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I was so excited to participate in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap this year! I missed the sign-up deadline last year and pouted more than once as I read about the creative, delicious cookies being shipped around the country. This year, I started looking for information in August, determined not to miss out. I swapped in 2012– here is the post about that exchange, with a recipe for stuffed cookies– and had so much fun. This year’s experience proved I was right to sign up again.

The basic premise is this: anyone with a blog can sign up to participate in the exchange. In early November, the contest organizers from Love & Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen assigned each blogger three Secret Santa-style matches. After choosing a cookie recipe I had never written about before, I sent each of my three matches one dozen cookies. In return, I got three boxes of cookies, which I’ll tell you about now.

cranberry pistachio shortbread from Cats and Commas

The first box to arrive was from Nora, who writes at Cats and Commas. She made shortbread studded with pistachios and cranberries, which made me smile because that was my back-up recipe in case my snickerdoodles didn’t turn out! A quick look at her blog showed that we have a lot of similar interests in the kitchen. Thank you, Nora! I miss having shortbread to dunk in my coffee and can’t wait to see your recipe so I can try it myself.

spiced shortbread from Two Places at Once

My second box came from Becca from Two Places at Once. Becca sent a lovely tin of spiced shortbread from Austin, TX; when I popped in to look at her blog, the first thing I saw was strawberry Dutch baby, which means I will be visiting again and often. The shortbread were so nice, not too sweet and perfectly crisp, another ideal cookie if you’re a dunker like me. Thank you, Becca!

raisin oatmeal walnut cookies from Mommy Powers

My third and final box came from Rosalynda, who writes both Mommy Powers and Sandy Gram. Rosalynda sent delicious raisin oatmeal walnut cookies, one of my favorites, from her home in northern CA. My husband said they’re the tastiest oatmeal cookies he’s ever had– thank you, Rosalynda!

So, let me tell you what I made to send to Jamie at Love Bakes Good Cakes, Jennifer at The Rebel Chick and Marcie at Flavor the Moments. I turned, as I so often do, to the Baked books, Baked Elements this time, and made a variation of their incredible brown butter snickerdoodles. These cookies are perfection on their own; I’ve made them a handful of times and they are always a hit, always turn out well. I wanted to do something to put my stamp on their recipe, so I replaced some of the cinnamon with cardamom and added orange zest to the brown butter. I am so over-the-moon happy with this recipe! The whisper of orange flavor is just enough, and the cardamom reminds me of so many favorite Swedish baked goods; these feel like a cookie my Nana might have served at Christmas Eve decades ago. They are chewy, buttery and warmly spiced, just plain good. If you’re looking for a cookie to make for holiday gifts, these brown butter snickerdoodles package and ship like a dream.

All of the participants of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap are sharing their recipes today– you can follow this link to see a partial round up of all the recipes submitted last year. Check Love & Olive Oil or The Little Kitchen on Friday, December 19th for the cookies made and shared this month. Thank you to Lindsay and Julie for organizing such a fun event; I can’t imagine how much work it is to arrange, and we all appreciate that you do! A nod to sponsors OXO, Dixie Crystals, California Olive Ranch and Brownie Brittle, who match the bloggers’ donations to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer; this year, we raised a little more than $12,000. I already marked my calendar to participate again next year; if you’d like information about how you can be part of the fun, click here. There is nothing quite like a good cookie swap!

brown butter snickerdoodles with cardamom & orange

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles with Cardamom & Orange

(adapted from Baked Elements; makes about 30 cookies)

For the cookies:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • zest of one orange
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 3/4 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 T. milk

For the coating mixture:

  • 3 T. sugar
  • 1 T. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom

In a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Continue cooking the butter, swirling the pan occasionally to discourage burning, until the butter turns golden brown. This takes about 8-10 mins. depending on your stove and the pan you’re using. Don’t walk away– it goes from bubbling melted butter to perfectly brown to burnt in the blink of an eye. Remove the pan promptly from the stove and pour the brown butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. (You can strain out the butter solids, but I really like the flavor they give the cookies, so I leave them in.) Add the orange zest and run the mixer on low speed for about 5 mins. to cool the brown butter; I use this time to gather my other ingredients.

Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. cardamom and salt. In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly and add the milk.

After the butter has been in the mixer for 5 mins. or so, add 1 c. sugar and brown sugar and mix until combined. Add the egg mixture and mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined. Add the flour mixture in three batches, scraping the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stop mixing as soon as you can’t see any dry flour and scrape the sides again to make sure no dry ingredients are pocketed near the bottom. Cover the bowl and refrigerate your dough for at least one hour (up to 24 hours)– don’t skip this step.

roll cookies in spiced sugar mixture to coat

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix together the remaining 3 T. sugar, 1 T. cinnamon and 1 tsp. cardamom; I find a pie plate or shallow bowl works well for rolling the cookies in the coating mixture. Use a medium-sized scoop to make golf ball-sized cookies. Smooth them by hand and roll each in the coating mixture until completely covered. Press down to very slightly flatten the top of each cookie as you place it on your cookie sheets. Leave space in between; I place 10-12 cookies per sheet.

Bake the snickerdoodles for 10 mins., rotating the pans midway through baking to ensure even browning. Remove the pans promptly from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 15-30 mins. Serve warm or at room temperature. Brown butter snickerdoodles will keep in a tightly closed container for up to a week.