Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Treats Exchange

Buddy thinks: "If they just look away for a second...all of this could be mine!"

On Saturday I met up with the lovely Michigan Lady Food Bloggers at Patti's house for a cookie exchange. Well, not really a cookie exchange, but an all-out treats extravaganza. A cookietravaganza? Either way, it was good eats, good treats, and good conversation. I brought three varieties of cookie to the gathering: espresso biscuits, pecan snowdrops, and molasses spice cookies. I came home with my biggest plastic container bursting with about a dozen different kinds of treats. It was another fine evening of merriment. Even the foul weather could not dampen the mood.

The madness begins!

My haul

The aftermath

Molasses Spice Cookies

This was another offering for the MLFB gathering. This is one of my Old Standbys. I make these cookies all the time. This recipe is from Cook's Illustrated New Best Recipe.

  • 2 1/4 cups (11 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1/3 cup ( 2 1/3 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (2 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup light or dark molasses
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or spray it with nonstick cooking spray (I used my Silpat silicone baking mats, which EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE BECAUSE THEY RULE).

Whisk the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined; set aside.

Either by hand or with an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the egg yolk and vanilla; increase speed to medium and beat until combined, about 20 seconds. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the molasses; beat until fully incorporated, scraping the bowl with a spatula once. Reduce the speed to the lowest setting; add the flour mixture and beat until just combined, about 30 seconds, scraping the bowl once. Give the dough a final stir by hand to ensure there are no pockets of flour at the bottom. The dough will be soft and gooey.

Place some more granulated sugar in a small bowl for rolling. Pinch off wads of dough (approximately 1 heaping tablespoon) and roll into balls about 1 1/2 inches across. Roll the dough in the sugar to coat and place each ball on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Bake until the cookies are browned and still puffy, the edges have begun to set, and the centers are still soft (the cookies will look raw between the cracks and seem undone), about 11 minutes, rotating the sheet from front to back halfway through the baking time. Do not overbake.

Cool the cookies on the baking sheer for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack. Makes about 20-24 cookies depending on the generosity of your dough balls.

Sugar and spice and everything nice...wait, no sugar in this picture, just spice!

I did not have enough molasses (probably barely 1/4 cup) so my dough was not as dark and gooey as it should have been.

Pecan Snowdrops

This is one of the cookies I brought to the MLFB Cookie Exchange last Saturday. This recipe comes in many guises-- Pecan Balls, Snowdrop Cookies, Snowball Cookies, etc...but whatever you might call them, they are little spheres of crumbly goodness. This particular recipe was my grandmother's. It was on a card, written in her elegant early-20th century upbringing script, nestled in her recipe box for decades.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
Cream the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the flour and salt and combine. Add water, nuts, and vanilla and combine. Chill dough for an hour.

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Pinch off wads of dough and roll into balls approximately 1 inch across. Arrange on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Prepare a small bowl of powdered sugar. Roll the cookies in the sugar once while still warm, allow to cool completely, and roll again.