Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Cookie Extravaganza 2009

Last year, I did my 2-day cookie blitz the weekend before Christmas. This year, I made just as many cookies, but was smart enough to spread it out a little over the last week. I'm really happy I chose to do that because this year, I'm not exhausted and sick of cookies at the end of it all like I was last year. The downside is that since I spent every night last week making a batch of cookies or truffles, I didn't have time to post along the way. So now you get one big cookie extravaganza post. (Hmmm... maybe that doesn't sound like such a bad thing after all... I mean, can you ever have too many cookies? I think not!)

For your viewing pleasure, we'll start with a snapshot of the cookie plate I made for dear Mr. ValleyWriter and his office mates:

Starting at the top left, we have my tried-and-true, classic sugar cookies. Some are decorated with simple colored sugar and others have my sugar cookie icing, which dries shiny and beautiful.

To the right of those are white chocolate chip Craisin® cookies, which I think are a nice change of pace from a traditional chocolate chip cookie. The dried cranberries just add a special little touch for me. I don't know what it is, but they really say "Christmas cookie" to me.

Underneath those, we have my take on a Linzer cookie. Linzer cookies normally have ground almonds added to the dough, but we're not big on nuts in sweets around the ValleyWriter household, so I just made them using sugar cookie dough. I cut out a bunch of big stars, then cut smaller stars out of the middle of half of them. I spread a little triple berry jam on the full stars, baked both pieces for 5 minutes. While still hot, I sprinkled the stars with cut-outs with confectioner's sugar, then put them on top of the jam-filled pieces. (The hot jam acts like a glue.) Ta da! Faux Linzer cookies!

Next on the bottom left, we have gingersnaps. These are based on the same recipe I used to make the soft and chewy ginger cookies last year, except I used all butter (no shortening) for these, which creates a crispy cookie that "snaps" when you bite into it. These are nice and spicy, just like a gingersnap should be. But just as a personal preference, next year I think I'll go back to the chewy ones. I feel like I can get a gingersnap anywhere, but the chewy ones are kind of special. (If anyone knows how to make chewy cookies without using shortening - let me know!).

And last, but certainly not least, my new addition to the roundup in the center of the tray - homemade truffles!

These are really simple to make, though they are time consuming. Here's the recipe I came up with after some trial and error:
Dark Chocolate Truffles

1 lb. dark chocolate (I used 72% dark chocolate from Trader Joe's)
4 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. marshmallow cream
2-3 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Frangelico or other liqueur (optional)

Toppings: cocoa powder, powdered sugar, crushed pecans, white chocolate, red & green chocolate candy melts

Cut chocolate into chunks. Add to the top pot of a double boiler. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently until melted. Turn the burner off and add cream cheese to the chocolate mixture. Whisk in briskly. Then stir in marshmallow cream until well mixed and smooth. Stir in liqueur last (if desired).
Spread this mixture (ganache) in a shallow pan (I used a 9 x 13 casserole dish) and refrigerate 1 hour to help harden.
Remove from refrigerator and scoop out about a teaspoon at a time (depending on how big you want your truffles), rolling the ganache into balls between your palms.
At this point, you can either roll the truffles in cocoa, powdered sugar or nuts, or save them for later to cover in chocolate. If you are using the cocoa, sugar or nuts - roll them right away while the ganache is still a little soft from the heat of your hands. This will help the topping stick.

Once rolled, you can pop the truffles back into the fridge for a few days or even a week before you finish decorating/eating them.

For the truffles that I wanted to coat in chocolate, I put them back in the refrigerator for another night and let them sit at room temperature for about 2 hours before I was ready to coat them.
Then I melted the white chocolate in the microwave, per the package instructions.
One by one, I put the truffles on a spoon, dunked it into the bowl of chocolate and a carefully tipped them off the spoon onto waxed paper.
I swirled the spoon up and over the top, which gave the truffles a cool little curly cue on the top.
On the ones that didn't turn out so cute on top, I used the colored candy melts to make designs or squiggles on top. My creative outlet ;-)

Next year, I'll have to change up the cookies some, just for variety. But you can bet the sugar cookies will make a comeback. Because really, have you celebrated the holidays yet if you haven't had a sugar cookie? No. So go eat one!


Jenn said...

I'm currently just starting my baking blitz. I'm such a procrastinator. lol. Pass me some cookies would ya? I need a little energy to pick me up.

Kathryn said...

You are absolutely amazing!! I am sooo impressed...I would have sworn you bought those at a bakery.

Mr. ValleyWriter's office must loooove you, sweetie!


Pam said...

Those all look so yummy!


Gail said...

What a lovely blog post - your cookies look divine!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

They are all beautiful! Those truffles and Linzer cookies look so yummy!

lululu said...

wow, the icing on those chocolate truffles look amazing! too cute!