You learn a lot about people when they break bread--or cookies--with you. There's an immediate intimacy that comes from sharing food ... and perhaps that's what I love most about cookie exchanges: not just trying new things and sampling in small bites, but feeling like a member of an instant community. And during the holidays, when family gatherings can be complicated, these gatherings can make you feel at home.
(Those readers who knew me in my professional
life will get a good chuckle over the name of the
winery and the vintage date!)
The challenge for me was that I blogged all of my usual holiday favorites last year, so I'd be testing something new on people I'd never met. Still, if I wanted to write at all during December, I'd have to start trying some new recipes at some point, so I crossed my fingers and fired up the oven. This recipe caught my eye for its unusual list of ingredients (including WINE!), and I thought I'd give it a try. I had to adapt them a bit because I preferred a slightly different balance of spice, and I found that the dough was too sticky to roll, but I thought that the end result was really quite delicious: definitely an "adult" cookie with a complex sweet and spicy and ever-so-slightly fruity flavor that will keep them guessing.
I sent out my cookies just after Thanksgiving, and in the past week I got the best kind of mail:
Sarah from Healthy Mom on the Run sent me cranberry orange cookies and gingersnaps.
Kisha from Kisha's Kitchen sent me butter toffee cookies.
Nicole at Life's a Batch sent me Cinna-Mas.
Thank you to the three of you for spreading holiday cheer across the country! I hope that the people who got my cookies liked them ... and that they were something a little fun and different. And I hope that you get to share something sweet with someone new this season, too.
Chocolate Spice Cookies/Mostaccioli
(adapted from an adaptation from Nick Malgieri's Great Italian Desserts)
1/2 c. natural (not Dutch process) cocoa powder
3/4 c. flour (you may actually need more than this to make the dough manageable)
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. almond flour
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. cloves
1 t. baking soda
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. molasses
1/4 c. dry red wine (I used Merlot)
1/4 c. confectioners' sugar
1 T. water
Into a mixing bowl, sift cocoa powder. Add flour, sugar, almonds, cinnamon, cloves and baking soda. Mix lightly to combine. Add honey, molasses and wine. Mix til a smooth sticky dough forms. Allow to stand 1 minute to absorb the liquid, then cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes (up to a few hours).
Preheat the oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Turn the dough out onto a generously floured work surface. Pat into a rectangle approx. 1/4" thick. Flour the dough lightly and roll over it once or twice with a rolling pin to even it out.
Cut the dough using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, into 2" squares. With a dry pastry brush, wipe off any excess flour. Transfer the squares to the baking sheet spacing about 2" apart. Bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the cookies sit for a minute. Then lift the parchment with the cookies on it, and place on a wire rack. While the cookies are still warm, make the glaze by stirring the confectioners' sugar and water together til smooth, then brush the glaze onto each cookie top. After a minute or two, brush on another coat of glaze. Cool and store in an airtight cookie tin.