Don’t blink folks, it’s almost Christmas!
Every year it feels like it just sneaks up on me. No sooner have I taken a breath after the Thanksgiving dishes are washed than Christmas is a week away and I still haven’t done any shopping. I am terrible about waiting until the last minute to buy gifts. Always have been.
Luckily cookies make a great gift!
Growing up my family always had trays of cookies around in the days leading up to Christmas, and having a variety of treats around always made things feel that much more festive and celebratory.
One way to get that big variety of cookies for the holidays, without having to spend days in the kitchen, is to throw a cookie swap. A traditional cookie swap is basically a party where everyone makes one big batch of one type of cookie, and then everyone gets together and exchanges them. To make it really fun you can serve snacks and cocktails and have a packing station with cute paper boxes and cookie tins and tags and ribbons and twine. All the cookies are divided evenly and then everyone goes home with a handful of each type.
I’ve always wanted to host a cookie swap but have never felt like enough of my friends would want to participate to make it worth my while.
The idea is simple. You register as a participating blogger, make a small donation, and you’re assigned three bloggers to send cookies to. Then three other bloggers are assigned to send cookies to you. It’s like secret santa through the mail, but with dozens of cookies! Last year over 600 bloggers participated and over $14,000 was raised for Cookies for Kid’s Cancer!
I wanted to make a recipe that felt really special to me, and had flavors that I’ve always associated with the holidays. I’ve always had a love of dark molassessy spice cookies at Christmas, and linzer cookies have always felt really fancy, so I decided to combine the two ideas into one perfect holiday cookie.
The gingerbread recipe I used has been my favorite for years, and makes a really delicious cookie all on it’s own. If you want to make gingerbread cut outs, this is a great recipe to try. The cookies are thick and chewy and dark and bursting with plenty of spice. There’s warm spices like cinnamon and cloves, but there’s also a nice hint of actual heat from ground black pepper and ginger.
To take things to a whole other level of fancy, I sandwiched the cookies with an orange white chocolate ganache filling. It’s just the right amount of creamy sweetness and bright citrus zest to perfectly compliment the chewy spiciness of the gingerbread. When choosing white chocolate it’s really important to read the ingredients and make sure it actually contains cocoa butter. Most white baking chocolate and white chocolate chips actually don’t, but are instead white chocolate flavored sweetened palm. My advice is to look for plain white chocolate bars in the candy aisle instead.
My cookies went to Club Narwhal, Love and Joy, and Pale Yellow. I hope they enjoyed them as much as I did, and as much as I enjoyed making them. There’s something about making cookies this time of year that is so much more fun than usual!
I received chocolate brown butter cookies from The Sassy Life, almond lace sandwich cookies from Love and Olive Oil, and peppermint sugar cookies from Greens & Chocolate. Everything was amazing, and Russell and I have been munching away merrily every since! What’s left of the cookies even made a guest appearance in my Mexican hot dark chocolate post!
Thank you so much to everyone who sent me cookies, and to everyone who participated this year! This was so much fun, and now I have a bunch of new favorite cookies for the holidays!
Spicy Gingerbread Linzer Cookies with Orange White Chocolate Ganache
Barely adapted from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
3/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons milk
white chocolate ganache filling (recipe below)
powdered sugar for dusting
Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade attachment. Pulse until well combined, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and pulse repeatedly until mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 30 seconds. With food processor running, add molasses and milk and process until dough is evenly moistened and forms soft mass, about 10 seconds.
If you want to double the recipe, you’ll need to make it in multiple batches.
Divide dough in half and roll into ¼ inch thickness between two large sheets of parchment paper. Place in refrigerator at least two hours (or overnight) or place on a flat surface in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes, until firm. The colder the dough is the easier it is to work with, so I recommend freezing.
Preheat the oven to 350F and adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Once cold and firm, peel the top sheet of parchment from the dough, flip the dough over onto the parchment, and peel off the other piece. You can cut into any shape you like, but if you want to make linzer cookies make sure you have one cutter that is 1/2 the size of the other (or smaller) to make your “window” in the top cookie. Cut out half the cookies in a solid “base” shape, and cut the remaining half of the cookies so that the smaller cutter forms a “window” hole in the center of the top cookie.
Place on prepared baking sheets spacing cookies 1 inch apart. Bake until centers are just set and dough barely retains imprint when touched very gently with fingertip, anywhere from 8 to 11 minutes depending on the size of your cookies. To bake evenly, rotate the baking sheets halfway through. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 5 to 10 minutes or until cool and firm enough to remove from the parchment without breaking. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Gather scraps into a ball and repeat rolling, cooling, cutting, and baking with remaining dough until all is used.
Orange White Chocolate Ganache Filling:
7 oz good quality white chocolate (from bars, not chips)
1/4 cup heavy cream
finely grated zest of one large orange
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
In the the bowl of a double boiler over a very gentle simmer, break up the white chocolate into small pieces and combine with the heavy cream, orange zest, and salt. Stir with a silicone spatula until the chocolate is completely melted with no solid chunks remaining. Take your time, and be sure that the water in the lower pan never goes above a gentle simmer.
Once the chocolate is melted, remove from heat, add the butter and gently stir until completely melted and combined.
Set aside to cool until firm but spreadable. This will take about an hour or two. I’d recommend that you don’t try to refrigerate it because if it gets too cold it’ll be too firm and you’ll need to melt it again to soften it.
With a small offset icing spatula, or a butter knife, spread a small amount (probably about 2 teaspoons) of the ganache filling on to each base cookie. Top each of the filling-covered base cookies with a top cookie and line the filled cookie sandwiches up in a single layer on a clean surface. Dust all the cookies with a light coating of powdered sugar.
If packing for transport or shipping, I’d recommend refrigerating for at least an hour to fully set the ganache.