25th Anniversary Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

InvitationMy invitation to “cookie bomb” the Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange was taped to my front door. Isn’t it precious? This is a special year because it is the 25th Anniversary. I don’t live in the neighborhood but I get an invite from my friend Joy every year. She hosted it this year and did a bang up job.

I started a new job six weeks ago and my life has been crazy. Check out my other blog, the patty beat, to see the details of that. As I was reflecting just yesterday, that when life is crazy anyway, throw a major holiday and family wedding in the mix and *%#@!*#@!

I planned in advance knowing I would have little time this week get it altogether.

the recipe

I chose the recipe from Cook’s Country December/January 2015 and it was the Grand Prize Winner of the Christmas Cookie Contest entitled Chocolate Croissant Cookies by Karen Cope of Minneapolis, MN. The requirement for the cookie exchange is to make 5 dozen cookies to share among a group of people and take home a smorgasbord of cookies to share for the holidays I made the dough in advance and popped it in the freezer for the past two weeks. I put it in the refrigerator 24 hours before assembly for it to thaw.

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The dough is a mini version of the croissant. The chocolate bars are placed in the center, fold over the dough and pop it in the oven.

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Rolling out and cutting the dough into twenty 4 x 2 inch pieces was the challenging part of the construction.

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I was pretty amazed that I rolled out and assembled the cookies in 2 hours. The last batch was warm from the oven and placed separately from the first two batches. Didn’t want the chocolate to schmush.

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Lucky for me Joy had two lovely plates for me to put my cookies on to display.

Chocolate Croissant Cookies

Every year the cookies become more creative.

St Nick cookies

 St Nick Cookies

 

Almond Coconut Cookies

 Almond Coconut cookies

reindeer cookies

 Reindeer Cookies

Heath bar cookies

Pecan Pie Bars

snowman cookies

 Snowman Cookies

Joy displayed a poster of all the pictures from all the past years and it was a nice to reflect on the past and look to the future.

Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

 The 25th Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange 2014

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Oh my goodness, Christmas is here!

Oh how the month has flown. Christmas is upon us and I finally sat down to chronicle my food adventures.

Cookies for Santa

Do-It-Yourself Vanilla

I saw directions for homemade vanilla extract all over Pintrest.com this season for DIY gifts. But it was the post from, the host of The Splendid Table, that made the most sense to me. In my opinion, Lynne Rossetto Kasper is the voice of reason out there in the blogging and media world of food and cooking. Follow the web connection of The Splendid Table- Vanilla Extract to see the recipe and directions.

Vanilla Beans

vodka and bottles

split the vanilla beans

fermenting vanilla beans

24th Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

2013 Cookie Exchange group picture

quilted cookie plate

“Quilted” Sugar Cookies (aren’t they darling?)

Chocolate Pistachio Sables'

Chocolate-Pistachio Sablés from Bon Appétit  magazine December 2013

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Chocolate Almond Shortbread

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Sesame Street Cookies

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I don’t know what the name of these cookies but they were really tasty.

Patty’s Points:

1. The homemake vanilla extract takes at least 4 weeks to ferment. I started making mine before Thanksgiving. I have yet to try it out to see how it tastes. I gave it to true bakers who really were excited to receive it as gifts.

2. Vanilla beans and vodka are best to buy in bulk to keep the cost down. Costco was my main stop. I made 10 bottles of extract = 40 beans and 2 large (1500 ml) bottles of American vodka=$15.00 each. Each bean averaged about $1.20 which is a good deal. Think of it like a sourdough bread starter; you can replenish the vodka, add more beans and even use the beans for another recipe.

3. The cookie exchange was fabulous. Many people said the cookies were the best efforts in years. Of course, the talk of the party were Pat’s sugar cookies with the edible quilt square pattern atop. She ordered them online. I’ll have to corner her to find out where she got them.

4. I made Chocolate-Pistachio Sablés- from Bon Appétit  and Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars. I had a theme of cookies with sea salt.

The Chocolate-Pistchio Sablés were great for a working person as myself. I made them a month ago and prepped them for the freezer. I thawed, sliced and baked them a day before the party. The sea salt is placed atop each cookie before baking. Next time I’ll make the rolled dough a little thicker for a bigger diameter cookie.

 I saw several Salted Caramel Bar cookie recipes online and quickly deduced how easy they were. Make your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and place half of the dough in a lightly buttered 8 x 11 baking pan. Melt 6 oz of caramel squares with 1-3 TBSP of milk or cream or purchase a 6 oz jar of caramel sauce. Melt the squares in the microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring until smooth. Place the slightly cooled caramel atop the cookie dough and sprinkle with sea salt. Place the other half of the cookie dough atop the caramel and smooth with an oiled spatula. Sprinkle the top of the dough again with sea salt. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes, turning the pan halfway through for even baking. Let the dough rest because it will be very soft with the dough and caramel. Cut into two inch squares.

