I can't be the only baker in the world -- or the Twin Cities, anyway -- who enjoys giving the gift of colorful tins filled with holiday cookies, particularly when we have so many terrific recipes in our 10th-annual Taste Holiday Cookie Contest.
But I was starting to feel that way when I went out in search of them and came up short. I ran through Target, Tuesday Morning, Crate & Barrel and Macy's -- heck, even the Container Store -- and walked out empty handed.
Then my editor gave me a tip: Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft. True confessions: I've never set foot inside a Jo-Ann store; up until a few days ago I was only vaguely aware of the company's existence. But the chain is now on my radar, thanks to its impressive cookie tin inventory (pictured, above). More than a dozen festive patterns are stocked in several sizes, with prices ranging from $5.99 to $7.99. When it comes to cookie tins, Jo-Ann is the mother lode.
Not being much of a scrapbooker, I'm not terribly familiar with Michaels, either. But the crafters' paradise is another reliable source for cookie tins. I counted nearly 10 different decorative options (pictured, above) in a range of shapes and sizes, sold at $1.99 to $6.49.
Cost Plus World Market has returned to the Twin Cities, and while the selection is slim -- I found just one rectangular container (pictured, above), which was priced at $4.99 -- the store also had a decent array of holiday-themed cardboard cookie boxes (6 or 10 for $4.99). To my eye, they're the cookie equivalent of using a gift bag rather than a gift-wrapped box, but that's just the traditionalist in me. Still, they're better than having to resort to a coffee can. Wait, is coffee still sold in cans?
Strangely, cooking stores, their shelves heaving with bakeware, come up short. Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table and Cooks of Crocus Hill don't keep them in stock, although I did encounter two at Kitchen Window (pictured, above): a small, candy-appropriate container for $3.99, and a cookie-scaled tin for $4.50. Better than nothing, right?
I would probably brave the big-box gauntlet that is IKEA for a few of the Swedish giant's stackable, white-and-gold "Tripp" containers (pictured, above, in a provided photo). The price is right, too: a set of three is $9.99.
Two other possibilities that I didn't check: I've heard that various dollars stores (Family Dollar, Dollar Tree) occasionally keep cookie tins on hand. For vintage versions, check out a thrift store near you, or click into eBay.
Oh, and because there seems to be a website for everything, there's always cookietins.com.
Where do you find them?
My favorite cranberry relish couldn't be easier: Grind up fresh, uncooked berries in a blender or food processor. Add some sugar and the zest of an orange, lemon or both. Then let it sit for a spell. Fabulous. And beautiful. The berries remind me of jewels. It's a terrific sandwich topper the next day, too. You can find this recipe -- and many others suited for the big day -- in the Taste cookbook, "Come One, Come All/ Easy Entertaining Wtih Seasonal Menus."
EASY CRANBERRY RELISH
Makes about 3 cups.
Note: Every menu needs an easy dish. From "Come One, Come All/ Easy Entertaining With Seasonal Menus," by Lee Svitak Dean.
• 1 (12 oz.) pkg. fresh cranberries
• Zest from 1 orange or 1 lemon (or from both for extra flavor)
In a food processor or blender, coarsely chop the cranberries.
In a large bowl, toss berries and sugar together. Add zest to cranberries; stir. Refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours or overnight to let flavors blend. Stir again before serving.
Just realized you forgot to buy [insert key Thanksgiving dinner ingredient], and don't want to hope against hope that SuperAmerica keeps it in stock?
Don't fret. A handful of Twin Cities supermarkets, natural foods co-ops and ethnic grocers will be open on Thursday, including:
El Burrito Mercado in St. Paul, open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Both branches of Mississippi Market in St. Paul, open 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Seward Co-op in Minneapolis (pictured, above), open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Shuang Hur Oriental Market, open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Minneapolis (2710 Nicollet Av. S.), and open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in St. Paul (654 University Av. W.).
Select Twin Cities Walmart Supercenters, open 24 hours.
Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis, open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
All four Twin Cities Whole Foods Market locations, open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Several bakeries are also serving customers on Thanksgiving, including:
All three Minneapolis locations of the Turtle Bread Co., open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A Baker’s Wife’s Pastry Shop in Minneapolis, open 6:30 to noon.
Patrick's Bakery & Cafe in Richfield, open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Pardon My French in Eagan, open 7 a.m. to noon.
Lucia’s to Go in Uptown Minneapolis, open 8 a.m. to noon.
The Taste section of the Star Tribune has held its annual holiday cookie contest for the past decade, resulting in 10 winning recipes that have pleased bakers and appeared on holiday cookie platters for years.
In celebration of our 10th contest, we thought it would be fun to put the top 10 recipes to the test by having four local experts -- pastry chefs -- offer their thoughts on the recipes.
Steve Horton of Rustica bakery, Adrienne Odom of Parasole Restaurants, Diane Yang of La Belle Vie and Stephanie Schwandt of D'Amico Kitchen, pictured above, did just that as staff photographer Tom Wallace, also pictured, recorded the occasion. Find out which were the top three cookies next week (Nov. 29) in the Taste section, along with the winning recipes from this year's contest.
All the winners and finalists from the past decade will be available in the NEW e-book from the Star Tribune. "The Cookie Book" will be available on amazon.com and iTunes (and more) on Nov. 29 for $2.99.
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