And that means it’s fruit pie season. Here’s a fresh strawberry rhubarb, before and after baking.
Nora and I were remarking that we can’t believe it’s been FIVE years since our first cookie swap organized by Julie and Lindsay. Nora put together a fun rundown of previous years’ posts, if you want to click around and look at them. Thanks, Nora!
This year, I made these beautiful tahini cookies. They are basically peanut butter cookies, but with tahini (which is basically toasted sesame seed butter). I loved this recipe, which was easy and produced crumbly, crispy, nutty cookies that were sweet with just a perfect hint of bitter earthyness.
I had a bit of a mishap at the post office trying to mail these out to Valerie, Chanel, and Emily. The post office didn’t have any packing supplies, and I was cutting it close to the deadline, so they were NOT packed securely–which, I swear, this is my first year not wrapping them up like eggs in that high school physics experiment. So, I really do hope they arrived to you all in at least semi-decent shape. If they didn’t, I am so sorry.
I received beautiful and delicious cookies this year. Nora’s were truly outstanding, chewy, perfect chocolate-espresso crinkles, which you can read about in her post. Shelby (Grumpy’s Honey Bunch) sent me Santa’s Whiskers, which were like shortbread filled with candied cherries and pecans. Melanie (Gather for Bread) sent gorgeous chocolate-dipped shortbread that I seriously devoured. Lauren (Bite of Health Nutrition) sent moist, cakey mocha-chip ricotta cookies, which were especially amazing dunked into my coffee in the morning. Thank you so much!
Five years and 200 cookies later, here’s a holiday tradition I look forward to every December. Hannah and I have participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap since its first year in 2011, and it’s been a blast every year.
Not only does the swap benefit a great cause — Cookies for Kids’ Cancer — but it’s a fun way to virtually meet new baking bloggers and gives me a great reason to try a new recipe around the holidays.
As always, thanks to Lindsay at Love & Olive Oil and Julie at The Little Kitchen for organizing and creating the swap — and to Oxo, Dixie Crystals and Land O’ Lakes, which all partnered with the swap and sent along some great kitchen goodies.
In a search online, I became fixated on chocolate-espresso crinkle cookies and decided they would be the perfect recipe for this year’s swap. I also liked the idea of using an ingredient I haven’t used before: espresso powder.
Now, before I bake, I like to do some research. In past years, I’ve used various cookbooks to find my recipes, but this year, I decided to compare recipes on a few different websites to get an idea of the technique and tips for this type of cookie.
Here are the recipes I consulted:
Because I needed to make four dozen to send (three for my cookie swap matches, plus one for Hannah), I tripled the Martha Stewart recipe, which gave me plenty of wiggle room with 54 cookies. Here’s the technique:
The first step was melting the bittersweet chocolate. I typically opt for the double-boiler bowl method, since it gives me more control than melting in the microwave.
Then, while the chocolate cooled off, I sifted together the flour, cocoa powder and instant espresso.
The cooled chocolate then gets added to sugar and butter, which was creamed in a previous step.
After adding the flour mixture to the bowl, the dough needed some time to firm up in the fridge. I opted for an overnight chill, which made it much easier to roll out and work with.
The dough, rolled into 1.5-inch balls, got a hefty coating of powdered sugar before heading to the oven.
As you can see, the bake on these wasn’t consistent across all the batches. This project taught me just how wildly off my new oven’s temperature can be. Thank goodness for my trusty oven thermometer.
The cookies turned out chewy and rich, with the espresso powder adding to the flavor of the chocolate.
Once cooled, I packed up my crinkle creations in these penguin tins and shipped them off across the country.
Now for a shout-out to the bloggers behind the delicious cookies I got this year.
First were these festive, delicate and delicious pizelles (Italian waffle cookies) from Meggan at Culinary Hill. Loved the design and the flavor of these.
