For the second year, I decided to participate in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap hosted by Love & Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen. This swap requires participants to send one dozen cookies to three different bloggers, and in exchange, three additional bloggers send a dozen cookies each to you. All in all, you get to meet six new bloggers and try three new kinds of cookies, and there's a round-up at the end wherein one could salivate over all cookies in the exchange. Last year I agonized over the cookies to send: I wanted to offer up something really different, really unique, but didn't know where to begin. I scoured the internet, and wound up with mostaccioli, which are traditional chewy almost cake-like Italian cookies, made with wine. I also learned a lot about attractive packaging and sending cookies in the mail last year, lessons which I tried to apply in this year's swap!
This year, Lindsay and Julie upped the ante and partnered with Cookies for Kids' Cancer, a national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer, which claims the lives of more children in the US than any other disease. Each participating blogger made a small donation to the organization for the honor of participating, and OXO® will be matching the total donation, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000 dollars!
I'd been in sort of a baking slump, and I have to credit this year's swap with helping me to get my cookie-making mojo back. I've tried and modified quite a few recipes that I'm posting here as a result of my search for the perfect swap cookie! During the past year I've become especially interested in using traditionally savory herbs in sweet treats (like the basil ice cream I made), and I wanted to send something that represented my blog and my commitment to local food sources; so I decided to make Honey Basil Shortbreads with local honey and basil. I get my honey from Tassot Apiaries, which is just a few miles away from our house (they also make fabulous soap and other items which you can order online); their honey is among the best I've tasted anywhere, and I practically live on it during cold season. I loved the fact that you can really taste these flavors in the cookies, though they're not overpowering. I also thoroughly enjoyed experimenting with cookie stamp patters using found objects. I don't own a cookie stamp, but I pressed my cookies with a swirl-shaped wire, with the top of a clean star-shaped pattern in the top of a spice-jar shaker, and finally, as you'll see below, with the back of a pie server! My recipients were:
- Michelle Hilton of From Calculus to Cupcakes
- Rosalynda Thorn of This Mama Can Cook
- Susan Bronson of A Less Processed Life
- Honey Vanilla Macaroons from Ruth at the tasty tRruth (see, Ruth? I was paying attention!),
- Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies from Denise at Addicted2Recipes, and
- Espresso Shortbread from Sarah at Cooker Girl, to whom, in a bizarre twist of fate, I sent my cookies last year! (Sarah, in a great twist of irony, I just baked some soft Gingerbread cookies ... not yours from last year, but definitely similar! I'll be posting the recipe soon.)
Thanks again to everyone who made the cookie swap happen, and to Lindsay and Julie for hosting! Congratulations, ladies, on your fundraiser, and on helping the food blogging community to give such a fabulous gift together this year!
Honey Basil Shortbreads
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
1 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar
3 T. honey
1 T. fresh snipped basil (or 1 t. dried)
2 t. finely shredded orange peel
1 t. vanilla
3 c. flour
sugar for stamping
Preheat oven to 375. Beat butter in a large bowl on medium high speed for about 30 seconds until fluffy. Add 2/3 c. sugar and beat until combined. Add egg, honey, basil, orange peel, and vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in flour.
Place a small amount of sugar into a shallow bowl. Roll dough into 1 1/2" balls, and place them about 2" apart on your cookie sheet. Dip the patterned bottom of a glass, a cookie stamp, or serving utensil (I used a pie server! This is a great time to experiment with found objects in your kitchen, to see what they turn out like!) into sugar, and using the glass or stamp, flatten balls to 1/4" thickness.
Bake 6-8 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Cool on sheets 1 minute; transfer to wire racks and cool completely.