Monday, January 7, 2013

2012 Cookie Swap

Ah the holidays. It's when people splurge on all things luxurious. As wallets get smaller, waists get larger. A cookie swap is a good way to gain some weight. I mean, how can I not try each and every thing? Oh dear me! And I don't have a sweet tooth. Yeah, I'm whining...

And now the cookies!

This year, I made a variety for Feisty Foodie and Dessert Zombie. I like going from lighter flavors to more robust. So I made lemon iced, cherry almond oatmeal, peanut butter Nutella thumbprint, and smores espresso brownies. They were pretty easy to make and that's why I aimed for 4 different cookies.

I liked the texture of my lemon cookies but it could have had more lemon flavor. I should have trusted my gut and added double the zest as I usually do. But I wanted to try the recipe on its own. Now I know what to do to improve.

The oatmeal cookies were really moist thanks to the applesauce I added. I call it my healthy cookie since it has less sugar and much more fiber as well as healthier add ins like cherries and almonds. It's not the best tasting cookie but it's not bad with a cup of milk.

The peanut butter thumbprint cookies with Nutella came out surprisingly well. The Nutella didn't overpower the peanut butter flavor of the cookies. In fact, they worked really well together. The only downside was the Nutella. I used German Nutella and it has less preservatives than the American one. Usually, that's a plus. However, it was much softer due to less stabilizers. It was really difficult to actually spoon the Nutella into the cookie. But looks aren't everything. It tasted good.

My last "cookie" wasn't a cookie at all. Instead, they were smores espresso brownies. A graham cracker crust, espresso brownies in the middle, and melted marshmallows on top. Super easy to make actually and it lasts longer in flavor than the other cookies I made.

My counterparts outdid themselves as well. The Feisty Foodie made a vast amount of options herself this year. Below, you can see a couple pieces of the bounty which included: chocolate dipped pumpernickel pretzels, chipotle fudge, walnut fudge, kahlua salted caramels, rice krispie rochers, walnut espresso cookies, and mint chocolate chip cookies. My favorite of the bunch was surprisingly the chocolate dipped pumpernickel pretzels. I say that it's a surprise because I do not like all. But for some reason these pretzels didn't seem too strong for me. Maybe it was the chocolate that helped mellow out the flavor.
Dessert Zombie, not a baker himself, opted to purchase goods instead. He went a little overboard, as usual. I always appreciate his generosity but he goes a little nutty sometimes. The first set of goodies he gave us included: a whole bag of Ghirardelli sea salt squares, a box of 6 macarons from Bisous Ciao (pistachio and spiced pumpkin pictured here), and various chocolates from La Maison (dark chocolate rocher and another dark chocolate piece with pistachios, almonds, and orange rind pictures below). At this point, this was more than enough. But he didn't stop there.
He also gave me salted caramel butter cookies as well as minty mallows. Both from Trader Joe's. He countered all the sugar for me with 2 bags of potato chips from Deep River. I haven't gotten through each of Dessert Zombie's goodies yet but I'll probably enjoy the chips the most. I'm just a savory person like that.
Although most cookie swaps include more people, I like the intimacy of our trade. We enjoyed our dinner together that night and noshed on the sweets later. We don't need an excuse to hang out but this is a pretty good excuse.

Recipe below is adapted from Bon Appetit's Lemony Slice And Bakes.
Lemon Iced Cookies
Makes 4 dozen
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
3 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice (about 1.5 lemons)


1. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla in a large bowl, occasionally scraping down sides, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks one at a time beating just to blend. Reduce speed to low.

2. Combine flour and salt. Add to lemon butter mixture and beat until blended. Scrape down sides a couple times.
3. Divide dough in half and roll each into a 10"-long log. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 1 hour. Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. 
4. Preheat oven to 350oF. Arrange racks in lower and upper thirds of oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
5. Unwrap 1 dough log. Using a sharp knife, cut log into 1/4"-thick rounds. Transfer to prepared sheets, spacing 1" apart. Repeat with second log.
6. Bake until cookies are firm and golden brown around edges, 16-18 minutes. Let cool for 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks and let cool completely.

