Tag Archives: Christmas

Food Blogger Cookie Swap IV: Denver

14 Dec

2014-11-30 13.22.52This was our fourth year participating in the food blogger cookie swap (you can check my posts from 2011, 2012, and 2013). Nora and I are both proud to have been with The Swap since the beginning and look forward to it every year! Julie of The Little Kitchen and Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil organize it, and they deserve some major acknowledgement for their work. Thank you, ladies!

For my 2014 submission, I decided to make green tea biscotti. I made biscotti during my first year; I loved how they turned out and they were hardy enough to ship without worrying much about crumbling, etc. I got really into baking with machta powder a few years ago when a coworker requested Green Tea Cupcakes for his birthday treat. I decided to give biscotti a similar twist and see what happened.

Turns out there are tons of recipes out there for machta biscotti. The ones I made were most closely based on this delightful recipe from A Cozy Kitchen. I did decide I wanted to top mine with crystallized ginger, not turbinado sugar – but not so much ginger that you couldn’t taste the sweetly bitter, earthy flavor of the tea. I think I got a good ratio. I also used more almonds (about 1/2 C), and more tea powder (~3 tsp) than called for in A Cozy Kitchen’s recipe.

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Oh, and I also made five batches at once. Ha.

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I loved the texture on these, because they were hard enough to soften deliciously dunked in a cup of tea, but weren’t absolutely rock hard. Plus, from what I’ve seen, it appears that they arrived safely where I sent them! They were  mailed to Nora (naturally), as well as: Deb from Cooking on the Front Burner, Becky from The Cookie Rookie, and Tammy from Yours And Mine Are Ours.

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I received four absolutely beautiful packages of cookies this year. Nora and I always send each other a batch of our FBCS cookies along with the rest of our Christmas gifts. Nora’s cookies are always adorably packaged, and came in a little cardboard box with candy-striped twine this year. What a treat! You can read all about Nora’s delish pistachio/cranberry cookies on her related Portland 2014 Cookie Swap post.

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Katie of Butterlust sent me her mom’s Coconut Gingeroons. These puppies were so good! I love coconut anything, and the texture of these were lovely. Katie’s blog is a delight to peruse, if you have some free time. Katie, thank you so much!

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Laurie of Baking Adventures in a Messy Kitchen sent me these amazing coconut, cinnamon, and orchidea chip cookies! I learned that orchidea chips are sichuan pepper, lime, and orchid root. These cookies had a spicy, sweet, and perfectly salty flavor. Plus, my roommates were way wowed by the exotic theme! Thanks, Laurie.

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Trudy of Chocolate Castles sent me delicious shortbread cookies dipped in white chocolate! She even included a little thumbprint tool for thumbprint cookies – she says you can buy them on Etsy if you want one for yourself! Trudy, thank you.

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All in all, I lucked out this year, I think. Can’t wait for 2015!

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Great Food Blogger Cookie Exchange 2013: Denver

11 Dec


I’m so glad to be doing this lovely swap for a third year running! I imagine it is a formidable amount of work for Lindsay and Julie, who organize it each year, so I want to thank each of them so much for doing this. The organization raised almost $14,000 to fight children’s cancer this year. Remarkable! Shout out to you two, and to your corporate partners who matched donations. Oxo sent me some totally amazing silicone spatulas, which I basically haven’t put down since they arrived. They’re mega high quality and I love them.


This year, I went a different route than my typical cookie exchange cookie, and I’m not sure I think it was a great idea, retrospectively. Past years have brought chocolate-cherry biscotti and cranberry noels to my kitchen, both of which I thought were delicious but outwardly plain cookies. This year, I wanted to try a simple taste with some graphic flash! I made plain ‘ol vanilla sugar cookies, dying half of the dough and rolling them into swirled logs. They looked ok when they were done, but I wasn’t thrilled with their overall quality (more on this later).


The recipe itself was about as straightforward as possible. I used Martha Stewart’s Perfect Sugar Cookie recipe pretty much unmodified. I actually made a triple batch, because I needed to get at least 48 cookies out of it (and I remembered last year’s ordeal when I had to go back and make an extra batch in the end to get me to 48).


I always forget how dense sugar cookie dough is!  Adding in all that flour definitely put some strain on my beloved hand-mixer.


Pulled out my trusty gel food coloring…


I separated the dough into fourths, coloring two of the fourths (I decided I wanted red/white pinwheels and blue/white pinwheels).


After chilling, I rolled them out, and chilled them some more!


Assembly was surprisingly easy. Using a water wash, I was able to stack colored dough on uncolored dough, line edges up, and roll. It took some effort to roll them evenly. To prevent any gaps inside the swirls, I rolled the logs around for quite a while.


Finally, a water bath went on the outside, and each log got rolled in goodies.


This part was so messy!


The red/white log was rolled in crushed peppermint, and the blue/white log was rolled in snowflake-shaped sprinkles.


I let the logs chill in the fridge, then, finally, sliced and baked the cookies!


Like I mentioned above, I wasn’t amazed at how these turned out. They were cute enough, but they spread a lot more than I thought they would, so they weren’t very uniform. Also, I’m a nitwit, and I didn’t think about the fact that the peppermint chips on the red/white cookies would melt in the oven! Duh. The best-laid plans, I tell you. Finally, I wasn’t amazed at the texture of these cookies; they turned out pretty hard. However, they were good with a cup of tea or milk to dunk them into, and they were certainly more graphic than previous swap efforts. I thought it was fun to branch out and do something decorative this year!