Happy Christmas and New Year to all my readers and fellow bloggers. Enjoy your time with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.

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Christmas time is here

It’s been wildly busy month in my kitchen and at my job. I now have a break in the action to post the events of the past four weeks.

Celebration #1. Out to dinner celebrating a co-worker’s birthday. The Irish Cream Liqueur were gifts to my girlfriends.

Gift giving Baileys

Celebration #2. Char and Dwayne hosted a fondue party. Three fondue electric plates were placed down the middle of the table and each hot plate had two bowls: one for cheese and one for hot oil. We dipped apples and bread in the cheese and we cooked steak cubes in the oil, dipping them in steak or horseradish sauce. Dessert was pound cake cubes and strawberries dipped into melted chocolate.

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Celebration #3. The 23rd Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange. It was a grand gathering of baking talents.

23rd Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

I made peppermint cream cheese brownies (recipe below).

peppermint cream cheese brownies

Final Celebration-Christmas dinner. We made a Roasted Garlic Herb Crusted Strip Roast featured on Epicurious.com. It was flavorful and tender. I think we found a winner!

strip roast

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Patty’s Points.

1. The Irish Cream Liqueur should be shaken before serving. It can be stored in the refrigerator for one month. The bottles came from The Container Store but any pretty bottle can be used.

2. The fondue electric heating plates and bowls were vintage and obtained from garage and estate sales. I have never seen anything like them. I loved that they were so versatile. I want one just like it!

3. I adapted the Cream Cheese Brownies recipe from The New Best Recipe Cookbook (2004).

Peppermint Cream Cheese Brownies  

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees

Brownie Base:

Dry ingredients: 2/3 C flour + ¼ tsp. salt’+ ½ tsp. baking powder

Wet ingredients: 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate + 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate+8TBSP butter+1 C sugar + 2 tsp. vanilla + 3 eggs

Cream Cheese Filling: 8 oz. cream cheese softened, +1/4 C sugar+1/2 tsp. vanilla + 1 egg yolk+ 4 crushed candy canes

Directions:

Spray 8” square baking pan with non-stick spray. Fold two 16” pieces of foil or parchment paper lengthwise to measure 8” wide. Fit one sheet into the bottom of greased pan (the overhang will help in removal of bake brownies). Fit the 2nd sheet in the pan perpendicular to the 1st sheet. Spray the sheets with non-stick spray.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt in a bowl and set aside.

In medium heatproof bowel set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stir until incorporated. Remove from heat and whisk in the sugar, vanilla. Cool. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.

In a small bowl beat cream cheese with sugar, vanilla, egg yolk and peppermint (optional) until evenly blended.

Pour half the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Drop half the cream cheese mixture by spoonfuls over the batter. Repeat layering the remaining brownie batter and cream cheese filling. Use the blade of a table knife or spoon handle and swirl the batter creating a marbling effect.

Bake in oven until the edges of the brownies have puffed slightly, the center feels not quite firm when touched lightly or a toothpick inserted comes out with moist fudgy crumbs adhered to it; about 50-60 minutes.

Cool brownies in pan on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove brownies from the pan using the foil or parchment handles Place brownies on wire rack; allow them to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until chilled 3 hours Cut into 2 inch squares. Will keep in refrigerator for 5 days

brownies and peppermint ice cream

The brownies make a great dessert served with Peppermint Ice Cream and peppermint sticks. I am taking this to a dinner party tonight.

The Epiphany is the official twelfth day of Christmas so there are ten more days of celebrating!

 

 

Rocky Mountain Cookie Cutter Club

I was invited to the meeting of the Rocky Mountain Cutups, a bi-annual gathering of people interested in the collection, history and making of cookie cutters and molds. My good friend, Joy, has belonged to this group almost 20 years and I finally took the time to attend as her guest. The theme was toy or miniature cookie cutters. The hostess, Cassandra made a presentation on company brands that produce miniature cutters. It is absolutely amazing how many cookie cutters that are out there. Celebrity chefs are even getting in on the market making cutters for pie crusts, cookies and holiday baking.

Rocky Mountain Cutups have a blog site profiling their past meetings with pictures.

The fun part of the meeting was Show and Tell. Two members had a picture scrapbook of a road trip they made to Illinois to see a former member. This member, Gary, has 19,000+ cookies cutters he has collected from all over the world. One of his most recent finds was this Abraham Lincoln cutter below.

Mae, who is a cute 80-something, brought the tiniest cookie cutter of a gingerbread man.

