The Great Cookie Exchange of 2012, Part 1.

I WAS PRETTY EXCITED ABOUT doing my very first cookie swap. Having never baked for an exchange before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I figured I would make one recipe for the chocolate lovers, and one for the non-chocolate lovers (as everyone is one or the other). Both recipes came out pretty good, but I was up at 5 AM yesterday, exhausted by 8 PM and at that point still was not done baking. I finished my last two batches for tonight’s cookie swap at 9 AM today. Phew! What an experience. I will share with you the lessons that I learned, as well as another great piece of advice I got from my friend and fellow baker Brenda.

 NEVER volunteer to do two recipes unless you are SURE you will have the time and energy! As least for me, baking cookies never goes as planned. You might not end up with enough per batch, or the oven might decide to be touchy and burn some and not others, or they might crack when you take them off the cookie sheets. I probably made the mistake of waiting until the day before the exchange to start baking, and that is something else I will not do again next year.

 Look for recipes that yield a lot of cookies per batch. I needed ten dozen of each recipe I made, so that turned out to be about 4-5 batches of each recipe. I almost ran out of cocoa powder and peppermint extract; it might have been the closest call in the history of baking! That said, review your recipe before you get going on the baking. I was also unaware that I had to chill the dough for the blossom cookies until I started making it. Luckily, I was able to do a couple batches of the sandies while the chocolate dough was in the fridge, so that worked out nicely, but preparation really is the key to success with cookies. It is better to have too much ingredient than not enough.

Enjoy! ~Sam~

Toffee Walnut Sandies

Ingredients:
• 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
• ½ cup powdered sugar
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
• 2 cups all purpose flour
• 1 cup Hersheys Heath toffee pieces (with chocolate or without)
• 1 cup chopped walnuts
• Nonpareils, colored sugar, or sprinkles of your choice

Directions:
1) Heat oven to 350. Using the stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 30 – 40 seconds. Add the powdered sugar and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in vanilla and oil.
2) Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour using a hard rubber spatula; the dough will be very stiff. Stir in the walnuts and the toffee pieces. If necessary use your hands to combine everything evenly.
3) Line cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper. Shape dough into balls of uniform size, depending on how large you want the cookies to be (remember, the smaller you make them, the more each batch will yield). Roll each ball in sprinkles or whatever decorations you are using, and arrange about 1” apart on parchment lined cookie sheet(s). Bake for 10-15 minutes (the larger the balls, the longer the cooking time), or until bottoms of cookies are lightly golden brown. Transfer to wire rack(s) to cool. Cool completely before storing.

*Note: This dough can be frozen for up to 3 months.

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