Next, in time for National Cookie Day on Dec. 4, I got these chocolate-dipped shortbreads from Melanie at Gather for Bread. Loved the addition of the orange peel and the various holiday shapes.
That same day, these tahini butter cookies arrived from Hannah, the other half of this very blog. They reminded me a lot of traditional peanut butter cookies but with a more savory flavor. And I loved the look of the sesame seeds on top.
Soon after, my third and final batch of official cookies arrived (Hannah and I swap on our own, as a bonus), from Lauren at Bite of Health Nutrition. She sent these rich and chewy coffee-cocoa-ricotta cookies, which also had a fabulous texture.
Thanks to everyone for sharing your cookies, and happy holiday baking!
This year was my first ever year not spending Thanksgiving with my family in Denver. So, instead, we hosted Friendsgiving for other “holiday orphans”! I made two pies: pecan, and pumpkin. The meal itself was amazing, and I only gave myself one deep cut with a chef’s knife while cutting into the pie. (Oops.)
I meant to write this introduction a few days ago, but moving got in the way. I’m in a new (and bigger) kitchen this holiday, which is great news for my baking, bad news for my productivity in all other things.
This year, Hannah suggested we do a pumpkin pie challenge. It’s something we typically bake every year, so I’m betting we’ll have some variations up our sleeves.
The pie at the top of this post is Hannah’s from last year. So lovely! The one on the bottom is mine from 2013. All I’m hoping for this year is not to crack the custard. And I’ve had varying degrees of luck with this (read: ugly pie).
Lesson learned from past pies (common knowledge): Take the pie out when it slightly wobbles in the middle, or it will weep and separate from the crust.
Here’s to a perfect pumpkin pie!
Five years and dozens of cookies. Since 2011, we’ve loved taking part in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, hosted by Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen — and benefitting Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Every year, we up the ante by baking an extra dozen cookies — in addition to the three we already bake and send to other food bloggers — to send to each other.
In honor of five years of holiday cookie creation, here’s a look back at our lineup from years past.
Hannah: Green Tea Biscotti
Hannah: Swirled Sugar Cookies
Nora: Pecan Sandies
Hannah: Cranberry Noels
Hannah: Chocolate-Cranberry Biscotti
Nora: Ginger Snaps
Can’t wait to see what we come up with this year. Happy Baking!
As Nora mentioned in her post, we’ve had crazy years (the lamest excuse) and have both confronted the idea that we need to play with the format of this four year old (!) blog. We’re going to be doing baking challenges less frequently (target is once a month) and more frequent baking/cooking roundup posts. In the meantime, here are a very select few things I baked (or cooked) since we fell off the wagon:
This winter was nuts for me, as I studied for and took the MCAT in January. In February, I made one of my favorite recipes in the world, Martha Stewart’s Chocolate-Espresso Tart. This is out of my Martha Stewart’s New Pies and Tarts book, which is (a) probably my most-used cookbook and (b) was a gift from Nora back in the day. Actually, Nora and I first used this recipe together when she visited my first Denver apartment in 2012! (we drank champagne and wore The Cat Hat and I had a broken arm.)
Spring rolled around and I did a lot of great baking, and also made these beautiful panna cottas from a great Kitchn recipe to serve my mom for Mother’s Day. Nora visited, and we spent several hours being rained out at a Rockies game.
I spent my free time in the summer relaxing, camping, hiking, and enjoying the company of my friends! My friend made these amazing eggs shakshuka while camping in August, and they are too pretty not to share.
Then, in late August, I moved to…New York City! I effectively doubled the distance between the Cats and Commas duo (oops).
I live in Park Slope, which is the best. My kitchen is…small. Since arriving, I have gotten super into making jams and preserves (not new to me) and have branched out into pickles (definitely new to me!). Here’s some of the plum preserves I made with beautiful Upstate Elephant Heart plums, as well as dilled pickled beans and cardamom-pickled carrots.
Bonus: here’s what cooking in my Denver house looked like all year: