Monday, December 12, 2011

How to Make Friends and Eat Cookies (or, The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011)

I was thrilled this year to participate in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, hosted by Love and Olive Oil.  Madeline, one of my former students (well, I didn't actually have her in my class, but I did work with her as the NHS advisor, and at a school of 150, all of the students were my students) who goes to the University of Michigan and has her own food blog, Munching in the Mitten, brought my attention to it, and I'm so glad that she did, as it's been fun to bake cookies and send them off to fellow food lovers, not to mention the fun it was to receive cookies in the mail - an early Christmas gift!
I love Christmas.  Specifically, German Christmas.  I love the multiple trees; I love nutcrackers; I love finding the pickle ornament (even though there is debate as to whether or not this one's really truly a German tradition).  I love the food.  Mmmmm... food....
So when presented with what cookies to make, I immediately knew that I wanted to try my hand at Lebkuchen, a traditional German Christmas cookie that is akin to gingerbread.  Unlike gingerbread, however, I like to eat it.
Lebkuchen is spread out on a jelly roll pan, and then once it's out of the oven, cut into bars or other shapes.  My plan was to make one batch plain and another one covered with chopped almonds.  Then I'd cut them into diamonds.
I baked.  I cooled.  I cut.
And then I realized that the bottoms of the cookies were burned.  Every. Square. Inch.
(Dear Santa, I think I might need some new jelly roll pans and cookie sheets.  Love, Allison)
So those three food bloggers to whom I was assigned did not receive any Lebkuchen this year.
After I cleaned up the mess and dried my tears, I did a quick inventory of what I had, checked my favorited recipes, and BAM!  Maple-walnut cookies.

So, after The Husband valiantly came home with a new bottle of maple syrup (I could mainline that stuff if given the chance, so we run out fairly regularly), I made these lovely adaptations of the traditional sugar cookie to send out.

Maple-Walnut Cookies
(adapted from The Cooking Photographer)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 cup maple syrup - the real kind people; let's not pretend that Mrs. Butterworth's® is actually maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (preferably homemade)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or AP flour, or a combo of the two)
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts (or nuts of your choosing... or none if you're like that)
  • granulated sugar (for rolling)

Preheat the oven to 350°.
Cream together the butter and brown sugar.  Once smooth, add the egg, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Mix until well blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add flour mixture, slowly, to the syrup mixture until completely incorporated.  Stir in the walnuts.
Shape the dough into one-inch balls; roll in the sugar.  Place on cookie sheets that have been covered with parchment paper and press down slightly.

Bake 8-10 minutes.  Take out when still slightly soft.  Cool completely on cooling racks.
(The original recipe, linked above, states that this yields approximately 60 cookies.  I got 42 out of mine, but I may have been a little generous with the size of my cookies)

Now, since I had been sick, I didn't get these babies mailed out until Wednesday, so I extend my apologies to addicted to recipes, Thursday Night Baking, and KarmaCucina for any delay in baked good deliciousness.  Hopefully the intrepid employees of the United States Postal Service were up to the task of getting them to you by Friday, like they promised.
I'd also like to thank Kathy at Panini Happy for the absolutely divine chocolate jam thumbprint cookies (that I may or may not have eaten in one sitting) and The Lives and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch for the chocolate drizzled shortbread bites with the secret mint chocolate inside (which were my lunch the other day, as I realized there was no way I could eat just one).  Your cookies were amazing, ladies, and I can't wait to bookmark the recipes so I can try my hand at them at some point.  My waistline, however, is pretty upset with the whole thing and will be pleasantly surprised once I start my half marathon training again.
If you're interested in getting in on the international fun and helping send over 22,000 cookies worldwide next year, make sure to sign up now in order to receive word about the 2012 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  Who knows - maybe by then I'll be able to make Lebkuchen without burning it!

December 13 Editor's Note - OK, so apparently, Madeline was NOT in NHS.  No, I am not mixing her up with another student.  I am just clearly confused and just want to take ownership of her as well as my other former students. :)


  1. Totally flattered, but I should disclose that I was not in NHS. Just that wannabe NHS member who loved your shoes. ;)

  2. Are you sure? I could swear you did NHS! You didn't plan the blood drive with us? Now I'm confused!

  3. This looks great! I wish I were doing a cookie swap! I wonder what the GF world is up to!

  4. I know that they did have many people who had GF or veg requirements - they paired them up with other GF/veg folks so that any dietary concerns were met! We were asked about allergies and whatnot, so it was a really well organized effort! :)

  5. Mrs. P--Are you confusing the two of us? I mean... we aren't the twins, but we did spend a lot of time together in HS.

  6. Oh funny, I read The Lives and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch. The internet is a small small place :)
    I'm glad we both went through some drama getting our cookies out. #solidarity

  7. Good day Allison. I am also very happy and thrilled being able to discover your wonderful blog and awesome cookie world. Really I am excited reading the whole recipe details. What a lovely looking the Maple-walnut cookies! Love your great job and love the approach you represent here. And of course huge thanks for mentioning the ingredients of the cookies.