Monday, December 12, 2011

Cookie Exchange and Dipped Cherry Cookies

(Most of our cookies, we had to use two tables)

I had a really busy but fun weekend! Most of it was devoted to preparing for my 3rd Annual Cookie Exchange, it's A LOT of work but totally worth it. For the past three years I have invited between 8-12 other women to come to my house for a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon before Christmas, and exchange cookies that we have baked. When my guests are selecting their cookie I have them let me know ahead of time so I can ensure that we have no duplicates, no one needs five Peanut Butter Star cookie recipes do they?  I prepare a nice lunch for them to enjoy, we get a chance to catch up on what's going on in our busy lives, we usually play 3 games or so and I award prizes to the winners. Towards the end we gather around the table where our cookies are displayed and we swap, everyone brings in their own container and gets to go from tray to tray and grab the designated amount of cookies. This year I made up a cute little cookbook with all of our recipes so that way they were all together in one spot. Years before I requested that they bring copies of their recipes but then there's always that chance of losing one so I think I'll definitely carry on this tradition of compiling them into little cookbooks each year.  This has definitely become one of my favorite parts of the holidays and I'm so appreciative of everyone that devotes time to attending my cookie exchange.

Our group this year minus one taking the pic

This year the cookie I chose to bake was Dipped Cherry Cookies. It's one that I have made one other time for my cookie tins I give out around Christmas time and I really liked it.

It's pretty much a shortbread cookie with chopped cherries and white chocolate in the dough. You dip one half of the cookie into melted white chocolate and sprinkle with red decorating sugar. Pretty simple for the most part and really festive for the holidays. I'm going to lie though, they didn't turn out as well as I had hoped but part of that might have been my fault. They seemed to spread a little more than anticipated during the baking time. I got ahead of myself when mixing up the dough and thought I remembered how to do everything, I melted the white chocolate instead of just chopping up and kneading it into the dough. Maybe that's what went wrong? I honestly don't know, they still tasted great just didn't look as good as I wanted them to. So my advice on this: Follow the recipe exactly as stated and don't try to make your own adjustments.

*One additional note- the dough will be really crumbly and you'll probably be scared. Don't be, just keep kneading and it will all come together just fine. Enjoy!

Dipped Cherry Cookies

2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar, divided
1 cup cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup finely chopped maraschino cherries, drained
12 squares (1 oz. each) vanilla almond bark, finely chopped, divided
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Red decorating sugar (I found mine at Target in the holiday baking aisle)

In large bowl, combine flour and 1/2 cup sugar; cut in butter until crumbly. Knead in cherries, 2/3 almond bark and extract until dough forms a ball.
Shape into 3/4-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten slightly with a glass dipped in remaining sugar. Bake at 325 for 11-12 minutes or until edges or slightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.
In microwave, melt remaining almond bark, stirring until smooth. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate; allow excess to drip off. Sprinkle with decorating sugar and place on waxed paper until set. Store in airtight container.

Makes 4 dozen

I've got some great recipes lined up for you this week: my all-time favorite punch, an easy slow cooker pulled pork with my mom's coleslaw, chocolate peanut butter-pretzel truffles and a black and white bean dip. Stay tuned!

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