Want to host a holiday gathering but don’t want to stress over constructing tiny quiches, cutting up pounds of crudités, or buying a crap-ton of gifts? Here’s a party that involves minimal effort, costs hardly anything, and lets everybody go home with goodies: a cookie swap. All you have to do is make a couple dozen cookies and tell each guest to do the same. At the party, everybody lays their sugary bounty out on the table, samples the wares, then packs up an assortment from the other guests’ stashes. Aside from resulting in the best snacks ever, a cookie swap is also a great opportunity to think outside the box, dessert-ally. Instead of resorting to plain ol’ oatmeal-raisin, get creative by baking one of these fun and surprising treats. You’re going to knock your friends’ snowflake-print socks off.
Makes approx. 38
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. malted milk powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 3/4 cups pretzels, sticks or twists
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, malted milk powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a food processor, grind 1 3/4 cups of the pretzels to a fine powder. Add it to the flour mixture, and whisk to combine. Either by hand or in the food processor, chop the remaining 2 cups pretzels into 1/2-inch pieces.
With a mixer, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the egg, and mix until completely combined. Add the flour mixture, and mix on low speed until just combined, scraping the bowl if necessary to incorporate. Add the chocolate chips and pretzel pieces, and mix on low speed until evenly distributed. Using a small ice-cream scoop or tablespoon measure, drop well-rounded balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
Bake for 9 – 11 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the edges turn golden. When cool, transfer to wire racks.
–From Chocolate Chip Cookies: Dozens of Recipes for Reinterpreted Favorites
by Carey Jones and Robyn Lenzi. © 2013. Reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books.
Red Velvet Macaroons
white linen with green trim and mini cake stand: Fishs Eddy, fishseddy.com; bowl: Mondays Projects, mondaysprojects.com
People love red velvet, so if you want to wow a crowd, whip up a batch of these, put them out, then stand back and watch everyone flip out.
14-oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. red food coloring
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 drops of blue food coloring
2 large egg whites
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
14-oz. bag sweetened shredded coconut
Cream Cheese Frosting and Topping:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment. In an extra-large bowl, measure out 1 cup of condensed milk. Add the cocoa powder, 1/4 tsp. of the red food coloring, the vanilla, and the blue food coloring, and mix until fully incorporated. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites and salt with a mixer on medium-high speed for 2 1/2 – 3 minutes, until very stiff peaks form.
Empty the coconut into a gallon-size zip-top bag and add the remaining 1/2 tsp. red food coloring. Seal the bag and shake until the color’s fully absorbed, then add the coconut to the condensed-milk mixture, and mix until fully combined. Gently fold in the whipped egg whites and combine well, then form into a ball/blob.
Dip 2 spoons in water, shake them off, then use them to form the mixture into approximately 24 1 1/2-inch balls, and place them on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. (You can also form them by hand; just wet your fingers frequently.) Place the sheet into the oven, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes; check them after about 22 minutes: you want a light golden color. Remove the sheet from the oven. When the macaroons are cool enough to touch, transfer them to the cooling rack.
While they’re cooling, prepare your frosting. With a mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the vanilla and then, gradually, the confectioners’ sugar until fully incorporated. Add sugar to taste. Then mix on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
When the macaroons are cool, add the topping using a butter knife, then sprinkle the pecans on top.
–From The Macaroon Bible by Dan Cohen. © 2013. Reprinted with permission from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Lemon Chamomile Shortbread
grey plate: Henry Street Studio, henrystreetstudio.com; red linen: ABC Carpet & Home, abchome.com; drinking glasses: Fishs Eddy, fishseddy.com;
This tea-flavored shortbread is citrusy, simple, delicious, and vegan.
1 cup margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. crushed pink Himalayan salt
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 tsp. brewed chamomile tea
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the margarine, sugar, and salt with an electric handheld mixer until smooth. Then blend in the lemon peel, tea, and flour until smooth. Press into an 8-inch-square cake pan, and bake for 30 minutes or until light golden brown. Cut into 9 squares, then cut each in half, into 2 triangles. Use a fork to poke little holes in the top of each cookie.
Remove the shortbread cookies from the pan. Be careful—they’re a bit crumbly. Cool completely on a wire rack.
–From Betty Goes Vegan, by Annie and Dan Shannon. Copyright © 2013.
Reprinted with permission from Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.
Egg Nog Fortune Cookies
bowl: Nalata Nalata, nalatanalata.com; plate: ABC Carpet & Home, abchome.com; mugs: Ceramics by Clam Lab, clamlab.com
This festive spin on the Chinese-restaurant classic is quite possibly the most fun you can have with dough.
1 egg white
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. rum (or imitation rum)
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 cup white sugar
1/8 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 pinch salt
1 pinch cinnamon
1 cupcake pan
Write out fortunes, holiday messages, or whatever you want on 2" x 1/2" strips of paper, then set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, then generously grease a baking sheet. Use a mixer to beat the egg white, vanilla, and rum until foamy (but not stiff). Sift and blend the flour, sugars, nutmeg, salt, and cinnamon, and spoon them into the egg-white mixture. Mix until combined.
Scoop and drop 6 separate tablespoons of batter onto the baking sheet, 3 inches apart from one another. Use your fingertips to press them down, making them as round, flat, and even as possible. Even if you double or triple the recipe, don’t bake too many at once—they need to be hot while you’re shaping them.
Bake for 5 – 6 minutes, until the cookies have a golden outer edge. The center will remain pale. Remove from the oven and, with a wide spatula, place the cookies upside-down on a clean, dry surface. Quickly place the fortunes in the middle of each cookie, and fold the cookies in half.
Press the folded cookie edge across the rim of a measuring cup, and gently pull the corners down on both sides of the rim. Let the cookies cool inside a cupcake pan.
–Megan O. Andersen, radmegan.blogspot.com.