Tag Archives: Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

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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The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012: Portland

12 Dec

DSC_0290For this year’s cookie swap, I wanted to make a cookie with a technique I hadn’t tried before. Sliced cookies sounded like a good option, as I typically find rolled cookies a little too tedious for big batches, and I haven’t had good luck with the consistency and size of my drop cookies (see last year’s ginger snaps).

Instead of consulting the Internet for inspiration, as I typically do, I consulted the public library’s cookbook shelf and found “Christmas Cookies from the Whimsical Bakehouse.” This was a great resource for  all sorts of creative recipes, including shortbread snowflakes, spritz cookies and even a 3-D Christmas tree, with chapters on each cookie-making method.

Several cookies caught my eye, but I ultimately decided on a combination cookie with two doughs baked in one: cherry-almond and chocolate-walnut. They’re called yin-yang cookies in the book, but mine really didn’t turn out looking that way (as you’ll see below). The idea is to make to separate doughs, roll them into logs and then roll them together into one log that you slice later.

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Here’s what went into these combo cookies (note the Tillamook butter). The two doughs were pretty simple, but it did help to have a stand mixer. And a word of warning, this recipe makes a ton of cookies — up to 6 dozen, depending on how big your rolls turn out.

Cherry-almond dough

1 1/2 sticks butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. orange juice
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup blanched almonds (chopped)

1. Cream butter and sugar.
2. Add egg, orange juice and extract.
3. Add flour, cherries and almonds.

Chocolate-walnut dough

2 sticks butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup walnuts (chopped)

1. Cream butter, sugar and extract.
2. Add flour, cocoa and walnuts.

Once both doughs are mixed, make four logs out of each dough and let chill briefly. Combine two logs of each dough so you have four double rolls. Wrap and let these chill overnight (at least 8 hours is best). Cut into 1/4-inch slices and bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees until not quite brown.

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As part of my goal to learn from my previous baking experiences, I’m trying to become more patient when it comes to one of the foundations of baking — waiting until the butter is soft before creaming it with the sugar. And perhaps it helped the consistency of the cookies this time around. (This photo is from early on in the process, so it doesn’t have that silky, pale yellow sheen yet.)

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The cherries (actually cherry juice-infused Craisins, which added an interesting albeit potentially fake flavor) and the almonds looked so lovely chopped up together. In fact, cranberries (or any red berry) remind me a lot of the holidays (and fittingly, Hannah’s cookies had some cranberries, too!).

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After combining the ingredients for the cherry-almond dough, I mixed the chocolate-walnut separately. I was surprised that this dough didn’t call for an

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Each dough got separated into four logs, so I ended up with eight logs that I needed to roll together into four mega-logs. These were supposed to look like yin-yangs, but the directions didn’t help me that much, so I just opted to see how they turned out.

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The best thing about roll cookies is that they chill in the refrigerator for a long time, which means the dough is easier to work with and they won’t run into each other while baking.

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When I cut up the logs after a whole night of chilling, they looked a little too much like salami …

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… but they baked up just fine. I had some trouble rolling the chocolate-walnut dough into a cohesive log (and honestly I was surprised this recipe didn’t call for an egg), but they texture incorporated just fine with the cherry-almond when they baked.

I also wasn’t sure if I’d like two cookies in one, or if they were big enough, but I hope the bloggers I sent them to — the Lushers of Life with the Lushers, Vicki of My Purple Kitchen,  Cookie of Cookie Loves and my blog partner, Hannah — enjoyed them.

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Lastly, I have to give a shout-out to the amazing cookies I got from across the country.

First were Hannah’s cranberry-white chocolate shortbread, which looked and tasted wonderful.

Next were white chocolate peanut butter krispies from Mollie of Sprinkles of Life. These had almond bark, peanut butter, mini marshmallows, peanuts and crispy rice cereal. These had great texture and a great combination of flavors.

Third were amaretti cookies, made from almond flour, from Kristin of Nanna’s Cookbook. These seemed so simple, but they looked and tasted elegant.

Last were double chocolate biscotti from Kelley of The Culinary Enthusiast. They went great with my morning tea!

Here’s a photo of all of them together on one plate.

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I ended up having so many cookies (four dozen, plus extras from my batch) that I got to share with my friends and coworkers.

A couple things I’ll try to do next year, though: 1. Use social media better to share my cookie swap experience. 2. Come up with a cute (and safe) way of packaging. Another cookie swap success. I’m excited to do it again next year.

