Friday, December 21, 2007

Cookie Elf 2007, Urban Edition ...

Doreen once referred to where I live as Calico Corner.

Nick once referred to my abode as a Laura Ashley house.

In my home's defense, allow me to say that there is no calico to be seen, and while I do like the occasional floral print, every inch of my house isn't dripping with it like some Shabby Chic experiment gone horribly awry.

But yes, I do tend toward cottage when it comes to my decorating, "cottage" as in an eclectic mix of stuff all peacefully coexisting in one room. If we stood in my living room, I could point to each thing and tell you its story about how I came to own it and I wouldn't mention the same place more than twice. Well, maybe three times. (I just realized two of my lamps are from Marshall Field's.) I don't walk into a furniture store and buy a "living room set." Nope. My loveseat is from Jennifer Convertibles. My chair is from Marshall Field's. My rug is from Pier 1. My coffee table (which is really a steamer trunk) is from an antique store in some Indiana town, the name of which I can't remember, but Gemma and I managed to get it into the back seat of her rental coupe. It was a very little red car. Getting that trunk in there was a feat of genius.

But I digress. The point is, a long time ago, back before I had a place of my own, back when I thought about what it would be like to live in the city, I had visions of black leather furniture and chrome and glass. Apparently, I thought I was a bachelor. But when I moved into my first place and started buying pieces, I never looked at anything modern. Then again, my studio wasn't a white box in a high-rise. It was in an older building with beautiful wood doors and moldings and modern furniture just would have looked weird.

So I have the taste I have, and I like it. It's comfortable. It's mine. And I'm sure I've been heavily influenced by my mom's decorating sense, too. My parents' house isn't matchy-matchy either.

What does all of this have to do with cookies, you ask?

Just this. Today is the Day 1 of playing Cookie Elf, and this year's packaging for the cookies is decidedly sleek. I found very cool matte silver bags at Hallmark with a simple grosgrain ribbon handle (which can be taken out of the way – for filling the bag – by putting the toggled end of the ribbon through a grommet in the bag). A bit of tissue paper went in the bottom of each bag, just for a bit of cushion, but the cellophane bundles (tied with pewter-colored ribbon to match the bags) are the only thing peeking out of the top. No tissue in sight. And the notes are affixed to the bags with binder clips because I love binder clips.

All of which makes for a decidedly urbane presentation of my tasty treats.

No calico in sight.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Double Chocolate Chunk Peanut ...

I'm back into holiday baking, full swing.

Every year, I try to add at least one new cookie to the assortments that I give away to my family and friends.

This year, in honor of my friend L.A. Dave, I added a chocolate peanut cookie to the mix. He may not like walnuts in brownies, but he's all about peanuts in cookies.

Of course, before I give away a new cookie, I need to try it and see if it's worthy. Not all are. I tried a recipe for a white chocolate-cranberry cookie a few days ago that was 1) printed incorrectly (the recipe needs an extra stick of butter), and 2) yields cookies that are far too sweet. I still have half of the bad dough in the fridge. I thought I might try incorporating more butter and trying again, but I don't like the cookie anyway, so why throw more ingredients after bad?

But these chocolate peanut cookies are fab. The addition of cinnamon adds a complexity to the cookie that could have ended up a bit too much like a Mr. Goodbar.

The recipe as written makes a blonde cookie. I followed the instructions to create Double Chocolate Chunk Peanut Cookies because more chocolate is almost always better.

Chocolate Chunk Peanut Cookies
(From Southern Living; you can find the recipe online here)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
1 (11.5-ounce) bag chocolate chunks

Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; add chunky peanut butter and sugars, beating well. Add eggs, beating until blended. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients. Add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in peanuts and chocolate chunks. Shape dough into 2-inch balls (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie). Flatten slightly, and place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on pan 1 to 2 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Double Chocolate Chunk Peanut Cookies: Reduce flour to 2 cups; add 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, sifted. Proceed as directed.