What do you get your Secret Santa when you only have a $15 budget and you’re into cooking? Well, some homemade cookie cake and hot chocolate, of course!
It’s Secret Santa week at The Triangle, and I’m already patting myself on the back for bringing it back after not having it last year. We have three rules: All gifts must be wrapped in an old copy of The Triangle (that’s a given), all gifts have to be accompanied by a handmade card to help the recipient guess his or her Secret Santa, and the budget is only $15 per gift.
For my handmade gift, I used The New York Times’ chocolate chip recipe from 2008 to make a cookie cake. I spelled my recipient’s name out in red and green M&Ms and signed it “SS” for Secret Santa. Cute, I know! The original New York Times recipe calls for cake and bread flour. Buying both would have put me over budget, so I just went with all-purpose flour. Here is The New York Times’ recipe with a few tweaks from me:
3 2-3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
1 ¼ cups unsalted butter (softened)
1 ¼ cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Start by mixing the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Next, in a separate bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until the mixture looks fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla, and mix until combined.
Next, add the dry ingredients and chips, and mix just until they are combined. Overmixing will cause the cookies to harden. The New York Times recipe then says to refrigerate the dough for over 24 hours before rolling it into balls and baking. Because I made a cake, I put the dough directly into a greased nine-inch pie plate and started spelling out my recipient’s name with M&Ms on top.
Finish by baking the cookie cake for about 45 minutes or until the top is slightly brown and the cake is cooked all the way through. Put it aside to cool before wrapping it up.
Next, for the homemade hot chocolate, I used a recipe that one of my close friends uses around the holidays.
3 cups nonfat dry milk
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ cups Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 ½ cups white chocolate chips
¼ teaspoon salt
First, combine all the ingredients in large bowl. Then pulse the ingredients in a food processor until the chocolate chips are finely ground. And bam, that’s that. To make the hot chocolate, stir a third of a cup of the mix into one cup of hot milk. Top it with marshmallows, of course. This recipe will stay for up to three months in an airtight container and yields about 20 servings. I used a mason jar for gifting.
From the picture, you’ll see I drew the lovely Karen Shollenberger for Secret Santa this year. I also got her a mug to go with her hot chocolate and cookie cake, so she will always remember the belly ache I bestowed upon her for Secret Santa 2012.
Happy holidays, everyone!