Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas is Armenian cookie time!


OK, really -- anytime is Armenian cookie time. But...

When I think of a Thanksgiving dessert, PIE automatically comes to mind. Mention Christmas, and all I can think of is ……COOKIES!

Every year for the past 10 or so years, my dear friend, Diana Saker and her neighbors, have hosted a cookie - ornament exchange extravaganza several weeks before Christmas. The neighbors, who all live on the same block, rotate hosting the big event thus cutting down on the stress and anxiety associated with this time of year.

The party is a BLAST! It’s become a Coral Springs, Florida phenomenon.

Women of all ages attend, dressed in traditional holiday colors of red and green. Each comes with one, gloriously wrapped, ornament which is immediately placed in a designated location, and 4 dozen of their favorite Christmas cookies.

One dozen of each batch of cookies is set out for sampling, along with a lavish buffet; the other 3 dozen are
placed on a special “cookie table” for mixing and matching at the end of the festivities. Every guest knows to bring a Tupperware container with a tight-fitting lid to take home the rewards of this sweet event. The host provides newcomers, and those who have simply forgotten, with a suitable container for packaging their take-home treats.

The ornament exchange is a humdinger, too. Each guest picks a random number from a bowl. No one ever wants to be #1. The higher your number,the better your chances are for taking home the most sought-after
ornament. Selecting a high number allows you to examine the ornaments that have already been chosen and unwrapped.

If you like someone else's ornament, you have the option of “stealing” theirs, or selecting one of the remaining wrapped ones. It’s really amusing to see women snatch a coveted ornament from someone else, causing the other person great disappointment. Fear not, the disappointed person has the opportunity to select again from the available packages - or - steal from yet another guest!

NOTE: This part of the party can last a while, depending on the number in attendance, and can get down-right-dirty …. in a fun way, of course!

Before I tell you what cookie recipe I’m making, I would love to know what you would make if invited to a cookie exchange gathering. If you’d like to have your cookie recipe posted, please send it to robyn@thearmeniankitchen.com.

The cookie recipe I’m making isn’t fancy - no sprinkles or exotic ingredients. It’s a very traditional Armenian cookie that goes really well with coffee, tea or even hot cocoa. Dunking is highly recommended!

Armenian Cookies

3 Tbsp. butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
4 ½ to 5 cups flour (perhaps a little more)
2 eggs
½ tsp. vanilla
2 heaping Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup warm milk

Directions:
1. Using an electric hand or stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar, until blended.
2. Add eggs, vanilla, baking powder, salt, and milk. Mix until blended.
3. Add flour, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition until a dough forms. At this point, gently work dough with your hands on a lightly floured surface. If the dough is too sticky, you might need to add a little more flour.
4. Pinch off about a walnut-size piece of dough and roll it into a 6 inch rope. Shape into a circle (doughnut-shape) with lightly floured hands by pressing rope ends together. Continue this process until all dough is used.
5. Place cookies on a lightly greased baking sheet.
6. Place baking sheet on bottom rack in the oven. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
7. Cool completely on a wire rack.
8. Store in an air-tight container.

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