Thursday, December 20, 2012


Last year I started the tradition of having a cookie swap before Christmas. It's a fun excuse to do two of my favorite things 1) bake cookies, and 2) hang out with my friends. If you haven't been to a cookie swap before the rules are simple. Everyone makes a batch of their favorite cookie recipe and gets to take home a bunch of cookies from everyone else's. All your holiday baking = DONE.

It's like the opposite of Thunderdome--one batch of cookies comes in, but 12 types go home.

This year I didn't participate in just one cookie swap, but two! One here at the house and one at work. While we didn't quite have the numbers of last year at the cookie swap here at home (which is kind of a good thing because finding seats for 23 people was a challenge) we had about 15 types of cookies which is a VERY successful swap. A table loaded with cookies, good friends chatting and catching up, mulled cider on the stove...what else do you really need to get into the holiday spirit?

The whole spread.

We're swapping fools!

I made two of my most favorite cookie recipes, one new and one old (recipes are below). The new recipe was from my favorite cooking magazine, Cook's Country, and was one of their annual best cookie recipe finalists. Chocolate Mint cookies--a chewy chocolate cookie with a melted Andes mint on top. That's right. a MELTED ANDES MINT. Your mind has been blown.

The old recipe was one of my Grandmother's favorites and one she made every year. Ricotta cookies, a delicious puffy light but slightly savory cookie topped with a sugar glaze. As I baked them, I spent a lot of time thinking about my Grandmother. How she made the exact same cookie year after year...albeit without the aid of a Kitchen Aid mixer. But following her recipe, making something that she loved, I felt really close to her. I never expected to get moved by a cookie, but there's just something really special about these holiday traditions...and the cookies are by far the sweetest ones.

But enough of this sappy stuff! Let's get to the part you really care about--the recipes!

Grandma Riley's Ricotta Cookies

Cream together 1/3 cup margarine and 2 cups sugar. 

Add 1 pound (1 15oz. container) ricotta cheese. 

Add two eggs and two tsp. vanilla. Mix.

Sift together 4 cups flour, one tsp baking soda, one tsp salt. Add to other mixture. Drop by spoonful onto cookiesheet and bake at 350 degrees 12-15 minutes.

Frost with a glaze made from 1 ½ cup powdered sugar, 3 Tblsp lemon juice, and zest of one lemon. Stir until smooth. Spoon 1 ½  tsp on each cookie and use the back of the spoon to spread and let it dry.

Cook's Country Chocolate Mint Cookies

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 cups (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
45 Andes mint

Combine butter, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted, about 3 minutes. Add chocolate chips and stir constantly until chips are melted. Transfer mixture to bowl of stand mixer and let cool for 10 minutes. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.

Fix mixer with paddle, add eggs to bowl with chocolate mixture, and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture in 3 additions and mix until just combined, scraping down bowl as needed. Refrigerate until dough is firm, at least 1 hour or up until 2 days.

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Working with half the dough, roll heaping tablespoons of dough into balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake until just set 7-9 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking.

After removing cookies from oven, immediately place 1 unwrapped Andes Mint in center of each cookie. Let stand until chocolate is softened, about 5 minutes, then spread chocolate over top of cookies. Transfer cookies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. 

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