Sunday, December 19, 2010

Review: Cookie Swap!

Summary: Cookie swaps are joyful. Cookie swaps are social. Cookie swaps are hip yet old-school, trendy yet traditional. Cookie swaps are creative, inexpensive, DIY, and a great way to entertain. Cookie swaps are baking meets Stitch ’n Bitch, with newspapers, magazines, and websites—including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Better Homes and Gardens, Real Simple, Family Fun, Southern Living,, and Ed Levine’s Serious Eats—all writing about the trend. Cookie Swap! captures all of this and more in an idea-packed, slightly sassy guide.

On the one hand, it’s all about the swap: when to swap (Christmas, of course, and other holidays, but also birthdays, bridal showers, graduation parties, PTA meetings, and fund-raisers—or just at your next book club meeting). And how to swap—with a planner, cookie swap math guide (so everyone gets the same number of cookies), ideas for invitations, decorations, containers, and then, when the crumbs have settled, how to make a keepsake.

On the other hand, it’s all about the cookies. Lauren Chattman is a former professional pastry chef and baking writer who’s put together a knockout collection of more than 60 delectable, easy-to-make, simple-to-sophisticated recipes covering every kind of cookie—from crowd-pleasing favorites like Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies and Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies to unexpected treats like Flaky Cardamom Palmiers and Green Tea Sandwich Cookies with Almond Cream. Finally, the book ends with a chapter of drink recipes—such as Iced Irish Coffee, Mini Strawberry Milk Shakes and Juicy Sangria—because not every cookie wants milk. -- Workman

Every year, I purchase some sort of book or magazine with cookie recipes. I love looking through cookie cookbooks for ideas (even though I usually make the good old standards!) This year, I found COOKIE SWAP! by Lauren Chattman and I thought it looked adorable. I had to have it!

COOKIE SWAP! is just so cute -- from the bright colors to the fun fonts. But I think the main attraction for me was the color photos. These pictures are adorable and seem to pop out on the pages! Of course, the cookies in this cookbook were way more beautiful than mine ever look, but I like having something to aspire to!

COOKIE SWAP! has a little something-something for everyone! There are instructions for hosting a cookie exchange, a crash course in cookie baking, as well as 71 delicious recipes. The book includes tradition cookies, but also some not-so-traditional savory ones. In addition, there are even drink recipes even alcoholic ones. (And if your cookie swap is anything like the one I attend, that chapter will come in handy!)

The cookbook is divided into the following chapters: Ready, Set Swap!: Cookie Exchange 101; Swapper's Delight: The Cookie Baker's Bag of Tricks; Drop Everything!: Delectable Drop Cookies; Raise the Bar: Superior Brownies, Blondies, and Bars; The Best of Both Worlds: Flaky Pastry Cookies; Refrigerator Madness: Insanely Good Icebox Cookies; Double Happiness: Luscious Sandwich Cookies; Play Dough: Shaped and Cut Cookies; Slam Dunk: Biscotti and Mandelbrot; Something for Everyone: Cookies for Special Diets; Snack Attack: Savory Cookies; Easy Peasy: Shortcut Cookies; and Beyond Milk: Perfect Swap Sips. 

As you can clearly see, there are all types of cookie recipes in this book. I found that there was a great mix of standards as well as new to me flavors. Some of the recipes that I found interesting include the Sugar-Free Monkey Cookies, the Blueberry-Almond Biscotti, the Black Pepper and Parmesan Animal Crackers, and the Green Tea Cookies with Almond Cream. I also really liked that the author included lots of helpful hints for each recipe including freezing directions if applicable.

When I first got COOKIE SWAP!, I immediately looked through it and marked quite a few recipes that I wanted to try. But when I actually sat down a few days ago to decide on a recipe to try for Dawn/She is Too Fond of Books' Virtual Cookie Swap, I decided to try one that sounded kind of strange to me -- Saltine Toffee Bark. It also happened to fall in the Easy Peasy section which didn't hurt either!

I actually thought this recipe was fun to make. And of course, it goes without saying, that it was extremely quick and easy. I found it to be very rich -- how could it not be with chocolate, toffee, nuts and coconut? A little definitely goes a long way! I wasn't too sure how the saltines would work, but I liked that there was a little salty flavor to offset all of the sweetness. I should probably add that I'm not a huge chocolate fan, so I did find that the chocolate was a little too intense for my taste; however, I think chocolate lovers would devour this stuff!

Saltine Toffee Bark  

Nonstick Cooking Spray
48 saltine crackers (1 sleeve)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 bag (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup unsweetened coconut
2/3 cup finely chopped pecans, almonds, or walnuts (I used walnuts)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed 15x10x1 inch baking sheet (jelly roll pan) with heavy-duty aluminum foil and lightly spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange the crackers on top of the foil in a single layer, so they are touching each other at the edges.

2. Combine the butter and sugar in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat to low and simmer until the mixture is thick and golden, 3 minutes. Pour the mixture over the crackers and spread it to the edges of the pan with a rubber spatula.

Saltine Toffee Bark will keep, layered between parchment paper, in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
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bermudaonion said...

That does sound easy! I am of a fan of chocolate, but not of coconut, but I could just leave the coconut off. I think this cookbook is a keeper!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm with Kathy - omit the coconut! :--) Using saltines sounds very original though.

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Oh this looks delicious and I do love chocolate and coconut, so it looks like this one was made in toffee heaven just for me :)

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

The 'toffee bark' is cooling on the counter as I type this - planning to bring it down to my friends at the bookshop (assuming my kids don't devour it!)

Lisa@ButteryBooks said...

My mom makes a recipe similar to this...addicting!

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

Too funny! I just made this last night after my attempts at baking real cookies failed! It's super easy..I hope the boys' teachers like it! I, too, ommitted the coconut.

Anonymous said...

Saltine toffee bark? Thank u 4 the recipe.