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.