Tuesday, December 6, 2011

C is for Cookie (or: Festivities Part II)

I love December for many reasons.  One of them is because it provide an excuse to bake...and bake...and bake!

I like to make a lot of cookies and mix them into boxes for work and home and care packages for the college students I know.  (This year, I also have been employing what seems like a 1:1 ratio of make a cookie, eat a cookie.)  So far, I've baked gingerbread cookies and prepared dough for sugar cookies that will be baked tonight.  The gingerbread cookies went straight into the freezer.  Later, I'll make icing with powdered sugar, a dash of milk, almond extract and large amounts of food coloring.  (Decorating is at least half of the total fun.)

I love gingerbread.  For me, the crispier, the better.  I have to force myself to bake each batch for the prescribed time and not two or three minutes more.

Here is a candid photo of me caught looking at the camera and lounging with a ball of gingerbread dough in my hand!  So spontaneous!

If you looked at a chronological timeline of this post, it would be a hot mess.  I actually kicked off holiday baking with a new recipe I saw via Blue Eyed Bakers on Twitter for ginger-chocolate cookies.  I should have taken a picture of the huge pile of spices - cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, dried ginger, then fresh ginger, etc. - but instead, I took a photo of the pound of chocolate I chopped coarsely.  My arm still hurts.

Basically, these cookies are a hodgepodge of ginger and chocolate smashed together, rolled into a ball, dredged in white sugar, chilled and then baked.  It is a really interesting (in a good way) flavor combination.  Here is the pre-chilled, pre-baked version.  They settle down into flatter cookies and crack in such a pretty way as they bake.

What's the scoop on the ginger-chocolate cookies, you ask?  Well!  They were for my cookie exchange!  Last night, I hosted my book club pals for the grand exchange/happy hour.  We are mostly classmates from college, and we started this book club last year (or maybe the year before?).  As it turns out, we are not always good at completing the books, but last year's cookie exchange taught us that we are quite good at baking and eating cookies together! 

This year's guidelines: everyone bakes three dozen cookies at home and brings them over to the exchange, which sets up about three cookies of each type per person since we had a group of 11-12 cookie-bakers.  Here is the pretty arrangement of everyone's baked goods:

Josh came home from work and was curious about what was happening.  In football, I think they call this "encroachment."  I call it strategically positioning himself next to the cookies under the guise of friendly conversation.

(Sidenote: you might be wondering, if you looked closely, why there was a cake in the mix.  Last night was Carley's 30th birthday!  Before we started in on the cookies, we ate cake.)

Now I'll highlight some of the cookies and the stories behind them.  I'll start with Carley's.  She brought sugar cookies that had been decorated by her niece and nephew.  Although I should be clear that this was no competition - all cookies are winners in my book - these were an immediate front-runner for me because of the story and the copious amounts of sprinkles.  I also loved hearing that some cookies didn't make the cut because they simply had too many sprinkles.

Here you see caramel apple cookies, caramel ginger, seven-layer bars, cranberry-orange macaroons and chocolate mint.  I hope I got close to the proper names.

Here's my plate, post-exchange!  I love the pink and blue angel.  I also love the Ritz crackers dipped in almond bark (at, say, 8:00 if you picture a clock).  Those might be gone by now. Actually, there is truly not a dud in the bunch. 

They are so pretty...and so tasty.

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