My Cake Decorating Gallery

Friday, December 21, 2007

The 2nd Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange

I'm glad that on here, I can say Christmas. Of course, at work, I have to advertise "Holiday" just in case.... Anyway, I used to work at another company and there was always a Christmas Cookie Exchange which I happily joined. When I moved to GM, there wasn't much of anything going on year-round... no Cinco de Mayo pot luck or Chili Cook-offs. Luckily, I got hired there so I've brought a few of these traditions into existance.

This was the 2nd annual cookie exchange and I didn't really decide what to bake until the last minute, from being so busy with my other baking projects (see buche de noel and GM cupcake-cake). Plus it there was tons of overtime (including all day Saturday which was my baking day) and the holiday itself that I was supposed to be preparing for. Still, I finally decided on two recipes (to split for my required 75 cookies) - One labor-intensive Gingerbread Cutouts with royal icing piping and one less time intensive Swiss Mocha Treats (chocolate/coffee flavored cookies).

For some reason, I couldn't find the Martha Stewart magazine with the gingerbread cut out recipe in it (it was under a stack of papers on the kitchen counter) so I tried another gingerbread recipe that I found on (Bobby Flay Gingerbread throwdown competitor's recipe). I made up the gingerbread dough Saturday night and by Sunday morning it had become apparent that it was way too dry to roll out. It was super annoying and I had to redo the whole thing using Martha's recipe (which I luckily found). It always works that way - right when you don't have extra time, things happen to waste time. I really liked Martha's recipe, it was spicy (included pepper) and worked well for my 5in snowflake cutter (Martha was making 7 inch cookies, wow!)

The exchange went pretty well, 8 participants... though it was a bit like pulling teeth just getting people to particpate and choose a date and stop complaining! I'm not sure why I choose such time-intensive stuff, reminds my of my friend Andrea who said she made cute little decorated cookies for her own exchange and received an incomplete amount of no-bake cookies from one person.... On the other hand, in my exchange, we have many people who have never really baked so it's a great opportunity for beginners to try something new.

All in all, it was a success and hopefully we'll have a great one in 2008 as well! From other participants, we had some tasty treats: Coconut truffles (my personal favorite), Swedish thumbprints, snicker surprises, chocolate dipped cereal balls, indian cookies, fudge, almond cookies, and more!
I'm not sure if I'd make the Swiss Mocha Treats again, though I did enjoy them (husband didn't). The coffee flavor was a nice touch of something different. The gingerbread recipe was excellent though I would like to try hubby's mom's orange infused recipe sometime.

Swiss Mocha Treats

2 oz Swiss bittersweet candy bar, broken
½ cup + 2 tbsp butter, softened, divided
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 large egg
3 oz Swiss white chocolate candy bar, broken

Melt bittersweet chocolate and 2 tbsp butter in a double boiler or small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring often. Add espresso powder, stir until dissolves. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Let cool to room temperature.

Place flour, baking soda, salt and stir in a medium bowl. Beat ½ cup butter and sugar in large bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in bittersweet chocolate mixture and egg. Gradually add flour mixture. Beat at low speed until well blended. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.

Preheat oven to 375F. Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into 1-inch balls (mine were a little bigger but these cookies spread, 1 –inch is good). Place 3 inches apart on cookie sheet (lined with parchment is nice). Flatten to ½ inch thicke rounds with fork dipped in sugar. Bake 9-10 minutes or until set (don’t overbake). Immediately remove cookies to wire rack; cool completely.

Place white chocolate in small Ziploc bag, seal. Microwave in 20 second increments until white chocolate is melted – smooth out chunks with your hands. Cut off very tiny corner of bag and pipe or drizzle decoratively over cookies. Let stand for 30 min until set. Store tightly at room temperature or freeze up to 3 months. Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.

Gingerbread Snowflakes
(from Martha Stewart)
Makes 4 dozen 5 inch cookies
6 cups all-purpose flour plus more for work surface
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
4 tsp ground ginger
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 cup unsulfured molasses

Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set Aside. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each In plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350. Roll out dough on a lightly (I used lots) floured work surface to ¼ in thick. Cut ito snowflakes with a snowflake-shape cookie cutter. (press hard and lightly shake cutter to help separate cut outs.. the more flour, the less stickiness). Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

Royal Icing
1 pound powdered sugar
4 tablespoons meringue powder
5-8 tablespoons water (choose your consistency)

Put sugar, powder, and water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low until smooth, about 7 minutes. If icing is too thick, add water a little at a time; if too thin, mix icing 2 to 3 minutes more. Use a pastry bag with round tip and decorate cookies. Use sprinkles if desired. I used dragees (edible metallic decorative balls) and sparkley sanding sugar as well as brush-on shimmery powder (all edible).

After all that, you certainly can't say I don't use my kitchenaid mixer.....

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