Monday, December 12, 2011

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

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Man, I love food bloggers. I mentioned earlier that I was participating in a couple of cookie swaps, some in person, some virtual, and then this one, by mail! Yes, actual cookies being sent by mail! This was organized by Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil (and that link will take you to the cookie swap page) and Julie of The Little Kitchen (ditto for that link) and I have to say, this was a BRILLIANT idea, and I hope everyone was as happy with their cookies as I was with the ones I got! In the end over 600 bloggers participated--600!! That is a lot of cookies winging their way around the world (someone did some calculating, and estimated that over 22,000 cookies were baked and sent--holy smokes!) Not to mention a whole hell of a lot of organizing, so thanks Lindsay and Julie! Amazing job!

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Anyway, before I get to the goodies I received, here is what I made--cinnamon bun pinwheels. One of the rules of the swap was that you had to make a recipe you hadn't made before, which was not necessarily difficult (I do tend to stick to a few "trademark" recipes) but man, picking a new one to try did turn out to be quite a dilemma. I think I originally had a list of over 2 dozen new recipes to try, but in the end, this recipe from the King Arthur Flour website won out. They're supposed to taste like mini cinnamon rolls in cookie form, and I have to say, I was quite pleased with how they turned out, flavor wise (and texture wise--it's basically a shortbread).

Shaping

Shaping these was a bit more challenging than I expected. I've never made pinwheel or spiral cookies before, and I thought that it would be simple to just make the two different doughs, slap then on top of each other, and roll up. Oh man. So not simple. Apparently I am incapable of rolling things into a rectangle, even a rough rectangle. So I kept trying to cut the dough down to a rectangular shape, which resulted in all these scraps that I tried to attach back to the rectangle (in a rectangular way) and it just was not working out! In the end, I divided the dough into quarters and only worked with one quarter a time, which made it much more manageable.

not quite round

See? These are respectable pinwheels, right? Even if there are some gaps and they're not quite round? (Maybe I'm pinwheel challenged. I don't know if anyone else has these problems with this kind of cookie!)

The Ugly Duckling

Consistency is not my forte. The one on the top right is probably from the best roll I managed to make. The one on the bottom right....well, let's just say that one disappeared in the name of Quality Control. Of course, I picked out the nicer looking ones to send off.... (And even then, I managed to be an idiot and didn't package them securely enough. I was terrified after I sent them that they would arrive in crumbs, but they seem to have made it. Phew!)

So, I hope that Susan from The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen, Jill from Angells in Tokyo, and Michelle from La Vida de Michelle all enjoyed their pinwheels as much as I enjoyed snacking on the ugly ones. ;)

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And now, the cookies I received! This was my first package, from Chris and Rachel of The Keenan Cookbook. First of all, how cute is this drawing? This was when I first started thinking, "Oh man, why didn't I package my cookies more nicely?"

Rainbow cookies

And this is what was inside! MMmmmm, rainbow cookies. Chris and Rachel are clearly more on top of things than I am, and have already posted their recipe and let me tell you, it is well worth trying because these are probably the best rainbow cookies I've had.

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My next package (also gorgeously wrapped! I was really feeling inadequate now!) came from Chelsea C. from Jacksonville, FL. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a blog or email address for Chelsea so I hope I can find her on the roundup and say thank you properly!

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This is what was inside--chocolate peanut butter cookies. Who doesn't love chocolate and peanut butter? Crazy people, that's who. Oh, and I guess people with peanut allergies. That's okay, just pass them over to me.

Peanut butter-toffee chip-chocolate cookies

And finally today, I got my last box--oh, and I don't mean to imply that they just arrived. No, they have been held hostage at the post office since last Thursday, and I was finally able to go get them today. Do you know how long I stood in line? 48 minutes, people! I timed it. They had one (just one!) window where you could retrieve packages, even though the other windows had no lines. Fortunately, it was well worth it, because Kate from Fleur-de-Licious had sent along Peanut Butter Toffee Cookies (another blogger that's more timely than I am with the recipe posting!). I inhaled two right away as soon as I got home. Holy crap do I love toffee. The rest are waiting patiently for tomorrow morning when there's enough light for me to take a photo....so yup. I'll update this post with a photo of these wonder-cookies tomorrow! Photo now included! Mm, cookies.