Happy holiday baking!

Challenge #20: The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012

14 Nov

Last year, Cats and Commas participated in this cookie collaboration, and a year later, it’s time for Round 2.

Here’s how the swap works. We both bake three dozen cookies and send a dozen each to three food bloggers across the country by early December. Then, as the month rolls on, we’ll each get three dozen cookies, too.

This year, we’re adding our own twist. We’ll bake four dozen cookies and send the required three dozen to strangers. But we’ll swap the extra dozen with each other so we can sample what we each made.

My cookies last year, Alton Brown’s ginger snaps, did not turn out as great as I’d hoped, but the packaging was my favorite part.

Hannah’s cookies, chocolate-cranberry biscotti, looked great, even though I didn’t get to taste them.

Stay tuned for our holiday surprise cookies. We’ll blog again in mid-December to show you what we baked and what we got.

Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap: Portland

12 Dec

What a great idea for the holiday season: the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. Cookies in the mail? Yes, please. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this endeavor, organizing something like this must have been a lot of work because it took me a lot of energy just to figure out sending three-dozen cookies to three people. Imagine hundreds of cookies to hundreds of people. Thanks to Lindsay and Julie for putting this together. I’m sure I’ll participate next year, too, and perhaps will more success cookie-wise.
Thanks to Addison (Changing My Destiny) for her scrumptious Oatmeal Chocolate Chewies (in super inventive packaging: a tissue paper-filled mason jar; sorry, forgot to take pictures). And Toni (Kitchen Savvy Mom) for her delicious Double Chocolate Chunk Walnut Cookies (I loved how the white chocolate complemented the walnuts). And “Vesta” (Vesta Vamps) for her Aunt Thelma’s Butterscotch Cookies (which interestingly enough don’t have any butterscotch or sugar).

I’ve been in a ginger mood lately, using it for everything from cooking to baking. Also, I tend to go for simple cookies, things where you don’t have to do much assembly but there’s one spice or flavor that really stands out. So when Alton Brown’s ginger snap recipeshowed up in my inbox as part of Food Networks 12 Days of Cookies, it seemed too perfect to pass up. And it has THREE kinds of ginger (fresh, crystallized, and powdered), so these cookies turned out really spicy. Unfortunately, I was too cheap to buy cardamom ($15 ?!), so I made do without. I honestly didn’t miss it, because I don’t really know what cardamom tastes like, but I’m sure it makes some difference. Next time, I’ll just fork over the money.
Here’s the ingredient list:
9 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
7 ounces dark brown sugar
5 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
3 ounces molasses, by weight
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
4 ounces finely chopped candied ginger

Wet ingredients (mmmm molasses)

Crystallized ginger has a really cool texture and makes for awesome, colorful photos.


Oddly, the recipe was in ounces for some things, so I had to do some conversions, which I think may have led to these cookies being too sticky when I put them in to bake. So as you can see, they were a little too buttery and spread out way too much on the cookie sheets. In retrospect, I should have used more flour (and probably cooked a test cookie to make sure the consistency was right. Oh well, learning lessons is what baking is all about, right?

They turned out looking marginally ok, though more greasy than I would’ve preferred. So much for finesse. It’s not my forte. But what I am good at is packages. So I bought some tins and Christmas filling at World Market and packaged them up with holiday cards. Unfortunately, I forgot to write my Twitter handle on the cards, so my recipients onlyknow my first name and blog URL (and our blog is so primitive we don’t even have Twitter linked yet, but we’ll fix that soon).

It made me so happy to package up these ginger delights and sent them to three separate corners of the country: Brighton, MA (West Coast Girl, East Coast Life); Hudson, IA (Table Talk and Walk); and Newark, NJ (The Foodie Next Door).
I know they weren’t the prettiest in the world, but I hope they were still delicious.
Happy Holidays!

Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap: Denver

11 Dec

Nora found The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap last month, and she knew that it would be perfect for Cats and Commas. First, it meant that we were officially declaring ourselves “food bloggers”, which is neat. Also, who doesn’t like cookies?  The idea is simple: we each signed up, as did a ton of other food-blog folk, and Lindsay and Julie would match us to three other bloggers. Nora and I would each pick a cookie recipe (of our own design or adaptation), make three dozen cookies, and send one dozen to each of the names that Lindsay and Julie gave us. Meanwhile, other bloggers would be given our names, and we’d receive three different kinds of cookie. How perfect is that? I’m excited to see what kind of cookies Nora made – we haven’t yet told each other which recipes we used.

