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Holiday Cookie Exchange- Year 3

Every holiday season for the past few years I have hosted a Cookie Exchange. The last two years the party was especially unique because we lived in Korea and having an oven was pretty much unheard of so baking was a huge challenge. So this year Christmas baking was a breeze! I invited a few friends and family members over for an afternoon of lunch, music, and baked goods. The thing I love about cookie exchanges is that you get to sample so many treats and add new recipes to your collection.

I always am faced with the dilemma of what cookie recipe to share because if I had my way I would find an excuse to bake about 10 different kinds myself, but I exerted some self control and only baked two of my favourite cookies. The two recipes I chose bring me back to my childhood and memories of preparing for the holidays with my mother and my sisters. I guess I shouldn't leave out my dad either he made a wonderful taste tester. They both come from Betty Crocker’s Christmas Cookbook published centuries ago!

The Chocolate Peppermint Pretzels are a twist on a chocolate shortbread cookie drizzled with semi sweet chocolate and sprinkled with crushed candy canes which make them absolute heaven. My mother used to take hours to roll this dough out and shape each individual pretzel. I started to roll out a few and for some reason the dough was crumblier than I remember. I was not blessed with the same amount of patience as her so I resorted to rolling the whole recipe of dough out and used a star cookie cutter to shape each cookie. They still turned out lovely and absolutely delicious!

Now the Cranberry Ginger Pinwheels are my most favourite jam cookie. The recipe is so easy to make and rolls out beautifully. Now these are also time consuming but they are worth every second. The dough gets chilled so that it is nice and easy to roll out. Once you roll out the dough, you must cut the dough into 2 1/2 inch squares and cut a diagonal in each corner of the square. A blob of jam goes in the centre of each square and then you fold every other corner to the centre to resemble a pinwheel. Now in the past I have just used raspberry jam from the store, but since I have become very keen to making chutneys and fruit sauces this year, I made up a concoction of my own to go in the centre. Plain Jane I am not, therefore I like to create what I call “Gourmet Simple.” I took some of the everlasting supply of cranberries from my freezer and boiled them with some sugar and water for a few minutes. Then I added some orange marmalade and fresh ginger. I let it set up into a jelly like consistency and it was good to go for the centre of the cookie. I dusted the finished cookies with some powdered sugar and voila perfection!

There were massive amounts of cookies to share this year and everyone brought something different which was wonderful. Some of them included Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies, Gingerbread, Chocolate Fudge, Shortbread with Chocolate Chunks, Peanut Butter Balls, and Chocolate Butterscotch Candies. My freezer is full of goodies that will last throughout the holiday season. Wait who am I kidding they will be gone in no time!

Chocolate Peppermint Pretzels
From: Betty Crocker's Christmas Cookbook
Makes: 5-6 dozen

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp salt
Chocolate Glaze
1/4 cup crushed candy canes

1. Mix powdered sugar, butter, shortening, egg, and vanilla.  Stir in flour, cocoa, and salt.
2. Knead level tablespoonfuls of dough with hands until the right consistency for molding. Roll into pencil like rope, about 9 inches long. Twist into pretzel shape and put on ungreased cookie sheet.
3. Bake at 375 F for about 9 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before removing from tray.
4. Drizzle with chocolate glaze and sprinkle with crushed candy canes.

Chocolate Glaze: Melt 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate and 2 TBS of butter over low heat until melted.  remove from the heat and add 2 cups of powdered sugar.  Add 3-4 TBS of water until smooth and no lumps remain. 

Cranberry Ginger Pinwheels
Recipe From: Betty Crocker's Christmas Cookbook
Makes: 5-6 dozen

 Ingredients for Dough:
 1 cup sugar
 3/4 cup shortening (part butter, part shortening- I used 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup shortening)
 2 eggs
 1 tsp vanilla
 2 1/2 cups all- purpose flour
 1 tsp baking powder
 1 tsp salt
 about 1/2 cup Cranberry Ginger Marmalade (see below)

Ingredients for Filling:
1/2 cup cranberries
1/4 cup sugar ( or less for a more tart filling)
1 TBS water
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or 1/4 tsp powdered ginger

Directions for Cookies:
1. Mix sugar, shortening, eggs, and vanilla.  Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Divide into thirds. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
2. Roll out about 1/3 of the dough at a time into a large square on a lightly floured surface.  Cut into 3x3 squares, smaller or larger depending on your preference. Cut squares diagnolly from each corner to almost the center.  Place 1/2 teaspoon of cranberry mixture into the center.  Fold every other corner to the center to make a pinwheel.
3. Heat oven to 400 F. Bake until golden brown, about 6 minutes.

Directions for Filling:
1. Bring the berries, sugar, and water to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 5-6 minutes. or until slightly thickened.  Stir on ginger and marmalade.  Set aside to cool.