November 30, 2010

Viennese Chocolate Fingers And My Blog Anniversary Giveaway Winners

Do you know what a cookie exchange party is? A cookie exchange party is a get together hosted by a cookie lover for other similarly minded cookie lovers. Everyone who comes to the party brings cookies with them, either ones they have themselves baked, or as a last resort cookies they have bought, because you do not go to this party empty handed. Once everyone has enjoyed the tea and themselves (but not the cookies), all the cookies that came to the party are divided and packed every guest takes home a cookie bag!

Great idea for a party, don’t you think? You make a large batch of one type of cookie, take them with you, have a great time meeting your friends for tea, and then come back home with a stash of a variety of cookies they baked for all of you!

Well, I had no idea what a cookie exchange was till about a year ago when Robin Olson wrote to me. She told me she was writing a book on hosting cookie exchanges and wanted to know if I was willing to have my Ghorayebah (Arabic Cardamom Shortbread Cookies) recipe included in her book. That’s when I checked out “cookie exchanges” and found that Robin was a pioneer in the field.

To cut a long story short, I agreed and Robin added my cookies to her book. Her book, The Cookie Party Cookbook: The Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Cookie Exchange was published last month and you can find my recipe on pages 188-189 of her book.

I just got my copy of the book and am looking forward to trying out some of the cookies in it. If you would like to host your own cookie exchange parties then Robin provides a wealth of information about how to plan and organise one and even provides ideas for party themes, invites, 25 sample tea-time menus, fun activities, prizes and favours.

If you’re not interested in any of these activities but are a cookie lover, her book has a great collection of 176 cookie recipes including classics like Chocolate Chip Cookies and Snickerdoodles, Christmas cookies like Peppermint Pinwheels and Chocolate Reindeer Cookies, bars, tartlets, turtles and a variety of cookies from around the world. Each recipe is also marked for degree of difficulty and whether it is an everyday cookie or a holiday cookie.

While some of the recipes are Robin’s and those inherited from her mother-in-law, many of them are recipes from cookie bakers around the world. I thought I would experiment with the Viennese Chocolate Fingers (page 147 of the book) contributed by Iris Grundler of Gaithersburg. What made them particularly attractive to me was the chocolate in them and that these are eggless cookies too.

It was also the perfect chance to put to use a set of measuring cups and spoons that Robin was so sweet to send to me. There’s a small story behind this. I am a person who has cooked and baked all the recipes on my blog using my own measuring cups (which are actually old coffee mugs; you can find the volume measurements I use at the bottom of this page), which follows the ASM system. In case you are wondering, that’s Aparna’s Standard Measure!

While this might seem unscientific to some, I believe that most recipes are not sacrosanct in their ingredient measurements. In my experience, with some exceptions, most ingredients in recipes are usually in proportion to one another. People have been cooking for generations and in the good old days they didn’t have standardised measuring cups and spoons or weighing scales, yet the turned out consistently excellent food!

So when Robin first asked for my recipe, there was a bit of a confusion regarding ingredient quantities. My measuring cups and spoons were not standard American size! She managed to convert my recipe to her requirements, and also promised to send me some standard American measuring cups and spoons which she did.

Since I started blogging, I have acquired a digital weighing scale which I have to confess I don’t use very much. Measuring cups are more my thing. In case you’re wondering, I also do not possess a candy thermometer but am reasonably adept at using the Cold Water Candy Test, which I learnt watching my grandmother and mother in the kitchen, to test sugar syrups.

Back to the Viennese Chocolate Fingers. I don’t get self-raising sugar here so used 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 1/2 tsp baking powder. I found the dough a bit thick so I added 3 tbsp milk to get it to a softer consistency. The dough needs to be quite soft, but not a batter, so that you can pipe it out, yet if it is too soft, the hallmark ridges of Viennese cookies will not hold shape.

Piping out the dough can be a bit of a strain on the hands. I would also suggest you use a sturdy piping bag and a pastry nozzle. I initially used one of those Chinese made disposable piping bags (that’s what I get here), and for the first time in my experience, the bag burst! I had to remove the dough and put it into one of my re-usable pastry bags.

The recipe is for fingers, but you can make them any shape you wish. So while I didn’t get down to the traditional “W”, I also piped some cookie sized circles and “S” swirls. My Viennese fingers/ cookies/ swirls were not too buttery, crisp but somewhat cake-like in the centre. These cookies are quite nice (they are dipped in chocolate!), but I think I might need to work on my Viennese cookie skills a bit more.

