Sunday, 15 December 2013

Cookie Exchange 2013 Part 1

What better way to bring in the holiday spirit than to host a cookie exchange at work? And that’s exactly what I did again this year. It’s kind of turned into an annual thing. We had 13 people participate, and I got a bunch of emails leading up to the day saying how excited they were about it!

For me, the best part of a cookie exchange is getting people who don’t normally bake to give it a try and share with everyone. It’s such a rewarding feeling I think. And this year we had another impressive spread of goodies! My colleagues are pretty creative!

Here are some recipes from the exchange. I tried them all and they were awesome!

Almond Butter Cookies from 1001Cookie Recipes .
Yield. 4-6 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon lemon extract
¾ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon vanilla
About 70 whole blanched almonds

1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2.  Combine the flour and baking powder.
3.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks and the extracts. Blend in the dry ingredients.
4.  Break off walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll into balls. Place 1.5 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets (I use parchment paper, also – I think I made them a bit bigger than intended).
5.  Press an almond into the centre of each cookie flattening them slightly. Bake for 15-20 minutes (I took them out at 15 minutes – definitely check them at 15), until the cookies are golden brown. Transfer to a wire racks to cool.

How to blanch almonds:
1.  Bring a small pot of water to a boil.
2.  Drop your almonds in the pot and let boil for exactly one minute.
3.  Drain and rinse the almonds off with cold water.
4.  Pat dry with paper towel or tea towel.
5.  The skins should look all wrinkly, and should pop off as easily as opening up edamame. Also it’s fun to shoot the almonds around the kitchen and at your baking companion. Extra points for landing a skinned almond in someone’s drink.

Almond Butter Cookies and Chocolate Chip Cookies beside each other, at "9 and 10 o'clock".
Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
From here
Yield: ~35 cookies
Prep time: ~30 minutes, Baking time: 12-14 minutes

150 g butter
150 g dark chocolate (50-70%)
150 g dark Muscovado
50 g granulated sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk (L)
225 g bread flour (type 550)
1/2 tsp baking soda
a little less than 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
Maldon sea salt (or Fleur de sel) for sprinkling

1.   Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat and let it brown slowly. I prefer to use an old enamel pan, simply because its inside is white – makes it easier to control the degree of browning. Stir regularly using a silicone spatula and make sure the butter solids don’t stick to the bottom and burn. At first the butter will foam, then simmer gently. Wait until it starts to smell nutty and reaches a golden brown color, but be careful to not let it get to dark or it will taste burnt. Immediately fill into another bowl (otherwise it will brown further) and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Coarsely chop the chocolate
2.   Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Put both sugars, egg and egg yolk into a big bowl and beat with a hand-held mixer (whisks) or the flat beater of a KitchenAid at least 3 minutes until light in color and creamy, most of the sugar crystals should have dissolved. Now add the cooled down brown butter and beat for 2 more minutes. Sieve flour and baking soda into the bowl, add the fine sea salt and mix only as long as it takes to reach an even dough (change to dough hooks for this step, if using a hand-held mixer). Lastly add the chopped chocolate (or other additions like nuts, dried fruits, etc.) and mix shortly until evenly distributed.
3.   Scoop little mounds of dough onto the sheets using either two tablespoons or an extra small ice cream scoop and leave generous space between. Sprinkle with a little Maldon sea salt and bake on middle level for 12 to 14 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden brown, yet the center still feels slightly soft to the touch. Take out, let rest for 3 minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a wire rack (minus the one you have to eat right away) and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Dark Chocolate Citrus Almond Bark
Makes 36 pieces

1 ½ cups (375ml) unsalted whole almonds
 ½  cup pecans
½ walnuts
1 cup cut mixed peel
2 lbs dark chocolate &/or milk chocolate
2 tbsp Vanilla extract
100 g white chocolate

1.  Toss together nuts and mixed peel.  Measure out 1 cup of nut/peel mixture and set aside.
2.  Melt dark/milk chocolate (microwave: ~2 min, stirring every 20sec) or stove top.
3.  Add nut/peel mixture to melted chocolate and stir until evenly combined.
4.  Pour mixture onto parchment paper lined baking sheet and spread evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle evenly with reserved nut/peel mixture.
5.  Drizzle evenly with white chocolate.
6.  Chill to harden.  Break into snack-size pieces. Store in an air tight container for up to 1 month.

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

2 large eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup sugar
Generous pinch of salt
1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
3.5 oz Lindt Excellence 70% Dark Chocolate (optional)

 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Spread a sheet of parchment paper over a large cookie sheet, or butter the sheet.
 2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt, and almond or vanilla extract. Blend in the coconut until it is completely moistened. This is not supposed to be a batter, but rather well-moistened clumps of coconut.
 3. Drop generous teaspoonfuls onto the baking sheet, and bake them for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the macaroons are golden brown with crisp edges. Transfer them to a rack to cool.
 4. Melt the dark chocolate over low heat. Dip the macaroons in the melted chocolate and transfer to a sheet of parchment paper to cool.  
Citrus Almond Bark in the middle, Macaroons at the bottom.
What did I bake? That’s coming up…sit tight!

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