Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Drenda's Cookie Swap

Tex here, with my sweet friend, Drenda. Every year for the last decade or so, she has hosted a cookie swap and yours truly has had the privilege of being invited to every one.

The group of 15-20 ladies hasn't changed much over the years. For some of us, it's the only time we see each other, so there's lots of catching up to do. And nothing at Drenda's house is ever boring.

First, her decorations are to-die-for. Drenda's house is just a normal house. Small, but oh so cozy. And the things this woman does with it are amazing. We all spend the first twenty minutes just roaming to see how she's decorated everything. I mean, even her kitchen sink gets special treatment. She just has a knack for merchandising.

Aside from the cookies and decorations, we have an ornament exchange. Honestly, I think this is a higher priority than the cookies. Everyone takes choosing their ornament very seriously, hoping to bring (and receive) that one ornament that everyone is fighting over. And some of these ladies can be cut-throat when it comes to stealing.

As for the cookies, this year I brought Mexican Chipotle Chocolate Bites. Once again, I find myself with the need to explain that THESE ARE NOT HOT. Actually, they're kind of interesting. When you bite into them, all you taste is yummy cookie. Then, a couple minutes later, you get this nice warm feeling in the back of your throat. Not one person who tried them commented on them being hot. However, they did like that warm feeling afterward.

So here we go. You're gonna need:

Cookie Ingredients:
  • ¼ cup butter, softened                                               
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened                                
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder                                        
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon                                                 
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ - 1 teaspoon chipotle powder                                  
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla                                                    
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup chopped Mexican-style sweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate (I used semisweet)
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream                        
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup Mexican-style sweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup chocolate, the cream, and butter.

Cook over low heat, stirring until chocolate is melted.

Transfer to a medium bowl. Cover and chill about 1 hour or until nearly firm.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine butter, shortening, and cream cheese. Beat with an electric mixer, medium to high speed, for 30 seconds.

Add brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chipotle powder. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally.
Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in flour until combined. Using a wooden spoon, fold in ½ cup chopped chocolate.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Flatten balls until ¼ inch thick. If desired, sprinkle with additional chipotle powder (I did not do this).

Bake 6-8 minutes or until edges are set. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack and cool completely.

For your filling, beat nearly firm chocolate with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. DO NOT OVERBEAT. I learned the hard way that when the color goes from a dark brown to a light mocha color, you’re done.

Spread filling on bottoms of half of the cooled cookies. Top with remaining cookies, bottom sides down. Don't they look pretty? They're all ready for Drenda's 
Storage:  Layer filled cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Of course, they were thrilled to be invited to a party and meet so many new friends.
Yes, I sampled most--okay, all--of the offerings. Then Drenda gave each of us a tray to fill and take home. That's my guys' favorite part.
How's your holiday baking coming? Have you started? Are you dreading?
Come on, tell us what's up at your house.


  1. More new words of to google chipotle

    I have made some sugar cookies, gingerbread and today Yoyo's (a forcer cookie which is basically a shortbread recipe). still need to do the chocolate ones and the butterscotch ones and the elusive fudge! Now I have the cooking chocolate buds I can make it if I dont eat them.

    its going to be hot again tomorrow around high 90's so maybe not cooking. may give the wrist a rest.

    1. Jenny, we are here to expand your horizons:-)

      Sounds like your summers are about like ours here in Texas. And, come to think of it, we've had our share of warm Christmases too.

      Question.... What's a forcer cookie?

    2. Is a forcer cookie what we'd call a cookie-press cookie? You put the dough through a tube and press or force out the dough in shapes?

    3. Yes mindy what Jan said. We had an old type forcer which was an attachment added to a mincer and you turn the handle and out comes a strip of biscuits/cookies and as a kid I would turn it and mum would cut them of course if you turn it a little more after she cut a strip someone has to eat that tiny bit on the end right?

      Also we has a SAWA which is what you call a cookie press this one your pump and it has lots of cutters. its also got an attachment to do icing/frosting but haven't mastered that yet. Seeing the word forcer cookie makes me laugh. forcer biscuit sounds right to me. I can take some photos of the ones I made if you like to show you. or the next batch which may be Saturday as the wrist is really painful this morning it ached all night. Also with temps around 100 today not doing much.

      We dont have a lot of Christmas's over 100 most are more the 80's. In fact Dec is often the most mild month of summer but this year we have already had hot days (im not complaining much) then it cools down. But the real hot days that keep me inside tend to wear me down at present as I find being home alone and stuck inside affects me. Since mum died I need to be able to get out for a walk or something or else I feel the walls are moving in on me and I feel really lonely and tend to cry so need to be able to get out.

