Happy December! I hope everyone is having a fab month... obviously, I'm a bit behind the times, as we're already halfway through the month and this is my first appearance. As always, the first two weeks of December flew by in a blur of portfolios, conferences, and grading; the moment I submitted final grades, I immediately switched into shopping and baking mode. Woo-hoo! I've already been to two foodie-centric holiday parties (including a nontraditional and totally fantastic blogger party at the Chinatown food court) and later this week I'm looking forward to a day exploring the Christkindlmarket with Diana, as well as a performance of The Nutcracker with Mario. While we're currently snow-less and enjoying an unseasonably warm month (which I refuse to complain about), it's definitely starting to feel like Christmas!
As I mentioned, I've been in serious baking mode over the last week or so... okay, let's be honest; I've also been in serious cookie eating mode (it is the Eating Season after all - my friend swears it should should have some sort of national holiday designation!). My first order of business during the Eating Season? One of my favorite annual traditions: The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! TGFBCS is the brain child of two lovely bloggers. The concept is simple: they match you up with three other food bloggers, you bake and send a dozen cookies to each of your matches, and your matches do the same for you. Not only is there all sorts of cookie awesomeness, but also, the event supports a great cause (read more about it here). Check out the awesome cookies I got from my matches (hence, the eating part of the Eating Season):
Dark & White Chocolate Shortbread Cookies topped with pistachios, cranberries & sugar crystals from Michele @ Bacon Fatte
Liliko'i Bars from Catherine @ The Cat Dish
Black Bottom Butterfinger Cookies from Grandma Loy's Kitchen
While I love all things peppermint (just as much as I love all things pumpkin!), I usually eschew making anything peppermint for cookie exchanges, only because I know peppermint permeates just about every dessert offering during this time of year. However, after a few years of avoiding peppermint (see last year's awesome Mexican Hot Chocolate Sugar cookies), I decided to go all out peppermint this year. Screw the haters! ;-) For this year's swap, I combed through my recipe files and decided to rework a chocolate candy cane cookie recipe I've had sitting around for years. I made them once before and wasn't thrilled with the results - the original recipe called for a combination of peppermint extract and candy canes, which I thought was slightly reminiscent of toothpaste (ugh!). To remedy this, I swapped out the peppermint extract for Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips and upped the amount of chocolate. I was super happy with the results and actually ended up making these cookies for several cookie swaps/parties!
Double Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder (I prefer this)
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups dark, bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
5 candy canes, crushed
1. Preheat oven to 350º and line cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars for 1-2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla bean paste and beat until mixture is fluffy, scraping down the sides to ensure even mixing.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Sift cocoa and add to flour mixture.
4. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix in 1 cup chocolate chips and Andes chips. Mix until well combined.
5. Using a medium cookie scoop, drop cookies onto prepared cookies sheets. Slightly flatten the tops of each cookie and top with 2-3 of the remaining chocolate chips.
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cookies will be slightly dry on the outside and soft in the center. Immediately sprinkle with crushed candy cane and transfer to cooling rack.
7. Store in airtight container for several days or freeze for up to two weeks.