I used to do an annual cookie swap at the private school at which I worked; 20-25 people would joyously bust through the door the day all the students left to go home, and we would drink wine, laugh, tell stories, and eat cookies until we were ready to burst.
Some of my favorite cookie recipes always came from this annual swap – cookies I’d keep making year round. And every year I’d collect more recipes. Some I don’t make, but the sight of the recipe always reminds me of the person and the event.
Some people collect cool things. I collect recipes. I actually think it’s really cool.
Huey Lewis and the News reminded us, it’s hip to be square. Yeah me, the squarehead.
I stopped doing the cookie swap when I moved, and I never picked it up again until last year, 12 years later. Maybe life got in the way. Maybe I wasn’t really feeling it. I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of Christmas, in general, but I do love the gatherings of friends when food is involved.
So I found my cookie swap mojo again last year, and happily revived the tradition. This year about 18 friends, new and old, will convene this week for a time honored celebration of sharing our delicious baked concoctions.
And in true form, I cannot make just one cookie. I must make, oooooohhhh, say 6-8. ‘Cause I can, that’s why.
And I am an over-achiever when it comes to baking.
When I thought about the cookies I wanted to make, I went through cookbook after cookbook and magazine after magazine. I came across recipes I’ve made and love and new ones I’ve been jonesing to try. Ultimately, I landed upon several new recipes I’ve been wanting to make, some traditional cookies that you might see at Christmas, and some cookies that are traditional with a spin.
Hopefully, I can manage to post them all within a reasonable time.
When I mentioned cookie swap to one of my friends, she commented the only Christmas cookie she knows how to make is the traditional spritz cookie, which she does a wonderful job with.
But you have to know her, and she was hooked up on the word spritz. “Sounds like a boozy summer drink,” she said.
“It is,” I said.
“Yeah, but I have a friend who is making crinkles for her Christmas cookies. I mean, COME ON,” she almost whined. “THAT! That is a Christmas sounding cookie.”
So of course, this cookie is in her honor since she cannot be here. I made a Chocolate Crinkle cookie for her.
A few notes here.
- DO NOT rush the chill time on this dough. When you make the dough, it will look like thick cake batter or brownie batter. This makes sense given that the end result is meant to be like a fudgy brownie style cookie. Enrobed in über white snowy confectioner’s sugar <swoon>. If you live in the semi-frozen tundra of the Northeast, just cover the dough and set it on your porch outside for a few hours. It will thicken up perfectly. If you live elsewhere in a warmer environment [jealousy sets in this time of year], then fridge it is.
- Use the best possible chocolate you can. Don’t just use chocolate chips for the melted chocolate. I like the 60% Lindt chocolate. You can get it in most grocery stores.
- When I came across this recipe, I always think the people who make these and take the pictures know something the rest of us don’t. Like, there is no way regular confectioner’s sugar will make these cookies so perfect looking.
And since it was a King Arthur recipe, I know they have this incredible sugar that is call ed Glazing Sugar, which is great to add to baked goods once they’ve baked.
But…I kinda forgot that part. I thought I could roll the cookie dough in the glazing sugar and get that perfect snowy look…because there was no way confectioner’s sugar created that perfect snowy, crinkly look.
I. Was. Wrong.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You heard me. I said I was wrong.
When I rolled the thickened dough in the Glazing Sugar, this was the end result:
The term glazing shoulda made me pause.
Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda.
Glazing, as in a finisher after baking. Not while baking. We’ll call it an off day. We’re all entitled to a few here and there.
I was two batches in before I realized this was not the end result I was going for.
So I corrected to what was called for in the recipe – honestly, still thinking it was total bullshit that the plain ole’ confectioner’s sugar could make that pretty cookie – and lo’, pretty cookie it made:
And there was a significant difference in the final result. The cookies rolled in the glazing sugar had a cakier texture. They tasted fine. Just more like cake. And they weren’t as sweet because the glazing sugar had baked into the cookie.
The ones rolled in good ole’ confectioner’s sugar were not only sweeter, but also more fudgy. More delicious, in my opinion. ‘Cause, duh. Had to sample each one.
I’ve simply reckoned myself with the fact that I will gain a few pounds over the next few weeks. I will made amends come January 2.
I sent both batches in with my son to his school, and I told him to tell everyone the glazed cookies were called muddy snowballs and the powdered sugar ones were called Chocolate Crinkles.
No one complained.
Chocolate Christmas Crinkles
- 8 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips
- 4 ounces unsalted butter
- 4 3/4 ounces granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons espresso powder optional; for enhanced chocolate flavor
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 7 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- confectioners’ sugar for coating
To make the dough: Place the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, and heat or microwave until the butter melts. Remove it from the heat, and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth.
In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar, eggs, vanilla and espresso powder. Stir in the chocolate mixture, baking powder and salt, then the flour. Chill the dough for 2 to 3 hours, or overnight; it’ll firm up considerably.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a couple of baking sheets, or line them with parchment.
To shape the cookies: Put about a cup of confectioners’ sugar into a shallow bowl. Using a teaspoon cookie scoop, a spoon, or your fingers, scoop out heaping teaspoon-sized portions of the dough; they should be roughly 1 1/4″ in diameter. Drop the dough balls into the confectioners’ sugar as you go.
Once about five or six are in the bowl, shake and toss the bowl to coat the balls with the sugar. (If you try to do this with too many balls at a time, they’ll just stick together.) Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2″ between them.
Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, switching the position of the pans (top to bottom, and front to back) midway through the baking time. As the cookies bake, they’ll flatten out and acquire their distinctive “streaked” appearance.
Remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool on a rack. Store them at room temperature, well wrapped, for several days; freeze for longer storage.
1. When rolling the dough in confectioner’s sugar, roll it to completely coat it, then roll it again so no brown can be seen. Then roll it again in the sugar for good measure.
2. You can increase the size of the cookie by using a tablespoon scoop. Just bake about 1 minute longer (teaspoon sized scoop baked for 10 minutes at 325˚. Tablespoon baked about 11 minutes at 325˚).