Last night I finished baking and icing the sugar cookies, and this morning I got up extra early to put all of the cookies into their holiday tins for delivery. Then — and this is especially important, because baking and frosting cookies is of necessity a highly messy, creative process (for me at least) — I cleaned the kitchen and returned it to its pristine, pre-cookie frenzy state.
There’s a certain glow of satisfaction in finishing up, and I will enjoy a cup of coffee and some orange juice while I fill out my address labels. I’m ready for Christmas!
We’ve gotten an early start on Baking Day this year. The necessary ingredients were purchased yesterday, I’ve got my baking/chilling/mixing plan laid out, the Dutch spice cookie mix is ready to go into the refrigerator to chill, and the Christmas music playlist is in full swing on the iPod. (I ‘m listening to Burl Ives’ bouncy Holly Jolly Christmas as I write this.)
I always really enjoy this day. Baking cookies is just fun.
Some stories are just too silly and delectable to ignore.
Take the story of the South Carolina family that wanted to celebrate their son’s graduation, summa cum laude, from a Christian-oriented home schooling program. They ordered a cake from the local outlet of a large national grocery store chain to celebrate the feat, and wanted a sheet cake decorated with a mortarboard and faux diploma and icing to recognize that accomplishment.
Alas! When the cake was retrieved and viewed at the party, the large national chain had edited out the Latin word variously translated as “with,” “along with,” or “together,” because it also is modern slang for a notorious bodily fluid. So the cake came out saying “Congrats Jacob! Summa — Laude Class of 2018” — even though the Mom who ordered the cake explained that the requested phrase was Latin and meant “with highest honors.” Poor Jacob is quoted as saying, no doubt ruefully: “The cake experience was kind of frustrating and humiliating because I had to explain to my friends and family like what that meant. And they were giggling uncontrollably. At least my friends were.”
Can it really be that a major grocery story chain that regularly bakes congratulatory cakes doesn’t know what “cum laude” means? Maybe we all need to get our minds out of the gutter and onto a higher plane of baking.
We have family coming in for the holidays, so I’m whipping up some cookies for people to nibble while we sit around and catch up on what everyone has been up to during 2017. I’m therefore making my favorite cookie — Dutch spice cookies. I like the brown sugar/cinnamon/nutmeg/clove flavor, which says Christmas to me, but they’re also fun to decorate. You can put anything from M&Ms to decorators’ sugar to nuts on these cookies, and they all seem to go perfectly.
Every successful holiday baking day starts with a carefully prepared shopping list. Preparing the list is, and should be, an involved process. You need to sift through your recipes, decide which ones you’ll be making this year, and take inventory of what you’ve got in the cupboard already — and whether you’ve got it in sufficient quantity. If you’ve made a good list, you won’t be caught short on a particular recipe and have to make an annoying one-ingredient dash to the store midstream.
The list is the first step on the journey.
We’ve turned the page on the calendar to December, and all the college football conference championship games have been played. (Go Bucks!) That means it’s time to start getting serious about holiday baking.
Part of the bake-prep process in the Webner household is going through my sprawling and ever-growing collection of cookie cutters to figure out which ones we’ll be using for the iced sugar cookies this year. It’s an assortment of old and new, some inherited from family members, some used for years, and some just recently added to the mix. These cookie cutters aren’t cookie-cutter!
I like trying new cookie cutters each year, just as I always like to experiment with a few new recipes. It helps to keep the process fresh and fun.
We inherited a lot of interesting stuff from Kish’s Mom, but my favorites are some wooden kitchen implements we keep in an old wooden bowl on our countertop. They are worn smooth, with a warm patina burnished by hands of the past, and they have that evocative, somewhat mysterious element you often sense with older things.
I’m not sure exactly how old they are, but I’m guessing they date from the 1800s. With all-wooden construction and touches like leather straps, there certainly isn’t a whiff of mass production about them. And their precise use isn’t entirely clear, either. Sure, there’s a cracked cookie press, and a dough roller that would leave leaf designs on pie crust, but the uses for the three items in the middle are less obvious. They’re built to pound . . . but pound what? Bread dough? Meat? Or something unsuspected that we now buy, pre-made and pre-packaged, at the neighborhood supermarket?
The three “pounders” conjure up a long-ago kitchen of hard work, sweat equity, and muscle.