Cookie Swap! is a delectable new cookbook written by Lauren Chattman. A few weeks ago, her publisher sent us a copy, and we’ve been cooking up batches of brownies and cookies ever since. Even The Meal Makeover Moms let their hair down once in a while! We loved this book so much that we arranged a phone interview with Lauren to hear what it’s like to test recipes whose primary ingredients are butter, sugar, and flour!
Read on for our cookie conversation with Lauren, news on how you can enter our giveaway for Cookie Swap!, and Lauren’s fabulous new recipe for Walnut Sandwiches with Fig Filling (with a minor Meal Makeover Mom twist). Next week, we’ll also post her recipe for Incredibly Fudgy Brownies.
Q: How much butter did you go through when you were testing recipes for Cookie Swap!
A: A ridiculous amount! At the supermarket, people would look at my shopping cart and be horrified.
Q: Do you eat lots of cookies? How do you manage the temptation?
A: For me, the joy of testing recipes is figuring out ways to give away what I bake. It’s also about portion control. My baking life really changed when I realized I could make cookie dough, form it into balls, and freeze them in zip-top bags. When you have the urge for something sweet, you can take one of the balls out of the bag, bake it off, and eat it … and be satisfied. You can also freeze baked cookies and brownies … just wrap them individually. A small brownie will satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.
Q: You have two children, ages 15 and 11. How do they handle all the goodies?
A: My children have a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ attitude about cookies. Maybe it’s because we always have cookies in the house. My children are definitely the envy of the neighborhood. Their friends often stop by after school and ask, “What do you have today?”
Q: Do your children like to bake? Do you think baking cookies with kids can help to foster good eating habits for a lifetime?
A: My kids like to bake, and I encourage them. Baking is often the first fun experience that children have making food for themselves. You can’t be a healthy person unless you know how to cook your own food, and baking can provide that first experience. Having your kids in the kitchen helping you cook or making things on their own will lead to other kinds of cooking. Moms who worry about healthy eating should cut themselves some slack when it’s time to bake cookies.
Q: What do you love about cookie swaps?
A: At cookie swaps, I get to share the goodies I baked. It’s great when somebody comes over with a recipe I’ve never seen before. There are some really good bakers in my town and within my circle of friends, and you never know what they will bring. At cookie swaps, everyone has an opportunity to also give baking tips to the less experienced bakers.
Q: What are your favorite recipes in the book?
A: The Orange-Cream Cheese Spiral Cookies and the Chocolate-Mint Sandwich Cookies.
Q: What sets your book apart from other cookie books?
A: I wanted to pack as much value into the book as possible. Making cookies is pretty easy. But over the years, I have collected a lot of tips and tricks that I take for granted … but that others may not know. So I share them in the book. The book also includes clever ideas for creating and throwing affordable cookie swap parties. I love to throw parties, and it’s a joy when you don’t have to stress about it.
Walnut Sandwiches with Fig Filling
Makes 36 Sandwiches
Recently, Janice received a gift of walnuts from the Walnut Marketing Board and a box filled with gorgeous figs from California Figs. It made perfect sense to make this recipe from Cookie Swap! since she had each of the star ingredients on hand!
- 1 cup walnuts
- 3/4 cup sugar, divided
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for working the dough
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (* we replaced 1 stick of the butter with 1/3 cup canola oil)
- 1 large egg
For the filling
- 8 ounces dried Calimyrna figs (about 12), tough stems removed, chopped
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 peel from an orange, preferably organic
1. Make the cookies. Combine walnuts and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a food processor and process, pulsing 8 to 10 times, until the nuts are finely ground (the mixture should resemble very coarse sand). Transfer the mixture to a bowl and whisk in the flours and salt.
2. Place the butter (and the canola oil if you plan to swap out 1 stick of butter for 1/3 cup canola) and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl and beat together with an electric mixer on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg and beat until incorporated. Add the flour mixture and beat on low until the dough comes together in a ball.
3. Divide the dough in half and on a lightly floured surface with lightly floured hands, press it into two 1/2-inch-thick disks. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. (The dough can be frozen at this point.)
4. Make the fig filling: Combine the figs, sugar, orange peel, and 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the figs are soft and have absorbed most of the liquid, about 20 minutes. Place the figs in a food processor and process until smooth. Set aside to cool completely.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
6. Remove one of the dough disks from the refrigerator and knead it 4 or 5 times on a lightly floured work surface to soften it. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to a thickness of a scant 1/4 inch. Use a 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut out as many circles are you can. Place the cookies on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Wrap the scraps in plastic and refrigerate.
7. Bake the cookies until they are set and dry, 12 to 15 minutes. Slide the entire parchment sheet with the cookies onto a wire rack and let the cookies cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough (and any scraps), using fresh parchment paper.
8. To assemble the cookies, use a small offset spatula to spread about 1/2 teaspoon of the fig mixture on half of the cookies. Top with the remaining cookies. Cookies will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
GIVEAWAY NEWS! As a special end-of-the-year gift to all of our wonderful blog readers, we are giving away three copies of Cookie Swap! To enter (U.S. only please), tell us about your favorite cookie, brownie, or bar recipe this time of year and what makes it so special.
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Please be sure to leave us a new comment every time you do something extra …. and GOOD LUCK! The giveaway ends on Wednesday, December 22nd at noon, and as always we’ll use random.org to pick our winners.