Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cookie Exchange - No Boys Allowed (Except Gingerbread Men!)

SEASON TO TASTE
(My monthly food column for Heartland Women)
December 2008

One time, when I was in high school, I accompanied my mother to a party at our neighbor’s house during the Christmas holidays. The party was in the afternoon, and it was for women only. I smugly left a houseful of brothers behind. That alone, I thought, was reason enough for any party.

Each guest arrived, carrying a large box or basket, went directly to the dining room table to deposit her box, and then joined the party. Soon the living room was full of women drinking coffee and engaging in lively conversations. Lovely, I said to myself, a room full of people who all seem to get along well with others, don’t push and shove, and smell good too.

The hostesses emerged from the kitchen with refreshments and inched their way through the room holding out trays full of a huge variety of Christmas cookies. “Ohhs” and “Ahhs” were heard throughout the room as we enjoyed sampling the holiday inspired goodies. How civilized, I observed, no grabbing, no mouths crammed full and spewing crumbs, and no cookies ground into the carpet.

The array was so dazzling that it was almost impossible to choose. Even at that age, and with more than a passing acquaintance with the time and energy it took to feed a house full of hungry people, I marveled that they must have been baking cookies for weeks!

There I was, surrounded by a delightful group of women, enjoying the conversation and the attention – lots of talking, lots of laughter, and lots and lots of cookies . . . and no brothers anywhere. Little did I know, the day was destined for greatness beyond anything I could imagine. Our hostesses quieted the crowded room and announced it was time to move to the dining room. I was filled with wonder . . . all this and there’s more?

The doors opened, and before us, the dining room table was covered with an enormous array of cookies – tray after tray, each piled high with a single kind of cookie. Chocolate cookies, iced cookies, shaped cookies, red cookies, green cookies, round cookies, filled cookies, bar cookies and more cookies. “It’s unbelievable!” I may have gasped audibly.

It was a cookie exchange! Our instructions were to reclaim our own box or basket and fill it with the same number of cookies we had brought with us when we arrived, that were now filling the trays on the table. It crossed my mind as I helped my mother refill our box, that I would remember this day for a long time, and so would my brothers when they found out about it . . . and I was very sure they would find out about it.

What a day it was! My mother had spent a couple of hours baking just one batch of cookies, she and I had enjoyed a delightful afternoon together with her friends and with no boys allowed, and we returned with an amazing variety of cookies to graciously share – enough to satisfy every sweet tooth in our house. Yes, I sighed to myself, this was pretty much my idea of a perfect day.

My final thought about that day . . . There is much to be learned in the company of wise and generous women.

Merry Christmas from my kitchen to yours!


SPRITZ COOKIES
1 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
2 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 tsp. almond or vanilla extract

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Blend in remaining ingredients. Fill cookie press with 1/4 of the dough at a time; form into desired shapes on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 6-9 minutes, or until set, but not brown.

CHOCOLATE KISS PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
2/3 c. peanut butter
1 c. softened butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 2/3 c. sifted flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. sugar for coating cookies
4 – 5 doz. Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses, unwrapped

Beat butter and peanut butter until well blended. Add sugars; beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs; mix well. Add flour, soda, salt and mix until well blended. Use level tablespoon to scoop cookie mixture; shape into balls. Fill small bowl or plate with 1 c. sugar and roll each cookie to coat. Place cookie balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove from oven and press one Hershey’s Kiss on top of each cookie; return to oven and bake 2 minutes longer. Remove cookies from cookie sheet and place on racks to cool.

ORANGE BALLS
1 box crushed vanilla wafers
1 (6 oz.) can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 stick butter, melted
1 box confectioner’s sugar
coconut - optional

Mix together. Form into balls. Roll in coconut or more powdered sugar. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

MAGIC MOUNTAIN COOKIES

2 egg whites
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 c. sugar
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla extract until thick and foamy. Add sugar gradually and beat until stiff. Fold in chips, and optional nuts. Drop cookies from teaspoon onto a cookie sheet covered with an ungreased sheet of aluminum foil, forming small, peaked points resembling miniature snow tipped mountains. Place in preheated 350-degree oven. TURN OFF OVEN. Leave oven door closed with cookies inside for several hours or overnight.

SNICKERDOODLES
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. shortening
1 1/2 c. white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. white sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cream together butter, shortening, 1 1/2 c. sugar, eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls. Mix the 2 tbsp. sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls of dough in mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set but not too hard. Remove immediately from baking sheets.

