So can I just start this off by saying that I have been on a sugar jag-then-crash cycle since yesterday? So if any of this devolves into incoherent mutterings, IT'S NOT ME, IT'S THE SUGAR!!!
Ahem. I'm getting ahead of myself. On Sunday, I (and approximately a zillion other food fanatics and bloggers) spent the afternoon at the NYC Holiday Cookie Swap (held at Hill Country BBQ), a fundraiser to benefit Cookies for Kids' Cancer (and you can read more about this inspirational charity here). $40 and a dozen cookies got you entrance to this fabulous event, a delicious bbq lunch (oh man, that brisket is so good), and the chance to sample and bring home cookies made by the other bakers.
Here's what I brought--salted caramel cookie bites, from a recipe printed in one of the King Arthur Flour catalogs. (Recipe with my changes is at the end of the post if you're interested!) From my perspective, you really can't go wrong with caramel, chocolate, and almonds--hey, if you ended up with one of my cookies, tell me how it was! I can't rely on the one I taste-tested, because I forgot that the caramel was the temperature of the sun and now I have no taste buds left. Sniffle.
Whee, packaging! The caramel was a little sticky so I put the cookies into little bags from Daiso. I love Daiso.
Isn't this cookie tree amazing? So beautiful. I naively thought that since we were each to bring a dozen cookies that I would probably leave with about a dozen. Oh boy was I wrong. There were 3 entire tables absolutely full of cookies! If you want a comprehensive view of how very many cookies there were, then just hop on over to the Diva that Ate NY's video of the spread. It's really something else!
There were even gluten free options, like these pretty Mallomars. I cannot figure out how I didn't grab one.
Love these cute gingerbread men, too. I was all nervous about attending because (and you probably can't tell because I can babble on for ages on this blog) I am terribly shy and awkward when I'm meeting new people and was worried that I would be standing around talking to myself. But I met some lovely folks right away who put me at ease, and it was as I was taking a photo of the menu that I realized 'Hey! No one is looking at me funny! And....they're taking photos of the menu too! OMG! These are my people!' Which is just a roundabout way of saying that I met some super awesome people. And even Dorie Greenspan didn't run away when I rehashed my story about how I'm an idiot and forgot my memory card that one time I met her before. Whoa, and now I really am starting to babble, so I will shut up and show you the cookies I brought home.
WHEW! That is a lot of cookies, eh? (The top picture is the whole lot all on one cake stand.) I have not tasted everything yet, but all the cookies I've tried so far have been good to excellent, with my favorites being the caramel macadamia square, the little green tea choux puff, the macaron, and the rosemary butter cookies. My big regret is not having tried to write down (or at least take pictures of) all the cookie names, so now I have no idea what the majority of these cookies are, or who made them! So! If you were there, and your cookie is one of these pictures above, will you please pretty please leave me a comment and tell me? And if you tried one of mine, let me know how it was :)
Well this is getting long enough, so I'll just stop and say thanks to the hosts for putting on such a fun event: The Diva that Ate NY, Maggy from Three Many Cooks, One Tough Cookie, and Hungry Rabbit. And of course, Hill Country for the yum bbq and gingerbread cookie! And definitely all the fun people I met--hopefully we'll all meet up again soon! And now I'm going to go nibble on a cookie...which one will it be...the possibilities are almost endless.
Salted Caramel Cookie Bites, adapted from King Arthur Flour
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or unbleached all purpose)
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, or about 15 chocolate discs (about an inch in diameter)
1/2 cup block caramel, cut into 1/4" pieces (or caramel sauce or about 15 store-bought caramels, unwrapped)
1/4 cup flaked almonds, toasted and cooled
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a standard muffin pan or line with cupcake liners. This recipe makes about 15 so I made 12 in my muffin pan and then baked the rest of the dough in free-standing paper baking cases.
Combine the sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla and beat until well blended. Add the baking powder and egg and continue to beat until fluffy. Stir in the flour. The batter will be pretty soft. Fill your muffin pan, using about a heaped tablespoon per case. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until browned around the edges and just set. They will still feel fairly soft, but should not be at all batter-y.
While that's baking, toast your almonds if you haven't already and set aside! Have your chocolate and caramel ready to go as well.
Once the cookies are baked, pull the pan out of the oven. Press a chocolate disc into the center of each cookie (you'll create sort of an indentation or cup); if you're using chocolate chips, use the handle of a wooden spoon or maybe the end of a thin rolling pin to make a little indentation then sprinkle in your chips. Sprinkle caramel bits over the chocolate (if you are using the storebought square caramels, just perch them on top of the chocolate). Return to the oven for a minute or two until the caramel has melted into oozy goodness. Remove from the oven, and immediately sprinkle each with a pinch of salt, and some of the flaked almonds. You can press down on the almonds lightly to get them to stick better, but remember--that caramel is REALLY hot, so watch out (I know this from experience!). Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack and let sit until completely cool.
So just a quick note--I made these with caramel that I had made a few days ago and I think that the next time I make this recipe (which should be this weekend, actually!) I will just go ahead and melt the caramel in a double boiler and then drizzle it on. It'll be a lot simpler I think than having to dice caramel. Oh yeah--and you can also make these in a mini muffin pan, which is what I will do next time; these are going into my Christmas cookie gift boxes!