Tales From a Cookie-Baking Extravaganza
It started out seven years ago as a simple day of baking. My college roommate Brigid, my sister Cathy and I decided to get together to crank out a bunch of unique Christmas cookies to present as gifts to friends and business associates. We’d congregate at B’s farm-style house with its large, open kitchen and dreamy commercial-quality Wolf stove -- capable of baking six-plus dozen cookies at one time -- and make dough after dough. At the end of the day we’d divvy up bags of cookies and split costs. At home, treats were boxed up in white baker’s boxes with raffia and personalized labels. Sweet success.
As years went by, word got out about our box o’ confections. Starting Dec. 1, clients and friends started asking, “So, when are the cookie boxes coming?” Expectation levels and cookie quantities increased. Ingredients were no longer bought in a grocery store; they were loaded up on a flatbed at Costco. Sugar was bought in 100-pound bags. Another sister and more friends joined us, lured by stories of cookie craziness. A good friend joined one year but was voted off “Cookie Island” after she decided that 10 hours of baking was a bit too much. (Imagine that.) Clearly, this was not for the faint of heart.
This year, due to increased demand, we decided to kick it up a notch. We’d do two back-to-back days of baking and churn out 28 different kinds of cookies. If one day was fun, well two days of nonstop baking, Christmas carols and catching up would be double the fun, right? Well...sort of.
Day One kicked off at 7:30 a.m. Over coffee and Diet Coke (me), we quickly turned out dozens and dozens of our faves: Peanut Butter Blossoms, Almond Jammies, Cappuccino Flats and White Chocolate Raspberry cookies. Our makeshift bakery shelves filled up quickly. Doughs weren’t just doubled and tripled they were -- well, what exactly is the correct term for eight timesing a recipe? Baking sheets were queued up waiting for their date with the oven.
Overheard in the kitchen:
-- “Is it possible to get Carpal Tunnel from scooping dough?”
-- “If this cooks for 10 minutes at 350 degrees in the regular oven, what time and temp is it in the convection oven?” [Note: This question was asked 100 times over the two days.]
-- “Do not let me taste any more dough. Seriously, don’t.”
-- “Why did we make 32 dozen oatmeal cookies? I don’t have that many friends.”
Quitting time was 8 p.m. It was a long, but satisfying day. Oh, and my back really hurt.
On Day Two I woke at 6 to the smell of baking cookies. (“I wanted to get a jump-start on these before everyone got here,” said Brig, surrounded by a sea of coconut Drommars.) The rest of the cookie crew shuffled in at 8:45, clearly questioning the wisdom of baking for a second day. A rhythm kicked in. Soon we were scooping, filling, dipping and decorating dozens and dozens of buttery orbs. At 4 o’clock we closed up shop. Doughs that were not cooked, were divvied up to distribute later. The anticipated final yield: upwards of 650 dozen cookies. (Yes, really.)
Lessons learned? The marathon session, though a bit too ambitious, was a blast -- and provided enough belly laughs and holiday cheer to last me until next December. Next year, though, we voted to return to one day. And we are going to simplify and reduce the number of jellies….
Kim is on vacation this week.
Nancy Kerr edits AMA and oversees features content for washingtonpost.com. She is not baking cookies again for a long, long time.
A favorite we always make:
Ina Garten's Jam Thumbprint Cookies
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
Raspberry and/or apricot jam
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
Roll the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. (If you have a scale they should each weigh 1 ounce.) Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown. Cool and serve
From the "Barefoot Contessa Family Style" cookbook
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