Christmas cookie baking has begun at our house. These gingerbread men are decorated with buttercream frosting.
Christmas Cookie Baking
Every family has traditions, and one of ours is baking Christmas cookies. Growing up, every year we'd bake cookies and give them to our teachers, school bus driver, neighbors, and even the dentist. We'd bake sugar cookies, gingerbread men, Christmas cherry bells, raisin-filled cookies, date pinwheels, and almond squares. Most of these were treats we only had once a year, and that made them special.
Over the years, we've continued the tradition of cookie baking at Christmas time. Inviting friends and relatives together to bake cookies is a wonderful way to welcome the season. Host a "cookie exchange" by having every guest bring a dozen cookies for each person present, then exchange cookies and enjoy an assortment of cookies without baking them all yourself.
10 tips for hosting a Christmas Cookie Bake
1. Plan ahead. Most cookie dough can be made the day before and kept in the refrigerator.
You can also bake ahead. If your cookies are in a well-sealed container, they'll stay fresh for weeks in the freezer. Don't try to make 17 different types of cookies in one day.
2. If you plan to bake cookies with other people, be realistic about how much you'll get done. Two experienced bakers working together can get a lot done. Add more people, production rate per person will probably slow down, especially if you're working in a home kitchen.
3. Baking with children can make wonderful memories, but you'd better figure on getting even less done. Choose recipes with children in mind. They'll love to help with simple things like putting sprinkles on iced sugar cookies. Also have an activity, such as coloring pictures or games that children can enjoy while the grown-ups do the serious baking and clean-up.
4. Make sure you have enough equipment on hand. Baking sheets, plastic bags or containers for finished cookies, plenty of potholders, cookie scoops, a kitchen timer, and spatulas to remove finished cookies. Air-bake baking sheets work best for drop cookies; regular baking sheets work better for shaped cookies like gingerbread men and sugar cookie cut-outs.
One of my favorite kitchen gadgets is a marble rolling pin. Chilled in the refrigerator, one of these does a great job rolling out cookie dough (or pie crusts). Once you start using a marble rolling pin, you'll never want to go back to a wooden rolling pin again.
5. Don't forget about feeding your bakers (with something besides cookies, of course). Serve coffee, tea, and milk. Soup, sandwiches, and fresh fruit and vegetables make a light lunch that won't interrupt the baking process too much.
6. Baking for people on special diets can be a tough one, but it can be done. A few days ago I was at a friend's house when the hostess served us gluten-free monster cookies that were delicious.
7. Make sure there's room to cool the finished product and let frosting dry. Bring out any card table you own and clear your counter tops of anything unnecessary.
You can use a cooling rack for cookies hot from the oven, but if you're doing a huge batch of cookies, you probably don't have enough racks. One easy solution is to use an old tablecloth (a smooth one, not fuzzy terrycloth) spread over a table and cool the cookies on there.
8. If you're planning to share the cookies, wrap them in individual pieces of plastic wrap, or even wrap them in pairs back-to-back to avoid smashing them.
9. To give cookies as a gift, place an assortment on a sturdy disposable plastic plate, add a few pieces of candy or even baubles like bells, and wrap everything with a large piece of plastic wrap or put in a resealable bag. Add a ribbon.
10. Then give them away: to your neighbors, of course, but consider your children's teachers, the people that serve in your church, your car mechanic, your librarian, all the people around us that make our lives livable and wonderful, all year long.