i promised you a whole cookie-post, didn’t i? well today is your lucky day! this will be a fairly long posting because i have had the pleasure of making zillions of cookies with friends over the past few weeks. get your sweet-tooths ready!
i hosted a cookie swap for my lovely Belles the other weekend, which turned out to be a great success. for anyone not familiar with the concept, a cookie swap is a party that you throw for a big group of friends where everyone brings around two-dozen cookies to swap for everyone else’s creations, and everyone leaves with a whole assortment to take home. there are just a few rules i imposed on my guests: no store-bought cookies, no nuts (allergy reasons), and no plain ol’ chocolate chip cookies. but i didn’t limit the baked-goods to just cookies– bars and brownies were also welcomed. with sixteen Belles, we sure had a great variety of sweets!
since i was the hostess for the event, i decided to make two different sets of cookies (some for swapping, some for eating!) and provide hot spiced cider, the movie “Elf”, and holiday music.
i am a fan of a good shortbread cookie and decided to make that the base for my two different kinds of christmas cookies. i hunted around for a great recipe online and settled on making a key-lime meltaway shortbread, and a peppermint crunch shortbread (for the cute red and green theme). they were so incredibly simple to make and packed a lot of flavor!
here’s what you need for each batch: (i’ve color coded the ingredients specific to the flavor you’re making)
-3/4 c. of room-temp butter, unsalted (that’s 1 1/2 sticks)
-1/2 c. confectioners sugar (and more for dusting at the end)
-1 3/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
-2 tbsp. cornstarch
-1/8 t. salt
-1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (we all know how i feel about that imitation garbage)
-zest of two limes
-2 tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
-1 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
-1/3 c. crushed candy-cane or peppermints
-1 tsp. red food-coloring
to make the dough (whichever you choose), cream the softened butter and 1/2 c. confectioners sugar in a bowl. then add the vanilla, lime zest and lime juice or the peppermint extract and the crushed peppermints to the mixture and combine.
next, add the flour, cornstarch, and salt carefully to the butter and sugar, and mix gently until the dough comes together. it won’t look like a smooth dough but rather kind of crumbly (like shortbread dough should!). at this point, add the red food-coloring if you’re making peppermint dough. adding it this late in the process makes the color just barely mix in so the dough looks like a pretty red marble!
take the dough out of the bowl and transfer it on to a flat work space. using confectioners sugar to dust it if you need to, knead the dough slightly until it comes together in a ball. then, form it into a log shape with the circumference of about a tomato paste can
(or around 2 in. diameter). put the log on a piece of plastic wrap and wrap it tightly, sealing both ends. these are ice-box cookies, so they’ll go in the fridge to chill for two hours, and when they come out you can slice ’em and bake ’em!
when you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and slice the cookies into about 1/3 to 1/2 in. thickness (depending upon how many you want to get out of the batch!). bake on a silpat-lined cookie sheet
if you have one, or on an unlined regular cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes. *note: when you take a batch out of the oven, let the pan cool completely before you put another batch on it (or use another cookie sheet). if you use a hot pan, the butter will start to melt before its in the oven and your cookies might burn!*
once completely cooled, decorate the cookies however you’d like. the traditional way to finish the lime meltaways is to toss them in powdered sugar. i decorated the outside edge on some cookies with green sprinkles and then tossed them in the sugar. for the peppermint cookies, i made a quick glaze (1 c. powdered sugar and a few tablespoons of milk) and topped them with red and white sprinkles. here’s how they came out!
along with the cookies, i mentioned that it was my duty to provide spiced cider. this is the easiest thing in the world, and much less expensive than buying gallons of cider from the store for 5 bucks (or more!) a pop! i purchased 3 gallons of 100% apple juice on sale at the grocery and some whole cinnamon sticks. in a large pot on the stove, i added the juice (in batches), 1 tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, and three broken cinnamon sticks. i let it sit on the stove on very low heat (so the sugars wouldn’t burn) until my guests arrived. i served it up in mugs with some whipped cream on top!
there are too many photos of cookies to post (although they were all absolutely divine), but i can surely name them all. we had snickerdoodles, seven-layer bars, chocolate chip rice-krispy treats, no-bake cookies, peppermint and chocolate angel-food cake, forgotten cookies, snowflake sugar cookies, peppermint creme bars, chocolate mint cookies, and oatmeal chocolate chips. i can confidently say that we were all in sugar comas by the end of the evening.
just last night, i had another cookie party, but this time it was all about baking and decorating sugar cookies. a bunch of good friends stopped by and we managed to bake off about 4 dozen heart, snowman, and flower cookies.
because sugar cookie doughs are a dime a dozen, just use your favorite recipe. i rolled my dough out to about 1/4 inch and we punched the shapes out from there. the nice thing about rolled-dough is that you can mush the scraps together and roll it out again! batch after batch baked for about 12 minutes and cooled outside before the next one went in. (yep, since its so cold outside, i just pop my cookie sheet outside my doorstep on the concrete steps and it cools off in no time!)
my mom bought me these adorable little holiday sprinkles: one was candy canes, one was holly leaves and berries, and the last was snowflakes. we made homemade buttercream frosting (1/2 stick of softened butter, 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar, 4ish tablespoons of milk, splash of vanilla) to apply a thin layer on the tops of the sugar cookies, and then got to decorating! here is how they turned out:
we ate a bunch (who wouldn’t?) and plated a bunch more to drop off a friends’ houses in the area. what a nice study surprise! i wish you all happy holiday baking and hope you will try some of these delicious recipes–or a cookie swap of your very own!