Friday, December 26, 2008

The Great Cookie Bake-off of 2008

This Christmas season wrapped up the third annual Great Cookie Bake-off! With just about 5,000 cookies being produced from one KitchenAide stand mixer (with one bowl and handle attachment), 4 silpats, 4 baking sheets and one oven, I say I did A-OK. It took about 3 days, start to finish, and I lost most of my sanity.

On the docket was the usual crop of tasty nuggests: cream cheese cookies, thumbprints, buckeyes, delux sugar cookies, gingerbread men and ladies, russian teacakes, cherry snowballs and bourbon balls - this time with actual boudon! This year, as I always do, I tried a couple of new recipes. Some were successful, some were not. I realized that A.) I need a cookie press and B.) I can not make a pinwheel cookie look pretty to save my life!

English Toffee Bars

1/2 cup butter, 1 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla
1 6-oz pack semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup almond brickle pieces (or a couple of chopped Heath candy bars)

Melt 1/2 cup butter in a large saucepan. Stir in oats, flour, brown sugar and nuts. Press mixture firmly in the bottom of a greased 13x9 inch pan. Bake in 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

Meanwhile heat sweetened condensed milk and 2 tbsp butter over medium heat until bubbly, stirring constantly. Stir in vanilla. Pour over baked crust layer. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chocolate. Let stand for 2-3 min or until softened. Spread chocolate evenly over top. Sprinkle with almond brickle pieces. Cool. Chill for 5-10 minutes or until chocolate layer is set before cutting into pieces. Makes about 36 if you cut methodically. (I did not.)

I thought the English Toffee bars tasted like a candy bar, although there was nothing particularly Christmas'y about them. The recipe was easy and I was able to double it without a problem. The bars came out of the baking dish perfectly without any kind of hassel, which is always nice, and when the cookies were delivered to their recipients, this was the first cookie that about 75% of them went after.


For years and years I have tried to make macaroons. Each year I adapt the recipe just a touch, and each year the recipe fails. I was just going to give up on the idea of macaroons this year but looked at all the coconut I had leftover and changed my mind. I'm glad I did, because 2008 became my year for kicking coconut macaroon's asses! The cookie had always kinda melted into a flat mess that tasted really good, but did not resemble a macaroon at all. In this go'round, I added a little flour to stabalize the batter...and it worked. I came out with an army of perfectly shapped coconut macaroons!

(no fail) Plain Coconut Macaroons

3/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 cups shredded coconut

2 large egg whites

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use silicon silpats. In a large bowl whip egg whites until frothy. Mix in all other ingredients. Dampen hands with cold water. Form 1/2 inch balls. Keep macaroons about an inch apart on baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool on wire rack.


Cheesecake Cookie Cups

1 package Nestle Toll House Refrigerated Mini Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar Dough

2 packages of cream cheese, room temp

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 can (21 oz) cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Paper-line 24 muffin cups. Place one piece of mini chocolate chip cookie dough in each muffin cup, and press down slightly. Bake for 8 minutes of until cookie has spread to the edge of each cup.

Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour about 3 tbsp of the mixture over each cookie in cup. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Top each cheesecake with a level tablespoon of pie filling. Keep refridgerated.

You could use your own homemade cookie dough, if you so desire...but taking a little help when you can is SMART! Totally tasty and very much like the real thing.