The virtual cookie exchange: Bringing back a tradition for today’s bakers

Written by on November 30, 2011 in Baltimore Bites - No comments

One of the great American office traditions, at least until everyone started watching Dr. Oz and learning that fat grams are a certain route to a slow and agonizing death, was the Christmas cookie exchange.

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You know the drill. Everyone in the office bakes their specialty cookie and gives a half dozen or so to everyone else in the office. Then everyone goes home with a nice assortment of Christmas cookies.

Well, frankly we’re tired of Dr. Oz and his insufferable nagging, and so we want to revive the cookie exchange–but we’re going to do a recipe exchange, since none of us has the wherewithal to bake enough cookies for 40,000 readers.

To kick off the recipe exchange, we have Patterson Place’s own Carol Hartke. Chances are, if you have volunteered for the Friends of Patterson Park, or gone to one of their functions, you have sampled some of Carol’s incomparable baked goods.

Carol bakes it all, from breads to sweets to cookies. The stampede for her cinnamon rolls at the Friends’ annual Breakfast by the Boat Lake has become tradition, and her Christmas tea is one of the social occasions of the season for lovers of fine and fattening baked goods.

So what’s Carol’s specialty?

“Oh, I don’t know,” she says. “I just like to bake.”

She started the cookie-baking as a child, almost as soon as she was able to reach the oven. Her mother was more into fruitcakes. “My mother said the house had to smell like fruitcake for it to be Christmas,” says Carol. “But she never gave them out because she thought people would make fun of them. So I would be talking to her in March, and she would say that she still had all these fruitcakes.”

True, there are plenty of fruitcake jokes, but many people love them.

Hartke figures that she goes through at least 20 pounds of flour in the run-up to Christmas. Some of it goes into fruitcakes. (“I make so many fruitcakes I have to make them in the turkey roaster. It’s the only thing big enough”) and some of it into her cookies. At her annual tea, she’s going to serve 10 different kinds of cookies. Here are two of them.

Sugar cookies

1c butter
1 1/2 c 10X sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 c flour

Sift flour and baking powder. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla, mix. Add flour mix and stir to combine. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate. Roll out dough and cut into desired shapes. Bake in a 350 oven on a greased cookie sheet until they reach the desired brownness. When removed from the oven, let stand a minute or two to “firm up” before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Pinwheel Cookies

Cookie Dough:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1c packed brown sugar
1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla
Filling, 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups shredded coconut

For the filling, carefully melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave. Add coconut and keep warm enough to spread.
For the cookies, sift the dry ingredients together. Cream the butter and gradually add the brown sugar, cream well. Add the egg and vanilla, mix well. Blend in the dry ingredients. Roll out half of dough into a 10X8 inch rectangle on wax paper. Spread with half of filling. Roll up, starting on the 10 inch side. Wrap in the wax paper and refrigerate. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Heat oven to 400. Slice the cookie roll using a serrated knife into 1/4 inch rounds. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes.

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