Ten dozen pretty decorated cookies for family and friends!
I’ve missed baking and decorating cookies. During the Christmas holidays, when I normally take on this special project for friends and family gifts, my right hand was hurting too much to even consider decorating so many cookies at once. So, for that reason, I took a pass on the project and hoped to take it on for Valentine’s Day. Happily, my hand is quite a bit better now, and I was able to bake and decorate about ten dozen cookies over the past few days.
This is also the first time that I have made cookies for Valentine’s Day gifts, and I must say that I like decorating them for this special holiday as much as I like decorating them for Christmas. I opted to stick with heart shapes to help keep things a bit more simple. After baking the first large batch and experimenting with different ways to decorate them, I quickly discovered that one particular cutout shape was by far my favorite. So, for the final large batch, I only made cookies with that shape – a medium heart cutout with a pretty scalloped edge.
These are vanilla-almond sugar cookies and are so tasty, even without icing. I also add a little almond flavoring to my royal icing before thinning it for piping and flooding the cookies. The heart flowers are quite simple to do. Just layer three dots of flood icing on top of each other, then drag a toothpick from top to bottom through the center of each one in one slightly curved motion. I varied the heart flower designs on most of the cookies, just to see what each different combination would look like, and there are many combinations that I like in the bunch!
Here are the results of this year’s big cookie project! I had so much fun that I’m thinking about doing Easter cookies this year, too, if I can find some cute cutouts soon.
As today is National Cookie Day, I wanted to share some of my own adventures in cookie baking over the past two years. My own Christmas cookie adventures began in earnest when our long-time bakery shut its doors forever and left many of us in dire straits for decorated Christmas cookies. This had been a tradition for me for a number of years, and I was not ready to give it up. So, I embarked on making my own decorated cookies for the first time with some success the first year and even better success last year.
I have not worked on further honing my cookie skills since last Christmas, due to my weight loss effort. It was a necessary sacrifice and one that I was more than willing to make this year. But, it’s time to once again start baking cookies for gifts, and I am so ready to get going once again! Last year, hubby and I embarked on a cookie decorating day where he helped me “blitz” the decorated cookies mostly in one day, and we had a lot of fun together. As it turns out, he has a great artistic flare for decorating cookies, too.
I have linked to my cookie posts at the bottom of this post, as there are links to many of the recipes I used in those posts, in case you are also ready to embark on your own Christmas cookie adventures soon!
See my note below about the pretty cross cookies, please! 😉 Also, the reindeer cookies were made from my peanut butter cookie recipe.
One note – I love baking the pretty decorated cross cookies (pictured in the 2012 trays). A word of caution, though. They tend to break easily when included in a tray of other cookies, it seems, so I wrap them individually now with a cardboard backing when giving them with the gift trays. After going to all the effort to make these pretty cookies, I want the recipient to get them in one piece. I allow one cross cookie per person, and I include a handwritten note that this is a “special” cookie for them and include the verse, John 3:16, in my note. They can certainly freeze their special cookie to eat at Easter, if they prefer, as long as it is properly wrapped, but so far, I think everyone has eaten their cross cookies for Christmas.
I am finally done with my Christmas cookie baking escapades, thanks to a last-minute “push” to bake and decorate almost 80 cookies on Saturday night, in addition to all of the others I baked last week. Since Thanksgiving was a week later than normal this year, I knew that I was going to be behind in my baking, and that proved to be true, unfortunately. I would liked to have baked about three more types of cookies, but it just didn’t happen this year unless I decide to bake a batch or two after Christmas for our upcoming RV trip next week.
I also included homemade fudge, homemade peanut butter Rice Krispie bars, assorted chocolate and hard candies, Bob’s Candy Canes, homemade instant spiced tea mix and some flavored popcorn with most of the cookie trays, and I liked those additions this year for these gifts. I haven’t had the spiced tea mix in years, and I made sure that I kept some of the mix for us to enjoy for Christmas, too.
