Bakers, nonprofits step up cookie walk efforts
By Judy Buchenot For Sun-Times Media November 20, 2012 8:44PM
Decorated gingerbread men are among the many varieties of cookies sold at the UUSG Cookie Walk in Geneva. Photo by Jim Frazier
Raspberry Nut Pinwheels
Kevin and Linda O’Neill, North Aurora, UUSG Cookie Walk Bakers
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and add to butter mixture. Mix and then roll out dough into a 12-inch rectangle between two sheets of waxed paper. Spread jam over dough and sprinkle with nuts. Roll up like a jelly roll. Seal dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours. Slice into quarter-inch thick slices and bake at 375 degrees for 9 to 12 minutes.
Sara Hoerdeman, Batavia,
UUSG Cookie Walk Baker
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Combine butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer. Add both sugars and beat about 2 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are pale brown.
While cookies are hot, make a thumbprint indentation in the center of each cookie and then allow to cool. Make the chocolate filling by combining chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Fill the thumbprints with the chocolate filling and allow to cool.
Updated: December 24, 2012 6:50AM
During the next few weeks, butter will be creamed with sugar, rolling pins will work overtime and ovens will be steaming as home bakers create thousands of cookies for annual cookie walk fundraisers. Shoppers will pick their favorites for an instant home-baked holiday.
It isn’t clear where the concept of a cookie walk began, but one of the longest running is by the Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva, which will host its 30th cookie walk Dec. 7.
Kevin and Linda O’Neill are two of the many cookie bakers for the group. Each year for more than 10 years, the couple has baked about 500 cookies for the event. They quickly add that their contribution is just a portion of the thousands of cookies offered during the sale.
“We have six recipes that are key ones that we make every year, but then we like to try new ones so there is variety,” Kevin says.
One of the more unusual varieties he has tried was a chocolate chip cookie recipe with a touch of cayenne pepper, which he claims provided a “little extra bite to the cookie.”
Once the recipes are chosen, the couple formulates a shopping list.
“We try to get the best ingredients for the cookies. We get high-quality butter, top-notch spices and rich chocolate,” Kevin says.
Dough that needs refrigeration gets mixed first and most recipes are doubled or tripled. The couple carefully bakes cookies for two days and then invites friends over for a decorating party. Each cookie gets personal attention with chocolate drizzles, creamy frosting and delicate sugar sprinkles.
There are a few different methods of running these sweet sales. At some cookie walks, like the one at Bethany of Fox Valley United Methodist Church in Aurora, shoppers purchase a box and are allowed to fill it with as many cookies as possible. The only rule is that the lid must be able to close down on the box. Other organizations provide a box but sell the cookies by the pound like the St. Patrick’s Residence Cookie Walk in Naperville.
“Some people have started bringing in their own containers,” said Madelene Bernar, a St. Patrick’s Cookie Walk volunteer. “We just weigh the container and then subtract it from their total weight.”
The bakers at Wesley United Methodist Church in Aurora provide shoppers with cookie walkers.
“We set out over 5,000 cookies and then a cookie walker picks up the cookies for the shopper and places them in a Styrofoam tray,” explains Judy Brown, a Wesley baker.
The cookie walkers wear plastic gloves and can answer questions about the cookies. The cookies are sold by the pound at Wesley.
One unique variation takes place in downtown Oswego. Shoppers purchase a cookie tin for $6.95 and then walk from store to store in the downtown shopping district collecting a cookie at each stop.
“The business owners provide the cookies,” says Diane Krahtus, event chairman. “Everyone ends up with about two dozen cookies. Part of the money, about $1.50 for each tin, goes to the Kendall County Food Pantry. We limit the number of buckets sold to 200. Sometimes there are a few left on the cookie walk day, but we try to get everyone to buy them in advance.”
The tins are on sale at several Oswego stores.
The proceeds from cookie walks go to support a variety of charitable causes. The St. Patrick’s Residence cookie walk in Naperville helps the long-term residents at the facility. The youth at Batavia United Methodist Church use cookie walk funds for mission trips. The ADOPT cookie walk in Naperville helps support the activities of the pet shelter.
Two bakers have relinquished recipes for home cooks to try but encourage everyone to hang up the apron and leave the baking to them this year.
Know someone who really likes to cook and is good at it? Contact Judy Buchenot at Buchenot@ comcast.net.