Monday, December 12, 2011

More Food in the Mail and the Great Food Blogger Cookie Exchange: Mostaccioli

Every year during the holidays, I try to get involved in some kind of cookie exchange.  I love the tapas approach to eating (this drives my husband nuts, because I can often be found grazing in my kitchen), and cookie exchanges are like the potluck tapas of the dessert world.  I have fond memories of cookie exchanges from childhood: my mom was a teacher, and every year around the holidays she'd leave with a Tupperware full of our cookies and come home with new treats for us to try.

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!)
Last year, I happened across Steph Chow, a food blogger who was running her second annual blogger cookie exchange.  I signed up, and was paired with Emily from Life on Food.  She sent me two kinds of cookies and a bag of peppermint bark, in beautifully tied bags, and I sent her three of my favorites packed in Tupperware (and was a little embarrassed about my presentation, or rather lack of presentation, in the interest of airtight-ness).  This year Steph has been busy with work and with the launch of Foodiacs, but when I did a search on blogger cookie exchanges, I discovered I was not too late to sign up for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, hosted by Lindsay and Taylor of Love and Olive Oil.  This swap required participants to send one dozen cookies to three different bloggers, and three additional bloggers would send a dozen cookies each to me.  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.  Though I don't consider myself just a food blogger, it sounded like a fabulous plan.

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.
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  1. I agree with you the exchange was a lot of fun. So glad that we were able to connect. Your cookies look so good :)

  2. Those cookies look good. And I love the idea of a cookie exchange (though, am not sure I'd ever be able to get my act together to participate in one!).

    You're right about the intimacy that comes from sharing food. There's something profound about it.

  3. I've never actually done a cookie exchange! But it sounds like fun... I would have wondered how they'd do it online, but it sounds like a good method where everyone benefits!
    Your cookies look yummy :)

  4. Thank you so much for these cookies! It was my first cookie exchange at it didn't disappoint. I thought the secret ingredient in these was some kind of alcohol but I wouldn't have guessed red wine (the spices threw my off). Delicious!

  5. Those look very yummy. I wish I were a part of your cookie exchange (except the idea of making cookies stresses me out so maybe it's for the best that I'm not ;)

  6. Justine,

    I just want to re-state how awesome your cookies were. I'm definitely going to try them. I never would have guessed the wine. I will definitely be back to check your blog for new recipes, and raid the vault for old ones. Thanks again!

  7. "You learn a lot about people when they break bread--or cookies--with you. There's an immediate intimacy that comes from sharing food..."
    This is my favorite thing, to share a meal or even just a cookie with someone. It makes me so happy.

  8. Chocolate + spice + wine: what a combo! Sounds delicious; I may make them this afternoon. I also participated in the GFB Cookie Exchange--that's how I found your post. What a fantastic time it was. Just one question: why "mostaccioli"?


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