This weekend I hosted my annual Christmas baking get together with friends. I just returned to Kentucky a few months ago, and this was my first year baking at home for the holidays in 10 years. I pre-made 6 cookie doughs for the night and they will be highlighted in my 12 Days of Christmas Cookies in the weeks to come. While all the cookies will appear lovely and perfect on this site, I wanted to share the realities of what sometimes happens behind-the-scenes in my kitchen.
Note: No humans, animals or prehistoric sugar cookies were harmed in the making of this post.
Baking reality #1: Sometimes Snowflakes become Dinosaurs.
This is 100% OK and even encouraged in my kitchen. See that green guy above? Prior to baking, he was a snowflake. Historically, I have struggled with sugar cookies. Even when I make the most time tested of recipes, such as this Sugar Cookie classic from the Joy of Baking, I get in a rush, skip some crucial steps and they turn out a little crazy. I haven’t the patience for the dough chilling (thus my amoeba shaped cookies).
What matters is the cookies TASTE good. Some of my most memorable baking moments are from time spent icing and decorating sugar cookies with friends. So what if you have prehistoric cookies for Christmas? As long as they taste like they were made in this century, you’re golden. I was recently in a holiday baking class and the teacher was publicizing up her next class on beautifully decorated, perfectly iced sugar cookies. After a two hour class you would go home with one perfect sugar cookie. My classmate turned to me and asked, “Would you rather have one beautiful cookie or a bunch of normal looking cookies?” The answer was obvious. After all, they’re all going into my belly.
Lesson 1: Work Sugar Cookie dough when it is COLD.
Lesson 2: Use ROOM TEMPERATURE ingredients to make the Royal Icing.
Lesson 3: In the event of a mishap, be creative and think outside the box when decorating.
Baking reality #2: Sometimes you forget an ingredient.
I made all of my dough in advance for the baking weekend when I was home alone and focused. Once our group got together we were more focused on Christmas movies, pizza and cocktails. The one dough we made on-site as a group turned out to be a melty mess (as you can see in the video below). I did see some flour added by my baking compatriots, but my guess is it was measured incorrectly and that we needed about twice as much. I added more flour (and baking soda for good measure) for the next batch and the problem was solved. It wasn’t ideal to mix in extra dry ingredients after the fact, but it worked. I eyeballed the dough for correct texture and in the end we had a decent cookie.
We laughed and laughed. In the grand scheme of things baking isn’t that expensive and the loss of ingredients was minimal. The only real loss was the bag of Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips. You better believe we were pulling those little suckers out of the middle of the melty mess to have a bite. As I mentioned in my Peppermint Meringue post, messes happen but the baking goes on.
Lesson 4: If you make a mistake, laugh it off. It isn’t the end of the world.
Lesson 5: When baking in a group (or alone) be sure to double check ingredients, it is worth the time.
Baking reality #3: Christmas baking is better with music, cocktails, friends and family.
I guess this is true of everything in life really. Good friends, a few cocktails and some jazzy music can really liven up your days and nights. My current Christmas album favorite is A Very She & Him Christmas. And my newest holiday cocktail favorite is Four Roses Bourbon and Apple Cider (although I am infusing my own Cranberry Lime Vodka for New Year’s Eve).
As for the people in my life, I’m blessed beyond measure with wonderful friends and family across the country (with a few sprinkled overseas). The holiday season is a great time to sit down, share a drink and a laugh, and enjoy good company.
Lesson 6: The holidays (including baking) are even better with a little cocktail of choice.
Lesson 7: Share the holiday season with your favorite people, and don’t feel obligated to spend it with the grumps.
Hope you’re having a magically fun season. Happy Holidays Everyone!