Arlene, shared that she was featured in a national article on her cookie cutter collections. Joy brought her collection of child-size kitchen tools and accompanying cutters. Joy and Char both brought cutters that were shaped so that the cookie sat on the lip of a cup for tea. Here are the wing cookies on a cup.

Elena is the tinsmith in the group and makes the cookie cutters that the club takes to the national convention. Here is one of her creations.

My show and tell was my describing my food blog and the February posting on macarons. I stayed up until 1:30 am making macarons to share with the group!

Cassandra showed her displays of cookie cutters and molds. The two pictures below are just a couple of walls in this big room.

I didn’t stay for the whole day but I found out I’ll be helping out with the next meeting in August. The theme will be Mad Hatters! All about hats!

The Cookie Exchange Party

The 23rd annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange took place last week. I was an invited guest to this neighborhood party and was honored to be among these women of all different interests and backgrounds.

To participate in the Cookie Exchange, there are a few rules to follow:

1) To take cookies you must bring cookies, 5 dozen to be exact. One woman came to the party to socialize, only because she burned her cookies. She took a lot of pictures.

2) Bring copies of your recipe to share.

3) Display your cookies on a plate, basket, plastic container.

4) Bring a container to take your cookies home in.

5) The number of people who brought cookies divided by 60 determines the number of cookies per batch you can take.

6) Ready. Set. Go. Round the table you go.

7) Socialize and talk.

So are you curious as to which cookie I brought to the exchange? Well, it was the Coconut Pyramids. Surprised? They were wonderful and so easy to transport to the party.

Do you wonder what happened to my other cookies? The Whoopie Pies went to the Christmas Potluck at work. People raved over the marshmallow creme filling and decorative squiggles.

The Sarah Bernhardt cookies were placed individually in candy wrappers and into gift bags for co-workers. These cookies are gluten free and several of my friends with gluten allergies were thrilled.

It was a long month of baking, but now I have a variety of cookies to share for any holiday celebration. Merry Christmas and happy baking!

Cookie Exchange Countdown: Coconut Pyramids

Today is the day for the cookie exchange! I made my final cookie to bake and it was grand!  My December 3, 2011 post showed the cover of Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies (circa 2001). The top cookie on the heap is the one I chose as my challenge to bake. It reminded me of a Christmas tree. It was frustrating to figure out how to form the pyramid, but with practice, it turned out to be a fun cookie to make.

Coconut Pyramids

Makes 45 cookies

 1 ¾ C sugar

5 ¼ C unsweetened shredded desiccated coconut

7 egg whites

Pinch table salt

2 TBSP unsalted, melted butter

1 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 oz semisweet chocolate

½ tsp vegetable shortening

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, using your hands, mix together sugar, coconut, egg whites, and salt. Add butter and extracts, and combine well. Refrigerate at least one hour.
  • Moisten palm of hands with cold water. Roll 1 TBSP of the coconut mixtures in palms, squeezing tightly together 2-3 times to form a compact ball. Place ball on a clean surface, and using a pastry or bench scraper, flatten one side at a time to form a three=sided pyramid. Keep turning the pyramid onto another side, and repeat process until all sides are even and all edges are straight.\
  • Place pyramids on the prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart, bake until edges are golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool completely.

  • Place chocolate and shortening in a small heat-proof bowl or the top of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water; stir occasionally until melted. Dip the top ½ inch of each pyramid in the melted chocolate. Set each dipped macaroon on cooled baking sheet; let chocolate harden.

Sweetened coconut variation: substitute ½ C sugar, 4C sweetened angel-flake coconut, 3 large egg whites, ½ tsp almond extract and ½ tsp vanilla extract. Follow procedure above using same amounts for other ingredients. 

Dough may be made up to one week in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.

Patty’s Points:

1. I made the cookies in two separate batches: sweetened and unsweetened coconut. The unsweetened coconut variation was easier to work with and to form the pyramids. I think the fine shred of the coconut made all the difference.

2. Believe it or not, with practice, making the form of the pyramid was not that difficult.  I believe it really had to do with having the right ingredients and the right tools. I never owned a pastry/bench scraper until making these cookies. What a fabulous and useful kitchen tool!

3. My husband took the first batches of cookies to his work potluck. The leftover cookies lingered on after the lunch into the department kitchen. The next day he went in to pick up his container and on the white board was written “Best Macaroons Ever!” Wow! The funny part of this was my husband wasn’t sure what a macaroon was. He did a internet search to make sure it was my cookies.  Ha ha!

I’ll be posting pictures of the cookie exchange later. As a teaser I can tell you that there were some great variation of cookies I had never seen before.  Lots of fun!