Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Extreme Cookie Edition

A few weeks ago I was craving Christmas cookies, so I went through my books, magazines and clips of recipes trying to find the right ones to bake and the choices were overwhelming: Thumbprints, bar cookies, sugar cookies, tassies, drop cookies, coconut, marshmallow, chocolate, pecans... the list went on. In order to have all the cookies that I wanted it was clear to me that I'd have to host a cookie exchange. But not just a regular cookie exchange. No... I just couldn't keep it simple.

I thought it'd be fun to host a cookie decorating party for my kids and their friends... and their siblings... and their mothers who would bring homemade cookies with them for the exchange. Five mothers and ten children ranging in ages from 12 weeks to nearly seven years old. This had potential disaster written all over it.

The week before the party I made the dough from this recipe, part of a feature on how to host a cookie decorating party with children. I have been hanging on to this article for seven years. Now why do you think I thought this sounded like a good idea back then? Because I didn't have kids back then, that's why.

Don't you love getting a glimpse of what an unrealistic person you were before you had kids?

The day before the party I baked over 80 sugar and gingerbread cookies as well as a double batch of  Chocolate Espresso Crinkle cookies for the exchange on the morning of the party. I covered our dining room table with a disposable tablecloth and gave each child their own tin tray with sprinkles in cupcake liners and a Ziploc bag filled with royal icing.

This was the best idea of the party - the disposable trays. I put the sprinkles in mini cupcake liners so it would provide containment and quantity control with how much the kids could dump onto a cookie. I had visions of fist fights breaking out over sprinkle containers, so by giving everyone their own supplies, I think I eliminated a lot of potential tears. I thought of this myself and will be patting myself on the back for it for the next year.

The Swedish Ginger Cookie recipe was alright, but it was not nearly as sweet as I had hoped. However, it bakes up nicely and when decorated with icing, the kids loved it.

The Sugar Cookie Cutouts recipe was very good and is one that I would definitely make again. (Please don't tell this to my family who regards my grandmother's butter cookie recipe as if it were legend.)

I really appreciated the tips in this article about hosting a party. I'll show before and after pictures below, but the author's advice was on the money: Make more frosting than you think you'll need, because kids will pile that stuff on. I had back up canisters of store bought frosting and the younger children ended up using these because royal icing is stiff and can be tricky to squeeze out. Only trouble is that canned frosting, or any buttercream frosting for that matter, will not harden.

I prepared myself for the mother of all messes and just let it happen. One sweep of the vacuum cleaner and it was back to normal. (Did I mention that I am a bit of a neat freak?)

One mother was kind enough to bring Champagne for mimosas and I provided bagels and cream cheese with smoked salmon. We had a civilized time exchanging some of the most delicious homemade cookies while the kids completely went nuts with the cookies. Everyone left after two hours, pleased with their cookies and I got to spend the whole day nibbling cookies rather than eating real food.

Ah well, it's Christmas and I got what I wanted - a variety of Christmas cookies and some fantastic memories. Can't say I'd do this again, but then again, there is always next year...

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