Monday, December 10, 2012

The Cookie Exchange, Part II: Redemption

So, remember when I said I was going to rock the annual cookie exchange? Last year I struggled with my cookies, but this year I planned ahead. I found a recipe for a drop cookie decorated to look like Frosty just defrosted - cute and just a little twisted. Perfect. I did a trial run and decided that while the original recipe, from the Better Homes and Gardens website, was good, I wanted to make a few changes. It was based on a peanut butter cookie, which is always the last kind left on the complimentary cookie trays at those chain hotels that cater to business travelers. The dough was easy to work with, but the cookie was really dry and hard. So I substituted a fudgy, soft, delicious dark chocolate cookie that my family has been making for years. And since my snowman top hat looked more like something a pilgrim would wear, I used a chocolate melting wafer to better define the brim of the hat. I also decided to enlarge the carrot nose by using some orange-tinted chocolate. Now, I'm by no means a baker, but the end result was pretty cute and they were a big hit at the cookie exchange, which was well run and a lot of fun. But in typical fashion, my cookies did not come together exactly as I planned.   

The cookie part went off without a hitch - I melted baking chocolate, butter and sugar together, mixed in eggs and vanilla until it was smooth and glossy, then stirred in the dry ingredients. It's a really sticky dough, so it has to be thoroughly chilled before scooping spoonfuls onto the baking sheets. The cookies came out perfectly and after a brief rest to cool, they were ready to decorate. While they were baking, Best Friend stopped by to lend a hand. I intended to put her to work making tiny snowman hats out of mini Reece's cups and chocolate melting discs. That's when we discovered that apparently The Boy had found the bag of candy I had stashed in the cupboard and polished it off. Senior came to our rescue and ran to the store to buy replacements. While he was gone, I started melting white chocolate and spooning it on the cookies. With impeccable timing, I ran out of chocolate right after Senior returned from the store. The Girl's boyfriend happened to call at this moment, and was the next one to come to our rescue, showing up not only with the candy but also with a great big pizza! It didn't take long to finish the snowman puddles and top off with the little hats and chocolate chip eyes. The last decorating step was the carrot noses. I didn't have any orange food coloring, so I mixed red and yellow drops into some melted white chocolate. It came out kind of an insipid peach color so I messed with the tints for a while until Best Friend got sick of waiting and just squeezed in a big blob of red. I was pretty mad until I realized that I now had the perfect shade of carrot orange. Unfortunately the liquid food color had now caused the chocolate to kind of seize up, and couldn't be piped out of the bag. By now it was getting late and we had already plowed through a bottle of wine, so the logical choice was to mold 60 tiny little carrots by hand. The Girl stepped in to help us with our masterpieces. We had a great time rolling them out and didn't even try to make them consistently. Some were tiny, some huge, and we dropped them on the cookies in random melted abandon. I must admit, a few landed on the cookies... let's say... inappropriately. By the time we were done we were laughing hysterically, but the cookies looked amazing. We put the cookies into cute little snowflake cellophane bags tied with curly ribbons. Our masterpieces:

I haven't really had much holiday spirit this season. But as I settled on the sofa after the kitchen was clean and the empty wine bottles were nestled in the recycling bin, I realized that I wouldn't trade a whole box of perfect, easy cookies for one lopsided snowman cookie that only came together thanks to the group effort of my family and friends. That was an amazing gift.