Have you ever taken part in a Christmas cookie exchange? It is the absolute best way to sneak in some holiday time with friends and fill your freezer with a nice assortment of goodies. All day bake-a-thons are fun too…I used to get together with three other ladies every year where we would each bring the ingredients for two recipes and bake all day. We would blast the tunes, open the wine (or shake up some cocktails), gossip, and by the end of the day we would have eight different kinds of goodies to bring home. Those were back in the days when our kids were small and we all lived in the same area, now they’ve all grown up and we’ve scattered across the city (and Canada) like spilled nonpareils.
For the last couple of years, I’ve donated my pre-Christmas baking frenzies to bake sales…but this year, sadly those seem to have disappeared too. Luckily, I am part of a casual cooking group here in Calgary called ‘Bite Club’. Yes, I know the first rule about ‘Bite Club’ is you do not talk about Bite Club*, but humour me for a moment. It’s comprised of a lovely bunch of talented ladies, with a couple of men including Pierre Lamielle, a personal chef for hire, Chopped Canada champion, illustrator, and all around funny guy. Meetups usually occur on a monthly basis at a different home and there’s usually some sort of theme involved, whether it’s a particular chef, theme, or a specific cookbook. In the past, we’ve had ‘bring your favourite family recipe’, Rick Bayless, an ‘Haute Dog’ party, an Indian feast based on recipes from A Spicy Touch and even a ‘church lady’ wake for David Bowie. It’s so much fun to see how creative everyone can be and the variety of food is usually pretty impressive. The smart ones among us bring containers so they can bring leftovers home.
Last night was our first Christmas cookie exchange based upon Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook, Dorie’s Cookies. Since there were around 30 of us packed into Julie van Rosendaal’s tiny little turn of the century home, we didn’t aim to bring 30 dozen cookies to swap. Thank goodness!! Instead we just brought as many as we wanted to trade for (plus some for snacking on). I didn’t have a chance to buy the cook book yet and I needed to create some content for the blog so I came up with a Christmas treat of my own. What if I took the ingredients that I would use to make a Nanaimo Bar and shape it into a truffle? A soft yellow centre flavoured with Bird’s Custard Powder, surrounded by the coconut chocolate layer, and dipped in chocolate…
Well I am telling you it is possible!! It was very time consuming and probably slightly more time than I would spend on a cookie exchange, but the results were worth it. Would you believe I’ve never actually made Nanaimo Bars before? Despite the pleas from my family, it’s never happened. I think they are going to be happy this year because I doubled up the recipe and only brought half to the cookie exchange. The rest will be waiting in the freezer, ready to be placed on Christmas dainty trays.
I did learn something last night at the cookie exchange. Julie’s sister, Anne, is a chocolatier and she told me that I could just leave the coconut oil out of the melted chocolate. If you do leave it in, these truffles should be kept chilled at all times. They will be solid at room temperature, but will melt quickly in your hand.
I bought the little chocolate covered quinoa puffs at Bulk Barn. If you get a chance, and you have one nearby you should definitely stop by for a great selection of baking ingredients and decorations. I could spend a lot of dough in that place!
Lastly, it was such a fun night. I came home with 3 dozen interesting cookies to share with my family, such as Chocolate Chili Sablés, Lemon Crinkles, Chocolate Crinkles, Lemon Brulée Cookies, Chocolate Tahini Cookies, and a few really tasty savoury cookies. It was a great way to sample so many cookies from one book and now I think I have a cookie hangover!
- 3 cups powdered sugar (icing sugar)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter; melted
- 3 tbsp whipping cream
- 2 tbsp Bird's Custard Powder
- 1 cup graham crumbs
- 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
- 1/2 cup pecans; very finely chopped
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter; melted
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate; chopped
- 1-2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 cup chocolate covered quinoa balls or other decoration
- Combine first four ingredients together and shape into 2 cm balls. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for a couple of hours.
- Combine next five ingredients in a large bowl. You want the mixture to be crumby, but also able to stick together.
- Remove tray from freezer, grab a handful of the chocolate mixture and place a yellow ball in the middle. Compact into a larger ball with the chocolate mixture covering every bit of the yellow centre.
- Place on parchment lined baking sheet, (repeat with each yellow centre) and freeze for four hours, or overnight.
- Place a glass bowl over a boiling pot of water and add the semisweet chocolate and coconut oil. Stir until smooth and glossy.
- Using a long skewer, dip each ball into the chocolate and turn to coat. Keep on turning until the chocolate has slightly solidified.
- Carefully slide the ball off the skewer onto a parchment lined baking sheet, keeping the skewer blemish on the top. Sprinkle chocolate covered quinoa balls over the skewer hole to cover.
- Repeat until all balls are covered and place tray in fridge or container for freezing.
*Bite Club = Fight Club…you know, with Brad Pitt! Sadly he does not belong to our Bite Club.