My batches went out to Justina at Fail Sweetly, Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla, and Laura at Pink Cake Plate. I included a little homemade card in each package, because someone did that for me during my first year, and I really loved the tidbits that author included about herself. All three of these blogs are varied, beautiful, and interesting. I hope the cookies arrived intact!


This year, for the first time ever, I got all three of my official swap cookies on the same day! I’d had a loooong Wednesday at work, followed by commute home from work that took almost 90 minutes due to a snowstorm, but I got home to three packages!

One was from Harvey at Baked Chicago. I was telling my roommates that one of the things I like the most about the GFBCS is that you get folks from all walks of life – form college kids to grandparents to professional cooks! Harvey definitely lies on the latter side of that spectrum, from what I can tell from his website. His cookies were variations on soft-baked gingersnap molasses cookies; some were plain, some were filled with chocolate, and some were filled with chocolate and topped with granola. All of them were delicious, and Harvey’s packaging/presentation was beautiful. He also sent me a copy of his e-cookbook, which I think was amazingly kind. Thank you, Harvey! I can’t wait to make some brownies 🙂


Another batch were from Renee at Tortillas and Honey. Her beautiful blog looks mostly focused on New Mexican cuisine – which is near and dear to my heart. I’m a Coloradan, but I loooove New Mexican food. I may or may not have already bookmarked some of her posts for my future meals. Renee sent chocolate peppermint crinkles, which were truly phenomenal. Like, ho-ly mo-ly. The texture on these puppies was absolutely flawless…they pretty much literally melted in your mouth!  I will be making a batch or two of these to give as gifts to local friends, I think. Thank you, Renee!


My final batch were absolutely wonderful thyme-sea salt chocolate chip cookies. These were a big hit in my apartment. I really appreciated the twist on a classic, and they were expertly executed – delightfully salty, but not over salted (I imagine this was a narrow line to walk), and the thyme was a great foil to the chocolate. Regrettably, this package didn’t come with any contact information, just a note that said “Thyme sea salt chocolate chip cookies, from Jenni”. Jenni, wherever you are, thank you so much for these!


As tradition holds, Nora and I each make a fourth dozen and include them in our Christmas packages to each other. You can read about Nora’s batch here, but I can tell you first-hand that they were a. maze. ing.  I looooove pecan sandies, and Nora’s were excellent, with a crumbly texture that was to die for. Plus, they were mega cute. Thanks, girl.

St. Lucia Buns and Marcipani Cookies: Portland

15 Dec

Before Christmas, one of my coworkers had a cookie swap soiree, and I, of course, felt obliged to make a bazillion baked goods for the occasion. For Hannah’s Christmas challenge, I wanted to make traditional Simon-Teteak family favorites.

So naturally, I chose St. Lucia buns (from the Swedish Andersens on my dad’s side of the family) and Marcipani cookies (from the Czech Teteaks on my mom’s side of the family).

And as you can see, I had a special baking guest: our very own wee law receptionist, Christopher.

These Christmas cookies and buns are special not only because they’re part of my heritage (which I’m an extreme sucker for). It’s the spices that make these marcipani cookies special: Ground fennel and caraway seeds give these gingerbread-esque creations a wonderfully sharp yet subtle flavor. The saffron buns (otherwise known as lussekatter in Swedish, meaning little cats), are sweet yeast rolls with ground saffron. Because saffron is so expensive usually, these are reserved for the St. Lucia Day holiday, which my family celebrates every December 13.

I had the pleasure of borrowing my friend’s KitchenAid mixer, which helped quite a bit when it came time to knead the saffron bun dough. It tends to get extremely sticky, which I remember always frustrated me as a child when it came time to shape them into rolls.

The little spots you see in the cut up rolls are golden raisins, which are a lovely addition to the saffron. Once you’ve let the dough rise once, you divide it into 32 pieces, which will make 16 buns. Basically, you roll out the dough segments into 12-inch strips and then twist them together to make this shape (I obviously need to do better about taking pictures of my baking step by step). Then you let the rolls rise again until they get nice and puffy and are ready to bake.

Next, Chris and I rolled out the cookie dough. It made a ton, so I took the other half to my cousins’ house for Christmas (they’re Teteaks too) so we could make some together.  I didn’t have a rolling pin yet, so you can see here that Chris is resorting to my method of choice, the cooking spray can.

After several hours of mixing, rising and baking, here’s the final result! The cookies were far more airy and light than I would have expected, and for a person who doesn’t like fennel or caraway seed that much, I was really surprised with how light the flavor was. As for the saffron buns, they were delightful as usual. They’re also very good for breakfast.

Challenge #8: CYOC Multicultural Christmas Celebrations

14 Dec

Time for a Choose-Your-Own-Challenge for Nora and myself! Instead of picking one recipe to do as per normal, we thought we’d sort of pick a theme and leave ourselves way more room for interpretation. Our next challenge will be a Christmas- or holiday-themed baked good that sources its history or inspiration from a non-American culture.  I already know what I’m making, but I’m leaving it a surprise until I post it (I’m baking on Saturday, so probably early next week.)

Ready, Set, Go!