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Dec 03, 2009  |  Vote 0    0

Get a head start on Christmas baking with cookie exchange

Etobicoke Guardian

For many families Christmas is a time for baking wonderful cookies, which only come out at Christmas time such as shortbread, gingerbread and candy cane ones. Yum.

For those who already have a to-do list as long as Santa's, Christmas may already be a stressful time.

To help ease the baking load and to have fun in the process why not host a cookie exchange?

With a cookie exchange, you can get together with colleagues, family or friends to either swap cookies or bake batches of treats together. It is a delicious way to spread some holiday cheer and stock your pantry for one of the busiest time of year.

Here's how a cookie exchange works:

* Invite a group of friends, family or colleagues to get together for an exchange.

* You can have them bring their baked goodies when you get together or you can all bake together as a group.

* Make the organization process as easy as possible by inviting everyone to participate via e-vites.

* Make sure they RSVP so you know how many treats to make.

* Have each guest pre-bake a dozen cookies for each person attending to take home with them plus an extra dozen to taste. Or, if you are baking together, have them bring enough ingredients for their yummy treats.

* Ensure there is no duplication of recipes to guarantee the best variety.

* Have your guests bring large containers for their cookies.

Here are some fun new ideas to think about in your holiday baking courtesy of www.kraftcanada.com/holiday

Twists on Tradition:

Try adding dried cranberries or semi-sweet chocolate to your shortbread for a delicious change.

Mix it Up:

Try mixing up your shortbread this year with black (chocolate) and white shortbread wedges.

Cultural Celebrations:

Canada is known for its many cultures and baked goodies from around the world can be enjoyed during this special time of year. Rugelah, a traditional Jewish cookie filled with nuts and jam, is a simple and delicious way of adding some worldly treats into your cookie box this year.

Cookies as Art:

Colourful stained glass cookies do double duty as dessert and holiday decorations. Use a drinking straw to poke a hole in the top of each cookie before putting them in the oven. After they cool, decorate as desired and thread a piece of ribbon through each cookie. Hang them on your Christmas tree for a creative touch. You can also do this with gingerbread and any other cookie.

New Festive Colours:

Red and green aren't the only colours at Christmas. Try blue or yellow icing on your gingerbread or shortbread. Sprinkle icing sugar on to your brownies to make them look like they've been dusted in snow or colour your meringues to add some holiday sizzle.

The following are some tips to make baking easier:

Easy Clean-Up

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. The cookies won't stick to the paper and you can use the baking sheet several times. Once you are finished baking the cookies, simply remove the paper. There is no need to wash the baking sheets.

Uniform Baking

Make cookies the same size and space them evenly on the baking sheet so they bake uniformly and don't burn. Use a small scoop or measuring spoon to evenly measure out cookie batter.

Easy Rolling

Roll cookie dough out between sheets of plastic wrap. This way the dough won't stick to the counter or the rolling pin.

Stained glass cookies

Preparation time: 20 minutes plus refrigerating

Bake: eight minutes

1/2 cup each softened butter, sugar and honey

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

3 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp each baking soda and salt

5 rolls Life Savers candies, any colour

Beat butter, sugar, honey, egg and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; mix well. Cover. Refrigerate for at least two hours.

Heat oven to 350 F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with 2 1/2- to 3-inch floured cookie cutters.

Trace smaller version of cookie shape on dough, leaving 1/2- to 3/4-inch border of dough. Cut out and remove dough from centre of each shape; set aside. Place cutouts on foil-lined baking sheets. Shape removed dough centres into ball; re-roll to make additional cutouts.

Crush each colour of candy separately between two layers of wax paper with mallet; spoon into centres of cutouts.

Bake six to eight minutes or until candy is melted and cookies are lightly browned. Cool cookies completely before removing from foil.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies or 42 servings, 1 cookie each.

Tip:

Do not use mint-flavoured Life Savers for these cookies. They do not melt the same way the candy flavours do.

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