The most valuable thing I learned from this experiment was that cookies are delicious. The second-most valuable thing I learned is that Nora and I are scrubs for using blogspot.  Everyone’s blogs are so beautiful and professional! I was very impressed. (We wanted a wordpress blog, but found that we couldn’t get one set up for both of us to post on. If anyone has some advice about this (and also about how to switch the posts we have here onto the hypothetical wordpress), we’d be obliged.)

The first batch of cookies that I received were from Veronica of www.veronicascornucopia.com.  Her cookies were peanut-buttery tasting with mini-snickers baked inside each one. They were chewy, which is how I love cookies, and salty and sweet.  Veronica’s batch came with a sweet postcard, too.

The second batch I got were Dad’s Famous Chocolate and Butterscotch Chip Cookies from Julie M. of www.burntcarrots.com. These were exactly what the name suggests they are: buttery and awesome. They actually reminded me a lot of the chocolate chip cookies that my mom makes, but I love butterscotch chips, so what a wonderful addition.

The last batch I got were from Christian of http://cm-c.org. Her cookies were carrot cake cookies with vanilla bean icing. The texture of these babies was AMAZING, and they tasted just like their namesake. Christian’s cookies also came with a really sweet, long, handwritten note, which I thought was lovely.

The cookies that I made for the swap were Chocolate-Cranberry Biscotti. I love biscotti, and haven’t made it for like 10 years – the last time was definitely with my mom, and I must have been a middle schooler. I adapted a recipe of Miss Martha‘s, of course, because I love her.  Originally, the recipe was Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti with Chocolate Chips from the Martha Stewart’s Cookies cookbook. I changed some of the proportions of dry ingredients and swapped all-purpose flour to whole-wheat, took out her additives and added dried cranberries, and changed the bake times accordingly.  I tripled the below recipe to make three batches.  Recipe is as follows:

-2 C whole-wheat flour, sifted.
-1 C unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted.
-1 tsp baking soda, sifted.
-0.25 tsp salt
-6 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
-1 cup white sugar
-2 large eggs
-1.5 C dried cranberries

1. Heat the oven to 350. Prep your cookie sheets with parchment or foil.
2. Whisk dry ingredients together. Run them, combined, through a sifter to ensure even baking-soda distribution.
3. Cream butter and sugar until it’s very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. (A trick I learned from The Simple Art of Perfect Baking is that, when adding eggs or other liquids to creamed butter/sugar, you must beat so thoroughly after each little addition. If your butter mix “curdles” after one egg, whip whip whip whip until it looks normal before adding the next egg. It makes a huge difference.) Look at how beautiful my butter-sugar-egg mixture was after a few minutes of whipping. I could seriously roll around in this.
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4. Combine butter/egg/sugar mix with sifted dry ingredients. Mix well, but don’t overdo it. Once they’re combined, add your cranberries and distribute evenly. Your dough may be a little crumbly but should stick to itself fairly well when done.
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5. Roll the dough into a ball shape and then into a log. It should be about 10 or so inches long.  Place the log on your cookie sheet, and flatten it slightly. It’ll be about 10-12 inches long and 4-5 inches wide.
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6. Bake until slightly firm, about 30 minutes. The cookies will seem fairly soft, but don’t fret! Take the log out and let it cool for 5-10 minutes.
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7.  With a very sharp, serrated knife, slice the log diagonally at about 1-inch intervals. This is very crumbly, so it’s best to do it on something that will be easy to clean.
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7. Lower oven heat to 300 degrees.

8. Arrange your 1-inch-thick biscottis face-down on your cookie sheet, and return them to your oven. Bake until crisp, but still slightly soft in the center – these puppies will harden like rocks as they cool, so don’t expect them to be biscotti-hard when you test them in the oven.

9. Cool ’em on a wire rack and enjoy!
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I packed my cookies up and sent them off to Lisa of http://tequilacupcakes.com, Sara of http://thelittlebite.wordpress.com, and Anita of http://www.confessionsofafoodie.me. Everyone got a dozen biscotti and a little card, too.  I hope my cookies arrived to Lisa, Sara, and Anita in solid pieces, and that they enjoyed them!
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Happy holidays! Once Nora gets her Cookie Swap post up and running, I’ll pick the next challenge.

P.S.: Cats and Commas got a twitter! Look at how modern we are. @catsandcommas , holla!