Friday, December 16, 2016
I spent all of last weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) baking cookies. I do this every year, always on the last weekend before school ends for the holiday break. I start planning my cookie-baking sometime in November, going through recipes that I already have, as well as new-to-me recipes from websites and cookbooks, usually settling on four recipes to make. I stock up on butter for about a month, buying a pound of whichever brand is on sale in a given week when I do my grocery shopping. (I'm not picky about butter brands; for cookies, Kroger's store brand is just as good as Land O'Lakes or Challenge butter, in my humble opinion). Most of the cookies are donated to the school, for a fundraiser. We have an annual art show during that last week of school, with cookies for sale all evening. You can buy a nice mixture of cookies, packaged in a plastic takeout box, for a few dollars, all of which goes back into the school. I love to bake cookies, so I'm happy to make enough for a big donation, plus few to hold back for home too.
This year's cookie assortment came out particularly well, I think. I tried to avoid some of the recipes I've had trouble with in past years, such as my biscotti that always spread too much during the first "loaf" phase of baking. I didn't bother with anything that required the addition of almond paste or lots of food coloring; I find both kind of hard to incorporate nicely. This year, I wanted simple, easy recipes that looked nice too. These are the cookies I made, arranged clockwise in the above photo (click the cookie's name to see the recipe):
Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumprints
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Citrus Slice and Bake Cookies
Mint Chocolate Delights
I think the shortbread cookies are my favorite. I love almond flavoring in a cookie and the icing is a nice touch. My icing was a little too runny to make pretty designs on the cookies but the flavor was there. I was in the mood for Mexican wedding cakes this year, having gone a good decade without making any. I used finely chopped pecans in them, but most kinds of nuts work well, especially walnuts and almonds.
The citrus cookies were so easy to make; I think the best part was dyeing sugar yellow and orange for decorating the dough logs before slicing them up. I don't think I realized you could make your own colored sugar so easily. I'd tried it once and couldn't make all the dye blend into the sugar. It turns out you need to stir a long time and chop up the dye clumps with the spoon and eventually, you'll get really pretty colored sugar. I'm looking forward to trying it again, actually!
The mint chocolate cookies are one of my old standbys; I make them every year. The recipe makes a LOT of cookies and they're really festive for this time of year. I buy a bag of the mint-mixture chocolate chips as soon as I see them for sale around Thanksgiving, just for these cookies. All in all, a good selection of recipes and plenty of delicious cookies - twenty dozen before donation!
Have a cookie or two with me? I'll make you some tea, too. I don't know about you, but this week wiped me out. Everything happened all at once. Fun, but exhausting. Today is our first official day of the holiday break, although yesterday afternoon saw me pretty much sacked out in a recliner for a couple of hours, before dragging myself to the kitchen to make couscous and heat some sausages. Just before bedtime, I threw away my checklist for the week. I slept for ten hours last night, waking disoriented at 8:00 this morning, the latest I've slept in months. I guess I needed it. This morning, we did battle at Costco for ham and vodka. It's gray and very windy outside. I'm thinking about settling in with my yarn basket and a festive movie this afternoon. Let Christmas commence.