Cookies are a holiday staple. With so many yummy varieties out there, it can be quite the challenge to bake all the types you'd like to have during the holiday season. Enter the tradition of the cookie swap: you make a bunch of cookies, your friends make a bunch of cookies, you meet up and exchange the cookies, and then you go home loaded down with a wonderful variety of cookies. It can be very fun, especially when good friends and mimosas are involved!
Due to my fondness of cookie exchanges, I was extremely excited when I saw this banner on Love and Olive Oil a couple months ago:
Even though Nanna always made amaretti cookies, my mind immediately jumped to them for this cookie swap not because of her, but because of her brother, my Great-Uncle Paul. Every Christmas, he sent my family a box of cookies in the mail. Whenever the package came, I eagerly peeped through the contents of the box, looking for the bag of amaretti cookies that I knew would be in there. Because of this memory, I really wanted to pass on the tradition of sending out amaretti cookies for the cookie swap since this blog represents not only my love of cooking and baking, but my family's as well.
Now, half the fun in a cookie swap, is receiving cookies in exchange for your own hard work. The first box to come in the mail was from Mollie of Sprinkles of Life. She made a white chocolate, peanut butter krispie cookie that included almond bark, peanut butter, mini marshmallows, honey roasted peanuts, and puffed rice cereal. True to her blog's name, I found red and green sprinkles adorning each cookie. I wish I thought to take a picture before Will and I gobbled them up. They had great texture and were absolutely delicious!
Next, I received cranberry lemon sandwich cookies from Nicole and Susan of Flavors by Four. I lucked out with this cookie, as Will is not a fan of lemon or cranberry. No cookie monster wiping out my stash in one or two sittings! Instead, I got to savor this set of cookies at my own pace. And savor I did. They were also wonderfully delicious. The lemon was a really nice touch.
The last box I received was from Beth of It's Good to be the Cook. She made Chocolate-Cherry-Berry Heart Smart Oatmeal Cookies based on a Cooking Light recipe. They were so tasty! I'm always a sucker for oatmeal cookies, but I really loved the inclusion of dried cherries. I also appreciated the fact they are healthy as far as cookies go... perhaps a bit too much though, since I might have had them for breakfast a couple of times... Oh well. It's the holidays, right?
Thanks for sharing your cookies ladies! I really enjoyed them. And a special thanks to Julie and Lindsay for organizing the cookie swap!
Well, that about wraps it up for the 2012 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. I hope Kelley of The Culinary Enthusiast, Nora of Cats and Commas, and Liz of Meal Makeover Moms' Kitchen all enjoyed the amaretti cookies I sent them! I think you will too, so please check out the recipe. They're very easy to make.
Adapted from Nanna
Yield: about 20 cookies
200 grams (2 ¼ cups) almond flour*
200 grams (1 cup) white granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 drops almond extract
Slivered, blanched almonds for decoration
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. As an alternative to the liners, lightly grease the pan and dust with flour, making sure to shake off all excess flour from the pan.
Combine the first five ingredients in a stand mixer and beat at a medium speed for 3 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
Depending on the consistency of your cookie dough, either use a teaspoon measurement to spoon out the dough and then gently roll into a ball with moistened hands, or if you have a thin batter, pipe the dough in a circular motion from center to make cookies about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Leave at least one inch between each cookie. Once all cookies are formed, place an almond sliver on top of each cookie.
Bake the cookies for 17-25 minutes, or until their exteriors have set and are lightly colored. Let the cookies cool for several minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling.
*Make your own almond flour by putting blanched almonds in a food processor until they are finely ground -- the consistency you are looking for is similar to couscous. When grinding your own almonds, be sure not to over process them or you will create almond butter! In my experience, homemade almond flour will produce a runnier batter that is easy to pipe and will result in a flatter, shinier cookie. However, when I've used store bought almond flour, the resulting batter is very stiff and is better suited to the spoon and roll method. These cookies will remain cute little balls. I think this is because the store bought almond flour has a finer texture than I'm able to achieve with my own food processor. Overall, the taste and texture is very similar whether grinding your own almonds or using store bought almond flour.