Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (Part I of II)
As soon as I saw two fellow food bloggers (Lindsay of “Love & Olive Oil” and Julie of “The Little Kitchen”) were organizing a virtual cookie swap, I knew I HAD to participate. It sounded like a ton of fun, I also would meet new people (if “only” through their cookies), and it would nicely frame a food post I had planned anyway.
A friend of my husband’s years ago in Germany would bake about 27 different kinds. She was the kind of person you love to hate: TWENTY SEVEN different kinds of cookies, all perfect, all delicate-looking – how can you not hate somebody like that? And of course, they tasted great, too.
I really only bake cookies around this time of year, and usually only two or three kinds. German butter cookies, hazelnut shortbread, cinnamon stars. German cookies are typically not as elaborately decorated as the ones you can find here. In fact, when I told my mom that we were decorating cookies a couple of weeks ago with all of those kids, her first reaction was, “What’s there to decorate?”
I picked hazelnut shortbread as I thought those would hold up the best in transit. Besides, they are addictive. Positively addictive. When I was younger, I would regularly run into my mother in the basement at 2 AM in the morning, because these cookies called out to us – and my mom is not a big fan of sweets.
But picking shortbread also meant they had to be decorated. Traditionally, we have always just put a plain lemon glaze on top. For this cookie swap, I decided to GO ALL OUT. I would, for the first time ever, try my hand at ROYAL ICING. Yes, so not only would those cookies taste great, they would look gorgeous. YEAH, RIGHT. Note to self: never try something you have never tried before when there is a deadline involved.
I used the recipe and instructions from “Bake at 350”, which is one of the best tutorials I could find online. It worked great. Until the next day, when I realized that the flooding icing had not dried. And was not going to dry – there are scores of websites out there on this very flaw, and they all agree on ONE thing: there is no remedy for it other than starting over.
I had had the foresight of only icing part of the batch of cookies I had baked, so I decided to glaze the others the way I always had. Not as cute, not as fancy – but it works for me. The packages went out to my Secret Santa recipients on 12/5. Packaging them was almost as much fun as baking them, as I have a thing for tape guns. It must be in my DNA, I cannot help it.
I am assuming (in one case, I know) that they all arrived at their destinations safely. I hope that Kim of “Everyday Mom” and Krissy of “Dainty Chef” liked their cookies as well as Taylor of “Greens & Chocolate” did.
The recipe I was using is one that has been with me for literally decades. It came from a distant relative I shall call “Mami”. The one thing we all remember about her is that her cooking and baking was legendary. I have three of her cookie recipes on a handwritten sheet of paper in a folder, and this is the first one.
Have you ever participated in a swap like this? Or a virtual recipe exchange?
Mami’s Hazelnut Shortbread
250 g butter, cut into 1/4” cubes
250 g sugar
250 g ground hazelnuts
350 g flour
2 egg yolks
20 g vanilla extract
Glaze with a clear lemon glaze, or if you would like to get fancy, decorate with royal icing, dip in chocolate…
Preheat the oven to 315 F. Cut the butter into the flour and sugar with a paddle, add the nuts, egg yolks and vanilla. When the dough turns lumpy, invert the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a little bit until all of the butter is completely worked in. The dough has to be completely smooth.
Divide into four equal parts, then shape these quarters into small balls and press into a thick disk. Wrap in aluminum foil and store in the fridge for at least an hour so the butter can settle again.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4” thickness. Too thin will make the cookies too brittle, too thick will prevent them from cooking evenly. Use a simple shape to cut them out, or just a pastry wheal to produce diamonds. Let the cookies rest in the cold for at least 30 minutes before baking.
Bake at 315 F for about 20 minutes or until pale brown around the edges. Leave the cookies on the sheet for a little bit or transfer with the sheet liner to a cooling rack. If they are handled to early they will break.
TIP/WARNING: As simple as this recipe looks, the devil lies in the details. If the dough is too cold it will rip when rolled out, if it is too soft, it will stick like glue. If you do not let the cookies cool down before baking, they will have a tendency to lose their shape somewhat.
Use simple cutout shapes – the more flour you work into the dough, the harder it will get to handle. Squares are best.
PS. After baking, I looked all over for my lens cap. I had taken it off, even though it has a cap holder, because it kept getting in the way. I finally found it in a pile of flour. Collateral damage…