Pictured above (starting top left and going clockwise): Chocolate Chip Cookies with Hershey Kisses, Decorated Sugar Cookies, Frosted Orange Cookies, Magic Cookie Bars, Orange-Cranberry Walnut Cookies, Peanut Butter Crisscrosses, Praline Cookies, Pumpkin Cookies
I had the good fortune of attending my first cookie exchange party this weekend. Good company, Christmas music, red velvet cake, hot chocolate and a table overflowing with cookies were the order of the day. Most of the ladies I knew, but I got a chance to meet a few new ones as well! Each attendee brought in 5 dozen of their favorite cookie, and we left with approximately 5 dozen assorted cookies--there were 9 varieties to choose from, so we all got about 6 of each type to take home. You'll see my "take" pictured in the collage above.
Unfortunately, most of us don't follow directions very well (myself included!) and didn't e-mail the host our recipes before the party, so our souvenir recipe booklets won't be assembled until later. It was great fun, and hopefully our gracious host will plan another exchange next year. This could be the start of a wonderful tradition!
I wanted to make peppermint polar bears (because I liked the name!), but decided against the peppermint flavoring because I wasn't sure how well it would be received. I'm a big fan of a peppermint cookie, but of the assortment of sugar cookies I brought into work earlier this month the peppermint ones were the last to go (I even had plenty of them to take back home). One problem: I didn't have a polar bear cookie cutter. I was going to use my regular teddy bear cutter, until an online search brought me to the Cookie Creations blog. This creative lady trimmed down a hippo-shaped cookie to produce the polar bears! Genius! Luckily I had the hippo cutter (from my Wilton® Animal Pals set) so I followed suit:
And here I go again with the cookie cosmetic surgery...
Ta da! She's a beaut!
The best part about decorating cookies with faces is seeing the different personalities that emerge:
A word about my recipe: it's a big one. I combined a double batch of the White Chocolate Sugar Cookies from Karen's Cookies with a half batch of the No Fail Sugar Cookie recipe to have enough dough to cut out 5 dozen shapes. Sure, I could've rolled the dough thinner or opted for a smaller shape...but I was dead-set on making these polar bears! If you don't need so many cookies, halve the recipe and use 1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk. I'm not sure how well the unrolled dough will take to freezing (due to the white chocolate getting super hard), so if you're making ahead it might be best to cut out your shapes and freeze those instead.
White Chocolate Polar Bears (5 dozen large 2.5 x 4.5"cookies)
7½ cups all-purpose flour
3½ tsp. baking powder
2 cups butter, softened
1⅔ cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
12 oz. white chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
2 Tbl. vanilla extract
1½ tsp. Princess Cake & Cookie Emulsion (or desired flavoring)
- Whisk flour and baking powder in a very large bowl to evenly distribute; set aside.
- Cream butter, sugar and salt in large mixer bowl until light and fluffy. With mixer running, add eggs one at a time, allowing egg to incorporate before adding the next one. Beat in melted & cooled white chocolate at medium-low speed until fully combined. Blend in vanilla extract and Princess Cake & Cookie Emulsion
- Pour creamed mixture over flour mixture and stir together by hand with a sturdy rubber spatula and/or wooden spoon. I find that it's too messy (flour explosion, anyone?) to let the mixer combine these ingredients, but if you're only making a half batch you can add the flour mixture to the creamed ingredients and let the mixer do the work.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Divide dough into 4 portions. Roll each portion ¼" thick between two sheets of waxed or parchment paper and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. (Don't wait too long or the white chocolate will set up too much and make your dough too stiff to work with)
- Cut out your favorite shapes with cookie cutters. Place 2" apart on cookie sheets and bake at 350°F for 8-15 minutes, or until edges are very light golden brown. Time given varies widely based on the size of your cookie and how crisp you like them. (I baked these rather large bears for 12 minutes) Let cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheet before removing to wire racks to cool completely before glazing.
Cookie Glaze (enough to glaze 3-4 dozen cookies)
1 pound confectioner's sugar, sifted if lumpy
5 Tbl. milk or water*
5 Tbl. corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla or other flavoring (use clear if you need a pure white glaze)
Mix sugar and milk together first (will be very thick). Add corn syrup and stir in until smooth. Blend in vanilla. Divide into separate bowls and add food color if using. Cover bowls tightly with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Bubbles will form and rise to the surface; slowly and gently stir them out before using.
* I normally use milk, but used water this time. Water gives a more translucent finish; milk produces a whiter glaze. My polar bears are off-white, but that's okay!
There are a few ways to glaze your cookies:
- Spread it on with an offset spatula
- Dip surface of cookie in glaze, allowing excess to drip off
- Cover cookie with glaze using a plastic squeeze bottle
Experiment and see which method you prefer. I used to be a "spread it" girl but have recently switched to "dip it." The only drawback to dipping is you can only use this method if you want a single color background. Once cookies are glazed, allow to dry for at least 8 hours before stacking/packaging (at least for me in Louisiana's humidity). If you plan on adding piped decorations, let the glaze set for at least 1 hour before decorating. Just be careful about denting the cookies while adding eyes, noses, etc. because the surface may seem dry, but the glaze might still be soft underneath.
TIP: Pick out your ugliest glazed cookie and keep that one to the side to touch-test for dryness.