December 08, 2011

Kahlua Chocolate Chunk Cookies and a Cookie Exchange

Clockwise: Peanut Butter Reindeer, Orange Marmalade Thumbprints, Oatmeal Cranberry, Orange Chocolate Chip, Italian Anisette, Chocolate Chunk, Chewy Chocolate-Cherry, Russian Tea Cookies
Cookie exchanges.  I had never been part of one until three or four years ago, when I got invited to an exchange at my aunt-in-law's house.  I had heard stories from friends and family about their cookie exchange experiences... the good, the bad, the ugly.  Despite what I heard, I was really looking forward to my first exchange.  I love to bake, I always enjoy trying new recipes, I love cookies, and my husband's family really knows how to throw a party, big or small.  So, I set out to create a winning cookie, no matter what.

My first year, I used a Cooking Light recipe for Chocolate-Hazelnut Thumbrints (made with Nutella!)... they were incredibly delicious and very labor intensive.  I took home a prize!  My second year, I chose an easier, (but equally as yummy) Giada De Laurentiis recipe for Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze.  This year, my goal was to find and bake the easiest and best-tasting cookie I could find.  I had no delusions of winning best-looking.  Easy cookies, in my opinion, are drop cookies... and I don't know too many good-looking drop cookies.  So, after much research, this year I chose to bake a Rachael Ray recipe for Kahlua Chocolate Chunk Cookies.


These cookies use chocolate chip cookie mix as a base... a good time saver and sanity saver, (especially when, in the middle of counting teaspoons of baking powder you could get called away by a crying baby)... I was a little skeptical at first, just because I've never used a cookie mix before and it almost felt like cheating.  I got over my skepticism when I realized how easy it was to make double batches without getting worked up about losing track of my dry ingredients.
I needed a total of 10 dozen cookies for the exchange so I made two double-batches of cookies, which worked out very well... I made just enough to sample some right out of the oven, make sure my husband liked them, and ensure that my tasting and swapping dozens were as close to perfect as possible.  (While keeping any that I deemed "imperfect" in our share... which ended up being a little larger than a dozen.).

Kahlua Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Rachael Ray: One batch: 34 cookies

1 (1lb 1.5oz)  package dry chocolate chip cookie mix
7 tbsp. butter, softened
1 large egg, beaten
4 tbsp. Kahlua, or other coffee liquor
3 tbsp. instant espresso or instant coffee crystals
1 tbsp. ground coffee beans
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks, (she recommends Ghiradelli)
4 oz. walnut pieces*

Preheat oven to 375.
Place racks in center of oven.  In a mixing bowl, make a well in center of dry chocolate chip cookie mix.  Ad softened butter, egg, Kahlua, instant coffee and ground coffee, chocolate chunks and walnuts.  Mix well to combine all ingredients into cookie dough.  Scoop with a small scoop** or by heaping tablespoons and drop cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased nonstick cookie sheet.  Bake cookies in batches 9 to 11 minutes or until crisp and browned at edges.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool and serve.

*I did not use the walnut pieces, and still very much enjoyed the cookies.  When I make these cookies in a normal quantity (ie. one batch), I will include the walnuts.
**I love my cookie scoop (looks like a small, old-fashioned ice cream scoop). Cookies come out much more uniform and you actually get the expected number of cookies from a batch when using one.  I highly recommend getting and using a cookie scoop whenever you bake! I also use mine when baking cupcakes.

As a coffee and chocolate chip cookie enthusiast, I must say: these cookies were awesome!!  (One taster said that these cookies tasted just like a mocha frappuchino.) Although I did not get enough votes for best-tasting this year, I will be making these cookies again.

Best Tasting: Chewy Chocolate-Cherry 
So, who and what cookies won this year??  Best Tasting went to my mother-in-law and her Chewy Chocolate-Cherry Cookies, (Cooking Light is incredible).  Best Looking went to my aunt-in-law for her Italian Anisette cookies, which she made sugar-free with Splenda.  Other cookies included Russian Tea cookies, Chocolate Chunk, Oatmeal Cranberry,  Orange Marmalade Thumbprints, Orange Chocolate Chip, and adorable Peanut Butter cookies decorated as reindeer.  It was a very good year for cookie tasting!!

I really enjoy the cookie exchange tradition.  Some of the best parts of the holidays are food and the family and friends we share it with.  Cookie parties give us an opportunity to get-together, taste delicious treats and maybe even pick up a few new recipes- I am already looking forward to next year!



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