Okay, it's official. I'm about to be late to my own party. As I sit here typing this by the light of my Christmas tree, the official phrase for the day is "All's well that ends well." My day got off to a pretty good start. I did lots of shopping today. It was supposed to be Christmas shopping, but the only one I bought stuff for was me. =) I did end up getting a bit of shopping done for the girls after I left the outlet malls. But I was later than expected getting to pick up Gillian and then Brianna, so we got home later than I'd hoped. My KAF order was waiting for me, though, so that was nice. My original plan for dinner was shot (due to the lateness of the hour), but I managed to feed the girls and finally got them to bed. I wasn't in the best mood at that point, but we've been trying to get the Christmas tree decorated, so I started trying to put the lights on it. That was when things really went downhill...
When I was at Target the other day, I picked up a couple extra strings of lights. I hadn't tested ours yet, but it seems like every year we lose one or two. So to be safe, I bought two. Sure enough, when Jamie tested the lights last night (we started pulling stuff out of the closet then, but didn't get very far), two strings were totally dead. The other four seemed okay. The only problem was that when I looked more closely at the ones I bought, I realized that I'd bought one with white wire instead of green. Oops. No problem, I just figured I'd exchange it today. I stopped at one store and returned the incorrect one, but discovered that they were out of the one I wanted. So after picking up Gillian, we stopped at the store here in Georgetown, and found what we needed--I even bought two just to be safe.
Fast forward to when J and I were putting the lights on the tree. After we put the first couple strings on, J plugged them in. The string on the very top of the tree was dead. That was supposed to be one of the good ones. We checked the others, and another one that had been fine the night before was also only half lit. Great. But we had three new strings, so we could probably manage. Except that when I took one of them out of the box, only half of it worked. Grrr. I got upset, and stewed about what to do for a bit. Then I thought to look at Target's website. This time of year, they're open until midnight! So yes, off to the store I went. I returned the faulty lights and bought two new strings. Both worked when I checked them after I got home. They're all finally on the tree. Ornaments will have to wait until tomorrow, though.
Okay, so now that I've gotten that out of my system, we can talk about cookies. =) I mentioned in my intro for the Virtual Cookie Exchange that I have lots of recipes that I wanted to make, from a number of sources. When I first looked through the Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies magazine, one of the first cookies to catch my eye was some pretty Ciambelle, or wreath cookies, flavored with lemon. I immediately thought of my friend Kayte, who loves lemon as much as I do. It's nice to have a non-chocolate choice, too. I found some nice-looking Meyer lemons as Central Market last week, and thought it would be interesting to use them for this recipe. The dough is easy to mix up, and the shaping isn't bad either. It reminded me of making bagels. Don't worry if the ends of the dough don't seem to completely stick together when you're forming the rings; they will bake up just fine. And it's fun dipping the finished cookies in the lemon icing and topping them with sprinkles.
I couldn't help sharing a second cookie as well. This one is for those chocoholics out there. This time last year, I made Alice Medrich's Cocoa Wafer Cookies. These cookies are very chocolatey--the cocoa really shines through, in part because there are no eggs in the recipe. When I got her new book, I discovered that she has a cookie that uses that same delicious dough, but packs it full of chocolate chips, dried cherries and pecans. I came up with my own variation that I thought was better for the holidays. I kept the chocolate chips, but replaced the other mix-ins with something new I picked up recently--Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips. They have bits of crushed candy canes in them. This cookie seemed like a great place to try them out. The original recipe calls for making the dough in the food processor, but I hate washing mine, so I made my dough in my stand mixer. You can find the full recipe at the end of this post.
The verdicts? I didn't like the lemon cookies quite as much as I hoped to. I wonder if that was due to the Meyer lemon, though. I would like to try the recipe again with regular lemons. They were still tasty, though. (I love cookies with icing). The chocolate ones? They are fabulous! I love them with the peppermint chips, but I actually tried them a couple other ways as well. The first was chocolate chips and dried cranberries, and the second was a combination of chocolate and peanut butter chips. And I'm sure I'll think of more yummy ideas. While both of these cookies have a holiday feel to them, if you don't get to them until after the holidays, they'll still be good.
If you'd like to try the Lemon Wreaths, you can find the recipe here on the Martha Stewart website.
Peppermint Chocolate Chunk Cookies
(adapted from Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies)
190g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
70g (3/4 cup) natural cocoa powder (I used Hershey's)
225g (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp fine salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
200g (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, slightly softened
42g (3 tablespoons) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
170g (1 cup) chocolate chips (I used Guittard Extra Dark 63%)
170g (1 cup) mint chips (I used Andes Peppermint Crunch baking chips)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
Measure the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and baking soda into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment until the dry ingredients are well combined. Cut the butter into about 12 pieces and add them to the mixer. (It's a good idea to put a towel over the mixer or use a pouring shield if you have one before you start the mixer again.) Mix on low speed until the butter is broken into smaller pieces. Mix the milk and vanilla together. With the mixer running, gradually add the liquid and mix until the dough starts to come together in clumps.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the chocolate and peppermint chips. Quickly knead the dough until the chips are incorporated and the dough comes together. Scoop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets (I use my #40 disher). Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until they look dry but are still soft to the touch (not too squishy, though). Let the cookies cool on the pan for about 5 minutes, then move to a rack and cool completely. I bake the cookies one sheet at a time on a rack in the middle of the oven. My yield is about 42 cookies.
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