Another Christmas is behind us. To be honest, Christmas sneaked up on me quickly and quietly. The weather has been unseasonably warm this December, and it is our off year (we only put up a tree every second year), so the holiday wasn’t at front-of-mind. I’m surprised I even managed to pull off the baking this year!
Sub-consciously I must have known, because checking the date-stamps on my photos, I did start baking my first batch of cookies on November 30. The most difficult part of this project is scouring through the millions of cookie recipes online, and picking a handful to test out. I received good reviews last year, which was my first year baking cookies as gifts, but I didn’t want to re-run the entire package. I ended up including two re-runs. One test batch got tossed, literally, and one batch was delicious, but did not make the cut because I didn’t think the recipients would like it (a savoury oatmeal cookie – rosemary & parm – amazing with a spread of blue cheese and a glass of wine).
The holiday cookie bake required a couple of trips to Bulk Barn, a few extra sticks of butter from any grocery store I was near, an adjustment to my stand mixer, and some late nights. It’s a good thing we have a freezer chest! I likely made between 175-200 cookies over a three week period. What I did differently this year was that I baked everything up as soon as possible and froze the cookies. Last year, I rolled the dough into balls and froze the raw dough balls and baked the night before. I prefer it the way I operated this year. It’s a time-saver; however, if you’re making cookies for yourself, I’d still advise freezing the dough and baking as needed because fresh cookies are heavenly.
Without further ado, here are the cookies that made the cut this year:
These Banana Walnut Choco-Peanut Butter Chip cookies did not spread much, but they still tasted good. I may have deviated from the recipe a little and added in some peanut butter chips too – whatever I could find in my pantry.
I had a can of pumpkin puree that I didn’t know what to use it for, so why not add it to cookies! These Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies are very moist, and have a unique flavour. Hubs does not like pumpkin pie, and he didn’t love the pumpkin cookies for the same reason he doesn’t like pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie is something people either love or hate, so don’t make this if you have a lot of pumpkin haters!
Re-run: Momofuku Corn flake Marshmallow cookie. It’s a two-stepper, but the caramel flavour is wonderful. The cornflakes give it a great crunch, but the gooey melted marshmallows keep it chewy.
Death by Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip cookies is for the real chocolate lover. It’s fudge-y, so a small portion is good enough for me.
My other re-run happened because I had shredded coconut and almonds on hand to make Coconut Cashew Oatmeal cookies.
One of hubs favourites this year is the Salted Vanilla Toffee cookie. It’s sweet and salty, and wonderful with that afternoon cup of coffee.
A toss up, hubs also really liked the Pistachio & Cranberry cookies, which is reminiscent of a shortbread, and super easy to make. I left the logs in the fridge for three days, wrapped in saran wrap, and it was rock hard. I wasn’t sure if it had dried out, but it baked up perfectly. The first two logs were only left in the fridge the suggested one hour.
I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies with cream cheese, and it didn’t turn out as expected. The cookies did not spread at all. It is hard to say what went wrong exactly. It could have been any number of things; however, I think it could be that I used much less sugar than the recipe called for, or maybe my oven temperature was not correct (I do not use an oven thermometer), or maybe my flour or baking powder is old…but I think it’s the sugar, because when I followed the recipe exactly, it worked out. Everything was the same, except I added the exact amount of sugar written.
If you are interested in learning more about the science of baking cookies, this short TED talk is informative:
If you need information on troubleshooting cookies, Handle the Heat provides great information with visuals.
Back to the Christmas bake. You need labels for cookies, which meant a trip to Michael’s Craft Store. Instead of the expensive Avery labels, I decided to buy a glue stick.
The cellophane bags were purchased from Bulk Barn, but you can get these at the dollar store, I think.
I packaged up enough cookies for the December 25th family dinner, and as soon as I returned home that night, I was packaging up the next set for dinner #2 on December 26th.
Now that we’ve switched to brewing coffee using the Aeropress, the Bodum is perfect as a cookie holder.
Prior to packaging, I had to start the bake for my parents and in-laws. For their gifts, I decided on the Guinness Stout Ginger Loaf. The test bake turned out amazing. Hubs loved it. I would describe it as an adult version of gingerbread. The flavour of the Guinness kicks it up a notch from just your regular gingerbread, and I love the subtle heat of the real ginger. The recipe will make two 8″ x 4″ loaves. I brought one to the curling club and shared it with my team and our opponents. It was a hit!
The batter went into the oven at 11:45 pm, so it was a late night, but it was worth it. If I had to bake these in the morning, it would have been too rushed. The aromas during baking were amazing and comforting. I had to hold back from cutting a slice after it came out of the oven!
It still wasn’t fully cooled at 3:00 am, so we lightly wrapped it and went to bed. The next morning, I sprinkled icing sugar on top of each, wrapped them in festive parchment paper and set them in pretty carrying boxes from Bulk Barn.
Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!