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One of my favorite days of the year is the Saturday in December when I host a cookie swap. I love gathering some of my favorite ladies for a few hours of chatting, showing off my Christmas tree and decorations with holiday music going, and it’s pretty fun to be able to send everyone home laden with homemade cookies. (Even when they’ve done much of the work.) I ask each guest to bring two dozen each of two kinds of cookies and an empty container to fill up with cookies to take home. I say it every single year– my friends can bake! I love seeing the variety of treats brought to the party; there’s almost never a duplicate on the table and you see everything from treasured family recipes to fancy experiments. This year’s table included java cookies, snickerdoodles, hot cocoa cookies, zimsterne, applesauce cookies and more. There were vanilla cupcakes and pumpkin gingerbread, too. Everything I sampled was delicious! I am so lucky to have such wonderful friends to share the afternoon with me.

In addition to my party, I participated for the first time in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. I was matched with three other bloggers, Secret Santa-style, and sent them each one dozen of my new favorite recipe, stuffed cookies, which I learned about this summer from my friend Charlene. They are dark and fudgy on the outside, gooey and sticky inside from the caramel candies “stuffed” into the dough. Sometimes called Rolo cookies, this new name comes courtesy of my Mom, who also got the recipe from Char and has been experimenting with different candy fillings. So far she has had success with peanut butter cups in place of the caramel candies and plans to experiment this week with cordial cherries. YUM!

Three bloggers drew my name and sent me fun boxes to open, and I have to say there’s not much better than receiving a box of surprise homemade cookies. Even though I knew to expect three boxes, I didn’t know who they were from or what was inside until I got each one. I first received some Peppermint Crunch Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies from Stephanie at Munch I Munch– I’m a sucker for chocolate and mint and these didn’t disappoint! Using a chocolate chip cookie base rather than a chocolate base was perfect, helping to highlight the mint flavor, which tends to be hidden by chocolate in other sweets. My next box came from Laura at Ring Finger Tan Line and contained delicious salted caramel-filled chocolate cookies. These were so good! I loved the salted caramel, similar to the filling in my own cookies but with a distinct, sophisticated twist. My third box came from Toni at A Taste of Alaska, all the way up in Fairbanks. (I couldn’t help but wonder if she’s a neighbor of my niece.) Chewy, delicately spiced and yummy, I’ll have to wait until I see her post for the exact name of her cookies, but they taste to me like a mix of oatmeal, pumpkin and chocolate chip and they’re lovely. A perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. Thanks to all three ladies for my treats! I hope to be able to participate in the Cookie Swap again; I had so much fun this year.

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adorable container full of salted caramel dark chocolate cookies

cookies from A Taste of Alaska

Below is the recipe for the stuffed cookies I made. They’re great for swaps as they travel well, can be adapted to use other candies for the stuffing (use your imagination!) and can by “prettied up”, if you want, by rolling them in sanding sugar before baking. They’re kid- and husband-friendly and can be frozen, though I’ve never had a batch around long enough to really test that myself. I would suggest keeping them on the smaller side, since they are quite rich, but indulge if you want– it’s the holidays! Happy cookie swapping to all. :)

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Stuffed Cookies (recipe courtesy of Charlene)

  • 2 sticks of butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 1 bag of Rolo candies, unwrapped, or peanut butter cups, or similar candy
  • sanding sugar to decorate, if desired

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until well-combined. Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge to chill, at least an hour. The dough is very difficult to work with at room temperature, but becomes almost like modeling clay when cold, which will be very helpful for stuffing them.

When you are ready to assemble and bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and unwrap all your candy, if you haven’t done so already. Plan for 48-60 cookies from this much dough, depending on the size of your scoop. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Use a teaspoon or small cookie scoop (my preference) to get a ball of cookie dough. Press the candy into the top of the ball and mold the dough up and around the candy until it’s completely enclosed; continue to do so until all dough is used up. Pause to chill the dough if it becomes too sticky or soft to work with.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 mins.; remove from the oven and immediately slide the parchment or silicone off the sheet onto a clear counter space. Use the back of a spatula to tap the top of each cookie flat; just a light whack will do. This gives the top a nice texture and seems to help distribute the filling evenly. Allow the cookies to cool completely before eating– the centers are molten! Stuffed cookies keep in a tightly-sealed container for about a week.

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