What an awesome event. Cookies in the mail and a bunch of new blogger friends to boot. If you want to get in on the action next year (and you know you do!) then head on over and sign up to get notifications about next year's swap!

Oh right--and here's the recipe!

Cinnamon Bun Pinwheels, reproduced from King Arthur Flour

Vanilla Dough
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt, extra-fine preferred
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Cinnamon Dough
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt, extra-fine preferred
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon oil, optional, for stronger flavor (I did not use this)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1) To make the vanilla dough: In a medium-sized mixing bowl cream together the sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla.
2) Add the flour, stirring to make a cohesive dough. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate until ready to use — at least 1 hour.
3) To make the cinnamon dough: In a saucepan combine the sugar, honey, salt, cinnamon oil, vanilla, butter, and cinnamon. Heat over medium heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
4) Remove from the heat and allow to cool briefly.
5) Transfer the cinnamon mixture and the toasted pecans to a food processor, and process until smooth.
6) In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the pecan mixture and flour to make a cohesive dough. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate until ready to use — at least 1 hour. (I found that the dough was very greasy and that some of the butter actually started to separate out. If this happens to you, add an additional tablespoon of flour, and that should take care of it.)
7) To shape the cookies: Place parchment or waxed paper on your work surface and dust it lightly with flour. Lay the vanilla dough on the parchment and roll it into an 18" x 12" rectangle. Set it aside. (I recommend dividing the dough into smaller portions; if you are not pinwheel challenged like I apparently am, then go for it in one shot!)
8) Using more parchment paper or waxed paper, roll the cinnamon dough slightly smaller than the first, into a 17 ½" x 11 ½" rectangle.
9) Place the smaller piece of dough on top of the larger piece of dough, using the parchment to transport.
10) Starting with a long edge, use the parchment to help you gently roll the stacked dough into a tight log, with no gaps. Press the edge to seal, then wrap the log in plastic wrap or parchment, and freeze for 1 hour.
11) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
12) Remove the dough from the freezer, unwrap it, and place it on a clean work surface. Let it thaw for 15 minutes, or until it's soft enough to cut.
13) Use a sharp knife to gently cut the log into ¼" slices. If the dough becomes too soft to handle, place it back in the freezer briefly. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets.
14) Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they feel firm. Remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.
15) When cool, store airtight, at room temperature; freeze for longer storage.

Yield: 4 dozen cookies.

6 comments:

Susan said...

Have you been to the Waffle truck yet? Wafels and Dinges? They make their own speculoos spread that you can buy or put on your waffle. Speculoos on a liege waffle is a great combination.

Chris @ TheKeenanCookBook said...

So glad you liked the cookies and our wrapping job lol :) I can't take credit for the snowman - that's all Rachel :)

babykins said...

That cookie swap sounds amazing! And all the cookies look delicious! I'm also making cookies for Christmas. Now wondering how many cookies you've made this year?? :)

shari brooks said...

these look great! I used a celebrated recipe from the King Arthur Flour website too for my cookie swap item! Check it out and also some amazing peppermint bark. http://www.myjudythefoodie.com/2011/12/holiday-peppermint-bark/

glad I stopped by!

vanillalemonade.com said...

argh- these look ridiculously good- I really didn't want to bake anymore...but...

tofugirl said...

Oh man, sorry for the supremely late responses everyone. It's been hectic!

Susan, I've been tot he waffle truck but haven't had it with the speculoos! I'll have to try that next time I see them. Sounds awesome!

Hey Chris, thanks again :D I really really enjoyed those cookies!

Babykins, I made a lot! I should have counted, LOL.

Hi Shari, aren't those King Arthur Flour recipes great? I'll have to hop over and see yours :)

Vanillalemonade, is there ever such a thing as too many cookies? (Okay well, maybe there is...but I haven't reached that point yet :))