XOTV WEEKLY: Cookie Swap for One
In this year of the pandemic, I like so many others have spent more time in my kitchen than ever before. After so many months of constantly cooking and baking, I was honestly burnt out. Thanksgiving came and went, and my enthusiasm for cooking went right along with it. I was in a rut during what is arguably the most exciting time of year! With no holiday parties on the calendar, friends hundreds of miles away, and the pandemic raging on, it felt like the holidays were going to pass without much fanfare.
I couldn’t help but think back to past holidays that were filled with ice skating, viewing Christmas lights, bonfires, watching the Nutcracker, and attending arguably the best kind of holiday party: the cookie exchange. There’s something extremely nostalgic about a good old fashioned cookie exchange - a group of your friends and family coming together and sharing their favorite cookies. Empty Tupperware piled up on the kitchen counter. Steaming mugs of hot chocolate being passed around. Cellophane bags waiting to be filled to the brim with cookies of all shapes and sizes. Light, jazzy tunes of Christmas classics playing in the background. Those are the sights and smells of the holidays for me. It’s a moment of celebration that’s made even sweeter by the taste of your favorite cookie.
While the idea of the cookie exchange dates back to the Middle Ages, it was solidified and popularized in the early 20th century by suburban housewives as a way to celebrate the holidays with one another and to show off their best cookie recipes. Today some might find that the cookie exchange can sometimes be a bit of a humdrum occasion featuring all of the usual suspects: chocolate chip cookies, frosted sugar cookies, gingerbread, and of course another set of chocolate chip cookies because someone forgot to check their email. However, when they’re done right, a cookie exchange can be the highlight of the season.
One cookie exchange sticks out above the rest as I rummage through my memories of holiday parties' past. Instead of signing up for the kind of cookie we wanted to bring, this cookie exchange had a twist. Everyone was required to pick a scenario out of a hat and bring the cookie that best fit that scenario. The result was the most diverse set of cookies that I had ever seen. For “a cookie you’d eat every day on a deserted island,” someone brought a cookie chock full of dried fruit and nuts. For “a cookie you’d make to start an argument,” white miso blondies definitely did spark controversy over the definition of a cookie. My contribution for “a cookie you’d bring your mother-in-law,” was a riff of Christina Tosi’s Compost Cookie. It was an utterly fantastic re-imagining of the traditional cookie exchange.
Traditions might just be more important than ever before even if they have to be altered in some ways to keep everyone safe. So, this year I’m doing things a little differently. Instead of attending any holiday parties, I’m hosting my own personal cookie swap for one! For the five days leading up to Christmas, I’m going to bake a different cookie every day. It’s not only the perfect way to keep the tradition alive, but it’s also a great excuse to revisit some of my favorite cookies and to try out new recipes I’ve been dying to make.
It might seem a bit dangerous having so many delicious baked goods in your home at a given time, so I’ll share a little secret with you: small-batch baking. This has been a life-changer for me. You can satisfy a quick craving or try out a completely new bake without having leftovers for days. There are tons of small-batch recipes out there for all kinds of cookies and other baked goods, but if you have a favorite recipe already, just go ahead and split it in half or even quarter it! Here are a couple of tips for successfully scaling down a recipe:
Calculate the new measurements before you start baking, it’s easy to get confused during the process. Trust me! I’ve been there.
Be careful with mixing. With a smaller quantity, it’s easier to overmix your cookie batter. Take it slow and once the ingredients are combined, stop mixing.
If you need half of an egg, crack an egg into a bowl and whisk it until combined. Measure out half for your recipe and save the rest for later.
So, go ahead: call up a couple of friends and video chat while you all bake cookies together. Share stories and listen to great music. And if you’ve got extras, leave a couple at your neighbor’s door, I know that they’ll enjoy an extra dosage of holiday cheer this year!
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Small Batch Crinkle Chocolate Chip Cookies
These aren’t your grandma’s chocolate chip cookies! They are perfectly crispy around the edges and gooey in the center. Santa will definitely appreciate them.
- 120 grams | 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 113 grams | 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 151 grams | ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 28 grams | ⅛ cup brown sugar
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 egg
- 85 grams | 3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 85 grams | 3 oz walnuts, finely chopped
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
- In a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium until creamy. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the egg, vanilla, and water. Mix to combine. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until the dough is combined.
- Mix the chocolate and walnuts into the dough with a wooden spoon.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 176 degrees Celsius.
- Form the dough into 1/3 cup | 100 g balls. Place the dough equal distance apart on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the two baking sheets in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Place the baking sheets in the oven for 10 minutes until the centers have puffed. Lift the baking sheet and tap it on the oven rack a couple of times, so that the edges set and the centers fall. Let the cookies bake for 3 minutes and tap the pan again. Do this every 3 minutes until the edges are golden brown and the centers are still slightly gooey, about 18 minutes in total.
- Let the cookies cool for 5-10 minutes on the baking sheet until cooled before moving to a wire rack.
Small Batch Chai Biscotti
This recipe American-style biscotti uses butter to give a lighter crunch. The added spices are a nod to one of the most delicious warm beverages: chai!
- 43 grams | 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 66 grams | ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 egg
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 120 grams | 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground clove
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 176 degrees Celsius. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed. Once creamed, add the egg, vanilla, and almond extracts. Mix to combine.
- In a small bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, clove, and cardamom.
- Slowly add the flour mixture to the stand mixer. Mix on low until combined. The dough will be sticky.
- Place the dough on the baking sheet and form into a log about 9 ½ in x 2 in and ¾ inch tall (24 cm x 5 cm and 2 cm tall). Smooth the top and sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired.
- Bake for 25 minutes, or until the dough is lightly browned around the edges.
- Remove from the oven. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, 162 degrees Celsius.
- Wait for 5 minutes then using a serrated knife cut the log on a diagonal crosswise into ¾ in (2 cm) slices.
- Place back on the baking sheet and bake for another 25 minutes or until the biscotti are golden and dry in the center.
- Remove from the oven. Let cool and enjoy!
About the Author:
Brenna Knight is a writer and content creator. She recently graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor's in Anthropology. She is passionate about sharing stories that showcase the intersections between food, culture, and social justice. In her free time, she enjoys reading and scoping out the best cup of coffee.
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