  2. First, I love that you have friends. I'm a bit shell-shocked by the notion, but so pleased for you!!!!!

    Oh, I want to do this. But I never take the time to do it. Dagnabbit, maybe for next year... and then again, maybe not, so I'll live vicariously through you, Tex!!!! We are doing our "Bake-a-Memory" Day this weekend where the grandkids gather with Grammy in the kitchen and make fun things to eat!

    But I'm loving her house, the sink (who thinks of things like that, I'm cheerier just LOOKING at Drenda's stuff, and I'm in love with her NAME so she's now my friend too).... The table, so festive and pretty.

    Around here we used to do pretty. Now we do indestructible. I'm not kidding. When 8-11 toddlers and preschoolers invade for a family party, the quest for pretty and quaint downgrades to non-flammable items and candles up high.

    REALLY HIGH because our babies are climbers.

    So we decorate the kids. And the outside. And the trees. Although I'm tempted to buy me some mistletoe! :)

    What good romance writer doesn't have a stash of mistletoe????

    Silly, silly, silly!

    1. I was out riding on Sunday, had a place to go and know now I cant ride for awhile but I saw a star in an outdoor tree now this is a huge pine tree and big star and probably 15+ metres high not sure how they got up there but it was high but so effective would love to see it at night.

      I dont have to worry about things here I rarely get visitors etc so not many see my tree.

      Oh one pack of chocolate buds is fast disappearing.

    2. I knew you'd be impressed that I had a friend, Ruthy. Wonders never cease. And would you believe Drenda has a passel of grandkids herself? And her house still looks fantastic. She must sedate them.

      I love that, Bake-a-Memory. Little do they know the memories their Grammy is instilling them.

      The only mistletoe around here is what's in the trees outside. I figure there's no point in bringing it in the house. Although, tied with a bright red bow....

    3. Jenny...step away from the chocolate. You have fudge to make, girl!

    4. Ruthy, forget the cookie exchange. You can do that after those grand-babies are all grown up. Baking memories is MUCH more important that baking cookies!

  3. Your annual cookie exchange sounds like such a fun time! And, unlike someone else, I have no trouble believing you have friends :)

    This is my daughter's baking week - she's making gingerbread cookies to share with co-workers. So far, there's a bowl of dough in the fridge but no yummy smells. I can hardly wait!

    Next week I'll start baking. This will be our family's first Christmas together for a few years, so I've been asked - no, ordered - to go all out. I'll make fudge (3 kinds), sugar cookies, pinwheel cookies, sand tarts (old recipe!), haystacks, Mom's Christmas candy, and several batches of Chex mix.

    New this year? My husband has asked me to look for a recipe for Kolaches like his mom used to make. The hard part is that his mom can't find her recipe. His sister makes them, but a different version, and both of those versions are completely different from what show up on a Google search.

    Sigh. That's what happens when you marry into a family that immigrated from the Bohemian Woods (now part of the Czech Republic).

    I don't suppose any of you have a Kolache recipe?

    Mistletoe: when we first moved to Texas, I couldn't figure out what those clumps were in the trees. They looked a bit like squirrel's nests, but they were green. Someone finally told me it was mistletoe. I was floored. I'm not sure where I thought mistletoe came from, but it sure wasn't from live oak trees in West Texas.

    1. Jan, I know of a few GREAT kolache places here in Texas. I could always send you a care package. Also be I could do some checking with friends--lots of Bohos around the ranch--see if I can get you a recipe.

  4. What fun, Mindy! I love her kitchen decorations!

    The cookies sound yummy. I went to a cookie swap a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. I also have a group I do an ornament exchange with each year, and we do what you do--have some fights over ornaments! LOL

    Thanks for sharing, Mindy!

    1. Those cut-throat exchanges can be so fun, Missy.

  5. I got so involved in the discussion I forgot to say the chipotle cookies look good...I'd even risk messing with my chocolate to try them.

    1. The actual cookies are the only things with chipotle added, not the filling. And they have sort of a shortbread texture. I love me some shortbread. By the way, you're baking sounds a lot like mine (can never have enough Chex mix either). Oh the fun we all could have baking together.

      Hey, maybe we should have a cookie swap at the cafe next Christmas.

  6. How fun! I've never been to a cookie swap but it totally looks like my kind of thing!!

    And what a pretty house!!

    1. Virginia, it's a great way to try out some new recipes without having to do all the baking yourself. You go with one kind, come home with many, not to mention the recipes.

  7. WHAT? Mistletoe grows naturally in Texas??

    You guys must be yanking my chain.

    1. I thought so too! But it's there.

      That's eye-witness testimony.

    2. Nope, no yankin'. Believe it or not, it's a parasite that grows on trees. Now doesn't that sound romantic?

      Speaking of romantic, I loved Season of Joy.

  8. Ohhhhh, wow. Now THAT needs to go in a book.

    And so glad you liked it! Melissa is a great editor. She makes some excellent suggestions. She asked for some kind of party, and Thanksgiving dinner, and rearranged a bit... made for a MUCH better story.