GRANDMA’S ROSETTES

2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
1 c. flour
1 tbsp. lemon extract

Add sugar to slightly beaten eggs and then add milk. Sift flour before measuring, then together with salt. Stir into first mixture and beat until smooth – about the consistency of heavy cream. Add flavoring. Allow batter to stand about 2 hours covered in the refrigerator before frying. Pour batter into a shallow bowl or pan to allow room for the double rosette iron. Heat three inches of oil in a heavy pan to 365 degrees – use a candy thermometer. Place the rosette iron into the hot oil for about a minute. Then dip the hot iron into the batter, being careful that the batter does not go over the top of the iron. Place the battered iron into the hot oil and fry for about 30 seconds, or until it is light brown. Remove iron from oil and drop rosette onto paper towel to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cool. Store in an airtight container.

Note: Rosettes are traditional at Christmas, but molds are available in other seasonal or holiday shapes. Rosettes can also be used as decorations on cakes.

MRS. T'S CHOCOLATE BUCKETS
Pastry cups:
1/2 c. butter
3 oz. cream cheese
1 c. flour

Blend ingredients and form into 24 balls. Using tiny muffin pans (do not grease pan) shape each ball to fit in pan forming little cups.

Filling mixture:
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. melted butter
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

semi-sweet chocolate chips
chocolate sprinkles

Combine brown sugar, butter, salt, egg and vanilla. Place four chocolate chips into each pastry cup and add the filling mixture. Sprinkle top with chocolate sprinkles. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. When cool, sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar.

FROSTED PECAN COOKIES

1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 egg whites – slightly beaten
1 1/2 c. finely chopped pecans

Cream butter; add sugar gradually. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Blend in flour and salt. Shape level teaspoons of dough into balls; dip in egg whites and then into pecans. Place on greased cookie sheet Bake at 375 degrees for 5 minutes. Remove and make a depression in center of each cookie. Return to oven; bake about 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven and cool before topping with Butter Frosting.

Butter Frosting:
3 tbsp. softened butter
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
3 tbsp. cream
1 tsp. vanilla
red food coloring
green food coloring

Blend butter, sugar, cream and vanilla; beat until smooth. Divide frosting into two bowls; tint one with red food coloring and one with green food coloring. Place a dab of frosting on each cookie.

RASPBERRY JAM THUMBPRINT COOKIES
1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 heaping c. flour
raspberry jam

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and blend. Add flour and mix thoroughly. Make into balls about the size of walnuts. Put deep thumbprints into ball and fill with jam. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

HAYSTACKS
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 c. butterscotch chips
2 cans (5 oz. size) chow mein noodles

Spread wax paper on cookie sheets or trays. Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips in a double boiler or in the microwave (be sure not to overheat in the microwave – chips are melted even when they appear to still be solid!). Stir in chow mein noodles and coat thoroughly. Drop by tablespoon onto wax paper. Let sit until firm and dry.

SUGAR COOKIES
1 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
food coloring - optional

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt, one cup at a time. Adjust amount of flour, if mixture becomes too dry. Divide dough into portions. Add food coloring, if desired, and work into dough thoroughly. Roll each portion of dough into a log; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove one dough log at a time to slice and bake on cookie sheet – warm dough will cause cookies to spread out too much. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet before removing.
Note: Dough may also be rolled out to 1/4-inch thickness and cut with cookie cutters. Follow same procedure for keeping dough refrigerated, placing on cookie sheet and baking.

TOBEY’S GINGERBREAD MEN
2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 t. ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. soft shortening
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light molasses
1 egg yolk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour with baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. In another bowl, mix shortening, sugar and molasses until creamy. Add egg yolk. Beat well. Blend in flour mixture. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick. Use a floured cookie cutter to cut out gingerbread men. On ungreased cookie sheet, place cookie dough cutouts 1/2-inch apart. Bake 8 – 10 minutes, or until done. Cool. Decorate with frosting, if desired.
Note: Poke a hole near the top of the cookie after placing on cookie sheet, if you want to tie with string to hang on Christmas tree. The scent is wonderful!

3 comments:

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

What a wonderful selection of cookies!

Cora (Cora Cooks) said...

Thanks Lydia! These were some of the first cookies I learned to bake, and they never fail to please.

Maris said...

What a list of cookies! Cookie exchange parties sound like lots of fun, though I've never actually had one.