I have delivered most of the cookie gift trays, and it has “blessed my socks off” to deliver them to my elderly friends and some family members. Our next door neighbor, who is a sweet elderly widow, loved hers so much that I thought she was going to cry right there at the front door. She has already written me the sweetest thank you note, and she just went on and on in great detail about how she was going to enjoy each and every cookie on that tray. It was priceless, and I will keep it forever. I took a gift tray to our son last night just as he got off from work, and he was so grateful to receive it, too.
If you want a blessing during the holidays, I highly recommend taking a plateful of baked goodies to elderly friends and family members, especially if you can surprise them with it. I hope that I can continue to do this for many years to come. After my experience this year, I would love to be able to give many more cookie trays away, too.
Here are the cookies that I baked this year. Hubby volunteered to help with decorating the sugar cookies all on his own, and he did a great job. Of course he did. He has that artist’s touch, much more than I do, for sure. I told him that he is officially hired for future decorating needs. That will teach him to volunteer! Seriously, we had a fun time decorating cookies, although in the fifth hour of decorating about 11:30 pm on Saturday night, we were both getting a little slap happy. Hence, you may see a few decorated cookies that are a bit “different.” How about a stocking covered in dots as just one example?
I will let the photos tell the rest of the story. My personal favorites are the “psychedelic snowflakes,” and they are actually quite easy to do. I came up with that design, and they really are so pretty and bright!
Yesterday at 5 pm, it was 72 degrees. Today at 11 am, it is 20 degrees and ice is falling outside.
Winter is here again with yet another big arctic blast for us today, and it appears that the temperature will not get above freezing until sometime next week. Our low temperature on Saturday is going to be around *5* degrees, which is just getting ridiculously cold for us. Add in even the lightest wind, and we will have chill factors below zero.
Needless to say, I am staying inside as long as humanly possible this weekend.
All of this wet stuff falling outside is going to remain frozen for days, and after dealing with ice and snow just two weeks ago, I’m seriously going to have to get my Christmas shopping list organized to make quick work of it when the streets finally thaw, since I opted to forego the madness of shopping after Thanksgiving once again this year to spend some quality time in the great outdoors, which I wrote about in my previous post.
I’m also going to try to put my time at home to good use over the next few days. I still have some Christmas decorations to put up inside, and I need to start preparing my kitchen and freezer for my upcoming cookie baking escapades in a few days. I need to clear everything off of all the cabinets in the kitchen to make as much room as possible for the baking process and for the baked cookies as they come out of the ovens. My plan at this time is to get the kitchen re-organized over the weekend and start baking cookies next week. I freeze the cutout cookies until I am ready to begin decorating them, and hopefully the decorating process will begin next weekend or shortly after. I also freeze any other cookies that I bake until I am read to put the gift platters together. To freeze the cookies, I first separate the layers of cookies with wax paper, then wrap them in plastic wrap as tightly as possible, and finally wrap them in a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. The longest period that I kept them frozen last year was about two weeks, but I think they would be fine for a longer period of time when properly wrapped, too.
I delivered my cookie platter gifts about ten to twelve days prior to Christmas last year, and I hope to have them ready to deliver to friends and family about that same time-frame this year.
Decorating cookies is the highlight of Christmas food preparation for me now. I even shared a bit of the decorating fun with a friend and her two little grandchildren last year, and we all had a fun time creating our own unique cookie works of art.
Until last year, I always purchased our decorated Christmas cookies each year from a fabulous bakery nearby, but I had to learn to make them myself last year after our treasured bakery closed for good. Learning how to apply the icing properly was most definitely a trial and error process, but I finally got the hang of it after a few attempts with the flood icing.
The most difficult decision for me right now is deciding on the other cookie recipes to bake this year, along with the decorated sugar cookies. Decisions, decisions! There are so many great holiday cookie recipes to choose from these days, and if you really want to jump into the holiday cookie scene, just start searching on Pinterest. Just make sure you have a few hours once you do. It’s also a great way to unwind with a glass of wine after a spending an entire day dealing once again with an out-of-control extended family member or two as well. Don’t ask me how I know that. 😉
I just updated my previous Christmas Cookies post with pictures of several of the cookies, and I hope you will check that out again. I am so pleased with my decorated cookies, and I am amazed how many friends wanted to buy some from me, too. Unfortunately, all 175 that I made were/are spoken for this year. Now, I’m ready to finally eat some myself in a couple of days!
