of a bookstore, and it was enormous, soft, and still warm. This was five years ago, and I can still taste that snickerdoodle. But the holiday-spiced tweaking has nothing to do with Vermont; it’s all mine.
Wherever you’re celebrating the holidays, whether you’d planned on baking batches of cookies or none, read on for BGSK’s 2010 cookie swap contributions, which may come some day to a cookie swap table near you.
From my kitchen, fragrant with cookies, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Holiday Spiced Snickerdoodles
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Snickerdoodle Recipe
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup pure vegetable shortening
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line baking sheets with parchment.
In a small bowl, mix together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.
In a medium bowl, beat the butter, shortening, and 1 1/2 cups sugar with a handheld mixer, or a standing mixer if you have one, until light and fluffy, for about 2 minutes. Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine.
In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the spices. Shape balls out of the dough–you want them to be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll all the balls through the spice-sugar mixture. Place about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are set in center and begin to crack (they will not brown), about 8 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after 4 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 sticks butter (1 cup), softened
¼ teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup coarsely chopped crystallized ginger
1/3 cup Heath brand toffee bits
1 cup coarsely chopped milk chocolate
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Mix sugars and butter in large bowl until cream. Add egg, espresso powder, and vanilla extract, and mix until even creamier. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt and mix until just combined. Stir in ginger, toffee, and chocolate.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake 6-8 minutes, or until just golden. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet and let cool completely.