1. Whisk sugar and 2 tablespoons juice in a small bowl, adding more juice by 1/2-teaspoonfuls if too thick. Add zest. Mix well.

2. Spread or drizzle icing over completely cooled cookies. Let stand until icing sets, about 15 minutes. Store tightly covered with wax paper between each layer to prevent sticking.

Recipe below courtesy of Quaker Oats' Awesome Oatmeal Cookies.
Cherry Almond Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 3 dozen
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil, preferably canola
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups Quaker oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup dried cherries
1 1/3 cups slivered almonds (approx 6oz)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.
1. In large bowl, beat brown sugar, egg, oil, applesauce and vanilla on medium speed of electric mixer until combined.
2. Add combined flours, baking soda and salt; beat on low speed just until blended. Stir in oats, cherries, and almonds.
3.  Drop dough by level measuring tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 9 to 10 minutes, until light brown. Cool 1 to 2 minutes on cookie sheets; transfer to wire racks. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Recipe below courtesy of Bon Appetit's Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies
Peanut Butter Nutella Thumbprint Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup packed golden brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 350°F.
1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
2. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter, peanut butter and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Beat in both sugars. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, stirring well after each addition. Mix in dry ingredients.
3. To form cookies, roll 1 heaping tablespoonful of dough into ball. Arrange dough balls 2 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Press down on each down using thumb. Be careful not to break the perimeter of the cookie.
4. Bake cookies about 14 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes. Using metal spatula, transfer cookies to racks and cool completely. Using 2 teaspoons, drop 1 tsp of Nutella in each thumbprint. Store tightly covered with wax paper between cookies.

Recipe below courtesy of Food Network's S'more Brownies and Gourmet's Double Chocolate Mocha Brownies
Smores Espresso Brownies
Makes about 24 rectangles
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tsp fine salt

Espresso Brownies:
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
5 oz unsweetened chocolate pieces
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon instant-espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Marshmallow Topping:
10 ounces mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 325oF. Line an 9x13 inch baking pan with foil so it hangs over the edges.
Lightly butter the foil with 2 tsps melted butter. Stir the rest of the butter together with the crumbs, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Press the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake about 40 minutes. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 375°F.
1. Melt remaining 12 tbsps butter with unsweetened chocolate in a large metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and whisk in sugar, espresso powder, vanilla, and salt (mixture will be grainy), then add eggs 1 at a time, whisking after each addition until batter is smooth.

2. Toss together flour and chocolate chips in another bowl and add to batter, stirring until just combined.
3. Spread batter evenly in baking pan over graham cracker crust. Bake until top is firm and edges just begin to pull away from sides of pan, about 20 minutes.

Preheat broiler on low
Spread marshmallows over baked brownies in an even layer. Place on top rack under broiler for 1-2 minutes until browned. Do not leave. Sit and watch to prevent burning.

Let cool 10 minutes. Remove smores brownies from pan using foil flaps. Cool completely on wire rack. Cut into 24 rectangles.


  1. Thanks again for the cookies and brownies, Hungry. I really liked the nutella thumbprint peanut butter cookies. Peeling off the nutella and re-thumbing them was fun and not a fuss at all! :)

    Yes, I'm a Zombie Nut? :) Alright, I'll be hand-scrapping the logo off Oreos next year and passing them off as my own. (Will promise to scale back on the over-splurging of sweets and treats if invited to this year's swap.) At least neither you or Feisty Foodie were turned into zombies. :P

    Dinner was awesome too.

    1. Yes, thank you for the goodies! I really enjoyed the lemon cookies, and thought they were lemony enough (but wouldn't say no to more lemon).

      As for this year's swap, I'm not sure there will be one... we'll see!

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