December 4, 2012

Cookie Swap Cookies

Sharon of Delicious Musings invited me to a cookie swap, along with Vrylena of vrai-lean-uh and Shannon of Edible Obsessions. So, I guess it was a blogger cookie swap - but I feel if I call it that, I'll feel guilty for leaving other area bloggers out. (Fear not local bloggers, I aim to organize another happy hour in the new year.)

Regardless, some of these ladies are Bears fans, so oddly enough, our cookie swap happened at the Asylum Sports Bar. Made funnier since Vrylena is pregnant, so obviously doesn't drink. But I was headed to Binga's afterward for the Ravens game (no comment), so I was more than happy to share the company of some football fans all afternoon. 

Photo by Vrylena

Anyways, cookies. I made Russian Tea Cakes, which I first had at a company cookies swap. So I had the recipe, deemed it simple enough for me not to screw up, and spent a Saturday morning in cozy pants and a Santa hat, listening to NPR and baking cookies. (Wow, do I sound like I live in New England or what??)

Russian Tea Cakes are also apparently known as Mexican/Italian Wedding Cookies and are small, shortbread-type rounds with pecans inside, and dusted in powdered sugar. 

I also made Haystack Cookies, which my Grandma used to make (she's still alive, she just stopped making these cookies) and bring when she visited at the holidays. They're sweet, salty, and crunchy, like chocolate-covered pretzels. Many options for variations abound.

Do you swap cookies with friends? I admit I first thought it sounded needlessly fussy, but it was easy and very fun. 

Sharon brought a minty, crunchy, chewy White Christmas Dream Drops, Shannon made to-die-for No-Bake Cornflake-Chocolate Pralines and Brown Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Vrylena made addictive Elsie’s Brown Sugar Cookies. They're all delicious!

Russian Tea Cakes
Adapted from Emril Lagasse apparently (??)

1 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 325*F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter. Add the vanilla extract, then gradually add the confectioners' sugar, beating until light and fluffy.

Sift the flour, measure, and then sift again with the salt. Add gradually to the butter-sugar mixture and stir until incorporated. Add the nuts and stir until mixed.

Scoop dough into 1-inch balls (about 1 heaping teaspoon) and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between cookies.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until edges are golden. Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack and dust with powdered sugar.

Makes 4 dozen

Haystack Cookies
Adapted from LOL Foodie (I hated typing that.)

3 1/2 cups of chow mein noodles (6 ounces)
1 11-ounce bag of butterscotch chips
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts

Mix chow mein noodles and peanuts together in a large bowl. In a small saucepot, combine peanut butter and butterscotch chips, and heat over medium-low heat while stirring, until melted.

Pour butterscotch-peanut butter mixture over chow mein noodles and peanuts. Stir to combine. Use two spoons to scoop small piles of mix onto parchment or wax paper-lined baking sheets. Let cool and then move to the refrigerator to chill completely.

Makes 3 dozen