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"Queen" of cookie exchanges shares tips and favorite recipes

Perhaps cookie exchanges have been going on since women began making cookies. However, the formalization of this home-based event has been more recent.

Probably Robin Olson has done more through her Web sites http://www.robinsweb.com and http://www.cookie-exchange.com than anyone I know.

Again, thanks go to my sister, Carol, for finding Robin. Through a personal exchange of e-mails, they’ve become quite friendly. Thus I have also become a fan of Robin and her amazing creativity and energy.

Robin, you see, was one of those, too, who saw and understood the Internet from the get-go. She said she even once had the opportunity to sit next to Steve Case, the original CEO of AOL, and share with him that she was an original subscriber “way back when.”

Today Robin can lay claim to fame in that she was the original online cookie swap. With this has come all kinds of media attention, TV and the like. Still Robin maintains that it was all timing… and I would add belief and hard work… the latter two ingredients being those for success in almost any endeavor.

As you will read on her Web site, Robin and her friend Holly Murphy were inspired to do a cookie exchange from a cookie cookbook, “The Wellesley Cookie Exchange.” They loved the idea of sampling dozens of cookies yet not having to bake them all.

While her guidelines include planning at least a month in advance, I believe there is still time this year for your first cookie exchange. It might be smaller than your next one. Yet, you’ll have fun, start something new… and maybe sample some cookies that you’d never have time, curiosity or courage to try. What is easy for one cook may not be so easy for another.

To help you along, Robin shared four of her favorite and different cookie recipes.

My hope is that as you exchange cookies you also share the reason for the season: the birth of Christ and His amazing love for all.

Supumoni Slices are a clever way to make 7 dozen cookies with a minimum of work… a delicious and different choice for a cookie exchange party.

Spumoni Slices

(Italian Christmas Cookies)

1/2 C. shortening

1/2 C. butter

3 C. all-purpose flour

1 C. sugar

1 egg

2 Tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 square (1 ounce) semi-sweet

chocolate, melted and cooled

4 tsp. milk

1/3 C. chopped candied red

cherries

1/2 C. chopped pistachio nuts

1/4 tsp. rum flavoring

Few drops green food coloring

Powdered sugar icing or melted

chocolate (optional)

Beat shortening and margarine or butter about 30 seconds or ’til softened. Add half the flour, the sugar, egg, 2 Tbsp. milk, vanilla, baking soda and 1/4 t. salt. Beat ’til thoroughly combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Stir in remaining flour.

Divide dough into thirds. Into one portion, mix chocolate and 2 t. of the milk. Into second portion, mix cherries. Into third portion mix nuts, remaining milk, flavoring, and enough green food coloring to tint dough.

To shape dough, line bottom and sides of an 8 x 4 x 2 inch loaf pan with clear plastic wrap. Press pink dough evenly in pan. Top with chocolate dough. Top with green dough. Cover and chill for 4 to 24 hours.

Invert pan; remove dough. Remove plastic wrap. Cut dough into 1/4 inch thick slices; cut each slice crosswise into three pieces. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in 375°F oven 8 to 10 minutes or ’til edges are lightly browned. Remove and cool on rack. Drizzle with powdered sugar icing tinted green or with melted chocolate.

Makes about 84 cookies

Every cookie exchange needs a chocolate version… here is one redolent with cranberries and nuts. These “age” well, according to Robin… if they last that long.

Chocolate Comfort Cookies

1 cup chopped hazelnuts or

pecans

2 cups semisweet chocolate

morsels

½ cup sun-dried cranberries

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter,

softened

1 cup sugar

1 (3-oz.) package cream cheese,

softened

1 egg

1½ teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons milk

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate,

melted

2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-

purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup cocoa

1 cup marshmallow cream

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Spread nuts on ungreased cookie sheet and roast for 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets. In a large bowl combine chocolate morsels, cranberries and cooled nuts, set aside. In another large bowl beat together butter, sugar, cream cheese and egg until very creamy and smooth. Beat in vanilla, milk and melted chocolate. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa; add to butter mixture. Blend in marshmallow cream, stirring until thoroughly combined. Add chocolate morsels, cranberries and nuts. Stir until well mixed. Batter will be very thick.

Use a large tablespoon or a little less than ¼ cup to measure out the batter, place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet, depending on size, no more than 8 cookies per sheet. Bake 13-17 minutes until puffed and cooked through. Cool on sheet 1 minute, transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies depending on size. These get better the longer they stay around, provided they make it past the first day!

Almonds are a favorite Scandinavian treat. Here a homemade almond filling graces an oatmeal cookie for flavor and eye appeal.

Swedish Oatmeal Cookies

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1/2 cup chopped blanched

almonds

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown

sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats,

uncooked

Combine 1/3 cup sugar, butter and corn syrup in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; stir in almonds and almond extract. Set mixture aside.

Cream shortening; gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and brown sugar, beating well at medium speed of an electric mixer. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Combine flour, soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture, beating well. Stir in oats.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 deg. for 8 minutes. Remove from oven; place 1/2 teaspoon almond mixture in center of each cookie.

Return to oven and bake an additional 6 to 8 minutes or until browned. Cool slightly on cookie sheets; remove cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Fruitcake lovers… here’s your cookie. Store airtight and they’ll be great for days and days of nibbles with afternoon tea.

Fruitcake Cookies

1 c. brown sugar

2 sticks butter

3 eggs

1 tsp. soda

2 tablespoons vanilla

6 c. pecans, chopped

3 c. sifted cake flour

1 lb. candied pineapple

1 lb. candied cherries

1 lb. pitted chopped dates

12 oz. white raisins

Add first three ingredients then add a little bit at a time. Drop by teaspoon on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool before storing.

C&H Sugar has a cookie swap Web site… and a gift for you.

The company suggests that as you host your cookie swap you can half raise funds for Share Our Strenth’s Great American Bake Sale, a national campaign that mobilizes Americans to end childhood hunger by holding bake sales in their communities.

For details visit http://www.chsugar.com/cookieswap. The company will send you a special gift in return for giving some joy to children in need of nutritious meals.

 

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