Viennese Chocolate Fingers
(Reproduced with permission from The Cookie Party Cookbook)


1/2 cup (115gm) unsalted butter, softened

6 tbsp confectioners’ sugar/ icing sugar

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted

3 tbsp cornstarch

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Pre-heat the oven to 190C (375F). Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the butter and sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add the flour and cornstarch. Melt 1/4 cup of the semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave or a double boiler. Beat the melted chocolate into the cookie dough.

Place the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe fingers about 2” long on the baking sheets, spacing them 2” apart to allow for spreading. If the cookie dough is too thick, beat in a little milk to thin it out before you place it in the pastry bag. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Melt the remaining 3/4 cup chocolate and dip one end of the cookies in it. Allow the excess to drip back into the bowl. Place the dipped cookies on a sheet of parchment paper and let the chocolate set.

This recipe makes 30 cookies.

And for the winners of my 3rd blog anniversary giveaway. Thank you for leaving your comments because it makes it fun to pick out a winner. As promised, I (the number generator, actually) randomly picked out two commenters to win the books.

The first one is Jayashree and she gets a copy of Weeknight Desserts by Beatrice Ojakangas. The other commenter is the Happy Cook who has won herself a copy of Leftover Makeovers by Victoria Shearer. Congratulations ladies! Please send me your mailing addresses to that I can post them to you at the earliest.


Happy Cook said...

Yupieeeee wow i won a book . Guess luck is still there with me.
Wow you didn't had a measuring cup, I have to admit some 1O yrs back it was difficult to her them here too, but then when i went to visit my sis in US i bought from there. And i am surprised you dodn't use your digital scale, i use them for everything.
Cookies look yumm. Yeah the cookie season is here too.

Jayashree said...

Congratulations on being featured in Robin's cookbook. The idea of a cookie party sounds quite novel and interesting.
Thank you for hosting a giveaway....I am so excited that I've won.

Peggy said...

Your cookies look beautiful! The "dipped in chocolate" part would attract me to them also!

Priya (Yallapantula) Mitharwal said...

What gorgeous and delicious looking cookies and congrats to winners :)

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Priya said...

Congrats to the winners..Chocolate fingers looks absolutely gorgeous..

Ann said...

Congrats to the winners! lucky them =). Those viennese fingers look lovely, the piping really does look good, don't know why you are complaining about it ;-)

Bharathy said...

Been so long since I visited your place, Aparna :)..
I can see you more into baking and have become an expert baker now!
got to know abt the give away win of jayashree and finla yest'day!..
Good going!!
happy to know abt your interest in being a part of the chain :) will surely intimate you soon regarding the same..:)

jayasree said...

Congrats Aparna for being featured in the cookbook. Cookies looks delicious. Lovely shots.

Congrats to the winners.

Sanjeeta kk said...

Congrats for the feat. The cookies look crisp and delicious. Love the various shapes you have given to these cute cookies. Always a delight to be here, in for a surprise every time that I visit this space.

veena Aravind said...

congrats for the winners jayshree and happy cook. And lots of wishes to you Aparna for your recipe being featured int the book. The cookies looks cute especially the choco dipped. :)

lisa is cooking said...

I just baked my first holiday cookies this morning, and I'm looking forward to baking lots more. Congratulations on being in the book! And, all the shapes of your viennese chocolate fingers look great.

anubhavati said...

Lovely little chocolate fingers Aparna...Congrats to Jayshree and to Finla. Congrats to you too..


Mary said...

That's so interesting about your ASM system! I'd love to see a photo of these old coffee cups in action! You are right about the ratios, and even in bakings it's not necessary to be absolutely precise. Congratulations on having your recipe published, and I am going to look at it right now, as I love cardamom cookies.

Sumi said...

wonderful cookies.What a coincidence, I also made a batch of Viennese cookies this weekend(not chocolate though).
Will try out this recipe next weekend :)

Kris Ngoei said...

It sounds like a very happening cookie book, can't wait to get hold of it!

Luscious Viennese chocolate fingers! I love the first shot so much. You rock, Aparna!

Sunshinemom (Harini) said...

Great news! Congrats on having your cookies included in Robin's book. Also Congratulations to Jayasree and Happy Cook for their wins!

Twinsy Rachel said...

Congrats on having ur cookies finding its place in the cookbook :) Also congrats to both the winners :)))

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

Congratulations on being a part of the book, A!! I had no idea you baked without measuring cups/spoons! You should have told me, I would have sent some to you!! It's pretty phenomenal that you make all this without them. Especially the candy thermometer! I barely manage with one!