Cookie Extravaganza 2011!

Things are finally starting to settle down from the holidays so I thought I would share my recipes from Cookie Extravaganza 2011!

I’ve been making cookies for my family for Christmas for a few years now.  I always enjoy it, and I hope that they do too!  With the new house and keeping food on (and under) the table for the 7 of us (counting the furkids), sometimes I don’t always have the ability to get gifts for everyone.  By baking cookies, I feel like I still have something to offer to show how much I care for and appreciate them all without breaking the bank.

My cookie recipes this year came from the same magazine that a lot of my Thanksgiving recipes came from.  Taste of Home.  The original recipes can be found on their website.  I posted the ones I used here, some with a few modifications.  🙂 

The list this year:
Chocolate Mint Surprises
Striped Chocolate Popcorn

Gingerbread Boy Cookies
Crispy Peanut Butter Balls

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

So this year Jason had to brave the baking aisle at the grocery store to pick up our supplies since I had to work.  Poor guy… he did NOT have a good time.  Although it wasn’t as bad as the peppermint extract shortage from a previous Cookie Extravaganza that left me running all over the city of Boise to 7 different grocery stores before I was able to locate what seemed like the last two bottles of peppermint extract in the entire Ada county. 

Anyway, with supplies lined up on the counter, we got to work.  Jason and Jayden were very good helpers.  However, Jayden did get bored about 1/2 way through the first recipe and ran off to play.  But he continued to prove to be an excellent taste tester.  🙂

First we started with the Chocolate Mint Surprises.

For the cookies:
 3/4 cup butter, softened*
1 cup sugar
1 egg*
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 squares (1 oz each) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

For the filling:
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tbsp butter, softened*
1/4 cup evaporated milk
2 tsp of peppermint extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 lbs dark chocolate candy coating, melted

1.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Bean in egg and vanilla.  Add melted chocolate.  Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually add to chocolate mixture and mix well.  Shape into two 10-in. rolls; wrap each in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 4 hours or until firm.
2.  Unwrap dough and cut into 1/4-in. slices.  Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 375 degrees for 5-7 minutes or until edges are firm.  Remove to wire racks to cool. 
3.  For filling, in a medium bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, milk, and extracts until smooth.  (The recipe says you can use 2 to 3 tsp of peppermint extract… but we found 2 tsp to be more than enough).  Shape into 1/2-in. balls.  Place a ball in the center of each cookie; flatten.  Freeze for 30 minutes.
4.  Dip cookies in melted candy coating to completely cover; allow excess to drip off.  Place on waxed paper; let stand until set. 

Since the dough for these cookies had to refrigerate so long, we started these first, then went to work on the Crispy Peanut Butter Balls.

For these sweets, it is suggested that you use name brand peanut butter and name brand crisp rice cereal. 

2 cups creamy peanut butter (we used Jiff)
1/2 cup butter, softened*
3 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 cups crisp rice cereal (we used Rice Crispies)
4 cups (24 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp shortening, divided
1/3 cup vanilla or white chips

1.  In a large mixing bowl, beat peanut butter and butter until blended; gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar.  Stir in cereal(we found it easiest to do this part by hand).  Shape into 1-in. balls.  Refrigerate until chilled.
2.  In a non-stick sauce pan, combine chocolate chips and 1/4 cup shortening.  Warm over low heat, stirring frequently until chips are melted and the chocolate is smooth.  Dip balls into chocolate; place on a waxed paper-lined pan. 
3.  In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine vanilla chips and remaining shortening.  Microwave at 70% power until melted; stir until smooth.  Drizzle over candies.  Refrigerate until set.

You can also microwave the first group of chocolate chips, but we found it easier to heat it on the stove so it would stay fluid for the dipping.  Although, be sure you use a low heat and stir frequently so you don’t burn the chocolate.

Next up was the Gingerbread Boy Cookies

1/2 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 tsp white vinegar
1 egg, lightly beaten*
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

1.  In a sauce pan, combine the butter, sugar, molasses and vinegar; bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat; cool to lukewarm.  Stir in egg.  Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt; stir into molasses mixture to form a soft dough.
2.  Divide dough into thirds.  Shake each portion into a disk; wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until easy to handle. 
3.  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/4-in. thickness.  Cut with a floured 3-in. gingerbread boy cookie cutter(I also used a Christmas tree-shaped cookie cutter).   Place on greased baking sheets.  Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes or until edges are firm.  Remove to wire racks.

With all of the baking out of the way, the last two recipes were a piece of cake!  We did a batch here and there as we found time between the steps for the other recipes. 

Striped Chocolate Popcorn

12 cups popped popcorn (2 regular sized microwave bags of popcorn measured out pretty close)
2 cups miniature pretzels
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 oz white candy coating, coarsely chopped
2 oz milk chocolate candy coating, coarsely chopped

1.  In a large dish (we ended up finding that our non-stick roasting pan worked best), combine the popcorn and pretzels.  Drizzle with butter and toss.
2.  In a microwave, melt white candy coating at 70% power for 1 minute; stir.  Microwave at additional 10-20 second intervals, stirring until smooth.  Drizzle over popcorn mixture; toss to coat. 
3.  In a microwave, melt milk chocolate coating; stir until smooth.  Drizzle over popcorn mixture.  Let stand in a cool place until chocolate is set.  Store in an airtight container. 
(Yield:  16 cups)

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

6 squares (1 oz each) white baking chocolate
1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup crushed peppermint or spearmint candies, divided.

1.  In a microwave-safe bowl, melt white chocolate at 70% power; stir until smooth.  Repeat with chocolate chips.  Stir 6 tbsp of crushed candies into each bowl.  (Next time I make this I think I may do less candies… this really seemed like a lot).  Drop white chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate in alternating spoonfuls onto a waxed paper-lined baking sheet.
2.  Cut through the chocolate to swirl, spreading to 1/4-in. thickness.  Sprinkle with remaining crushed candies.  Chill until firm.  Break into pieces.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

So there you have it… Cookie Extravaganza 2011 now immortalized in my blog.  I wish I had taken a picture of the kitchen when we were done with it.  Since all but one of the recipes used chocolate, it looked like the kitchen had become a war zone and the ammunition was chocolate! 

Luckily, it cleans up pretty easy with some warm water.  🙂 

I hope everyone enjoyed the sweets this year.  I have a few requests in from family members for next year.  The mint/chocolate crunchy cookie candy things will be back, and we’ll be doing some no-bakes as well!  MMMmmm!

*I was reading some baking hints in a magazine and it suggested allowing your butter and eggs to reach room temperature before using them.  It provides a better texture and makes your baked goods nice and fluffy.

3 thoughts on “Cookie Extravaganza 2011!

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