What to do with scads of cookies left from holiday parties and visiting relatives?
First do a little triage: If you don’t like the cookies, give them or throw them away right now. As for the rest, you can take a page from Scarlett O’Hara: Freeze them so you can think about them all tomorrow—or next month.
Here are four ways to reinvent, repurpose, and even re-gift!
Cookie pieces coated in chocolate are even more addictive than cookies. This is easy to do, and the chocolate keeps the cookies from getting stale for a while.
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If you take the time to temper the chocolate, your results will be extra impressive and stable enough to package and bring as a gift, otherwise you must keep them in the fridge. Crispy or crunchy cookies are best in my opinion, including super crunchy biscotti. Crush cookies for a subtle crunch, or break them into bite-size pieces to make white chocolate clusters with 1/2-inch gingersnap pieces!
Here's a general guide:
Prepare the cookies before melting the chocolate: Figure 1 to 1 1/2 cups broken or coarsely crushed cookie pieces for 8 ounces of chocolate. If you use broken pieces, you may or may not want to include the crumbs; you can set them aside for another use or sprinkle them on top your bark or clusters.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, temper the chocolate or simply melt it (without tempering) and let it cool to 90° F.
Pour about 2/3 of your cookie pieces over the chocolate and begin folding to coat them, adding and folding in handfuls of cookie as desired, until all of the cookies are coated. Working quickly, spoon clusters out onto the lined baking sheet; or for bark, scrape the mixture over a wide area and use the tip of the spatula to redistribute the pieces as necessary.
If the chocolate is tempered, put the sheet in a cool place (I tape the corners of the parchment to the pan and set it in front of small table fan) for 2 or 3 hours; store in an airtight container at room temperature. If the chocolate was not tempered, refrigerate the sheet to harden the chocolate; store in an airtight container in the fridge. Remove from the fridge 15 minutes before serving.
Or, instead of making clusters or bark, simply add cookie pieces to my Rocky Road.
2) Think ice cream toppers, mix-ins, and sandwiches:
Crush crispy or crunchy cookies and add them to your sundae bar or keep a container in the freezer for the family.
As for leftover chewy cookies or delicately crispy cookies, turn them into ice cream sandwiches; you can always test one sandwich first, freeze it, and sample before you commit the rest of the cookies. Wrap them individually and stash in a freezer bag for grab-and-go treats.
3) Think pudding cups, parfaits, and verrines:
Pudding: Alternate layers of crushed cookies—amaretti, biscotti, shortbread, wafers, gaufrettes, or any other crispy or crunchy cookie—in a parfait glass with warm chocolate (my favorite), vanilla, or butterscotch pudding. Chill. Serve topped with whipped cream and a fresh sprinkle of crushed cookies.
Ice Cream: Instead of pudding, alternate softened ice cream or frozen yogurt drizzled with chocolate or caramel sauce between cookies layers.
Whipped Cream: Or fold a generous quantity of broken cookies—or diced blondies, or brownies—with enough barely sweetened whipped cream to hold them together. Spoon into glasses and chill for several hours to allow the cookies to merge with the cream. Top with more crushed cookies before serving. Try this with...
Meringues (especially my Peanut Butter Meringue) or amaretti, to which you might add drained amaretto or brandied cherries
Chocolate or vanilla wafers, to which you might add banana pieces
In a baking pan or casserole—or in a springform pan that you can unmold later—alternate layers of plain or flavored whipped cream and/or pudding with layers of whole and broken cookies. Start and end with the cream or pudding. Cover each layer of cream or pudding completely (to resemble a cake layers later) by overlapping thin cookies slightly or by piecing thicker cookies together like a puzzle. Add berries or sliced bananas or between the layers if you like and/or drizzle cookies with a little booze.
Cover and chill for 24 hours to allow the cream to transform the cookies into moist, cakey layers. Serve directly from the dish or unmold the springform. Top with crushed cookies, nuts, or fruit, or whatever will go with the flavors of the elements in your cake.
What do you do with leftover Christmas cookies? Share your ideas in the comments!
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My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).