I also tried one more new cookie recipe a couple of weeks ago, at the request of my husband. On one of his recent business trips, he came across a breakfast cookie on the buffet at the hotel where he stayed, and he asked if I could find a recipe for something similar and give it a try. I was very skeptical about making a cookie that mixed savory and sweet together, but I have to admit that I actually liked it myself.
This recipe is simple to make, and we keep our cookies in the refrigerator in plastic zipper bags. In the morning, we just heat each one for about ten seconds in the microwave on a paper towel, then eat it along with our Keurig coffee. Talk about a quick and easy breakfast on the run – this is it! The only thing I will change in the next batch will be to use a little more bacon and a sharp grated cheddar cheese instead of a medium cheddar. I bake all my cookies on airbake cookie sheets with parchment paper now, too. No more sticking or burnt bottoms for my cookies! I’m not sure how I ever baked without parchment paper in the past, but I won’t ever bake without it again. In fact, I buy the huge roll at Sam’s Club to keep on hand.
I am in love with Christmas cookies and have been for many years. There is just something about a sweet treat with that special holiday touch that just puts me in a particularly festive mood each December. In past years, I have always purchased our Christmas cookies from a wonderful bakery here that has been open since before I was born. But, a few months ago, the bakery shut its doors, and the owner said it would not be reopening, which has been a sad development for our community indeed.
Given the loss of the bakery, I vowed that I would do my best to learn to bake our treasured decorated Christmas cookies on my own. I’ve spent hours and days researching cookies and recipes and decorating techniques. I have bought many supplies, and after baking an initial small test batch, I have now completed my first big batch of decorated Christmas cookies. Thankfully, this is something that I can do, at least well enough to make my family (and even some friends) quite happy. And as a result of all my cookie research, I even chose to make several different kinds of cookies this year to see if we can find a few more favorite holiday cookies, too.
In an effort to make some of my Christmas gifts a little more personal this year, I just completed eight big assorted cookie platters and gave them away to some friends and family members this past weekend, calling it a “Twelve Days of Christmas” gift, and five of the eight platters went to elderly friends and family members.
I opted to give them well before Christmas for some good reasons. The main reasons in giving them early were to get them done ahead of my Christmas cooking rush, give them while they are freshest, and free up the week prior to Christmas for me to finish up shopping, wrapping, cooking and house cleaning. Another good reason for giving them early was to keep everyone from just having yet more sweets to eat on Christmas Eve/Day. I think most people will enjoy having a cookie or two each day leading up to Christmas, and everyone just loved them when I delivered them.
Here is the list of cookies that I baked, with links to the recipes. I tried to have a variety of cookies on the platters, and I also chose to avoid cookies with nuts in them, as I was not sure if a couple of people might have nut allergies. Also, as you can see from the list below, I chose to add a few non-cookie treats to the platters for variety and to get the count up to twelve items for the “Twelve Days of Christmas” theme.
For the record, the following blog posts were invaluable to me in coming up with a special decorated sugar cookie that I know we will love this year and many years to follow. This was my primary goal in learning to bake our traditional Christmas cookies, and I’m thrilled to know now that I can continue that tradition for my family. I actually think these cookies may rival or best the bakery cookies, too.
Bake At 350: Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookie Recipe
I am not using this exact recipe, but it’s very close to the Wilton recipe that I used. The recipe is down the page a bit, and her detailed information here and at Pioneer Woman’s post above is very helpful.
Bake At 350: Royal Icing Tutorial This is probably the best tutorial on Royal Icing that I’ve found and helped me get it right the very first time, especially with the additional information from The Pioneer Woman’s post on making and working with the flow/flood icing.
Happy holiday baking! Christmas Day is just a week away!