Tag Archives: holiday baking

Dashing Through The Snow

It’s December 31st and I’m pretty sure I won’t be awake when 2017 rolls in.

Which is just fine.

Vintage noisemakers from Caldwell's Miscellaneous Fancy Goods

My strategy this holiday season had been to do as much ahead of time as I could manage, though this strategy backfired somewhat. I was trying to address the Christmas shopping preemptively – finding the perfect thing, then hiding it away. One of the problems with this strategy was that when I started pulling out my various stashes of goodies I found I’d gone rather overboard. I guess I should have kept a list. Plus there were a few things I just know I safely put away but have yet to be found. Apparently my efforts to be organized meant that I had turned into the human equivalent of a squirrel.

Then there were the cookies. It felt like I’d gotten a nice jump-start on making Christmas cookies and baked plenty to last through the holidays. The thing is when you bake lots, and lots, and lots of cookies the question you should be asking yourself is,

“Are there ever enough Christmas cookies?”

Because the answer is no. You may see box upon box of buttery, sugary holiday cheer and think there is a glut, but trust me there isn’t. Nineteen-year-olds, the friends you want to give “a little something” to, the cookie tithe you pay to your sister for borrowing her Kitchen Aide mixer yet another year, and to be perfectly honest your own sassy self – all those factors add up fast. The perceived hoards of cookies disappear quicker than you can say Jack Brownie.

So enough with doing things ahead of time! It’s New Year’s eve and I’m going to live in the moment (or at least try to). Which means I’ll only think about what can get done today. Snow shoveling, a quick trip to the post office and transfer station, then baking up Rick’s Turkey Meatloaf.

Turkey meatloaf dinner

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Filed under 50 Recipes

Holiday Baking with Cookie Logs

I’m going to tell you one of my favorite cooking secrets. Cookie Logs. Better than sliced bread, the wheel, or individual packets of nutella. Cookie logs spell salvation for the home cook. The concept is beautifully simple – you take your favorite cookie recipe, mix it up, shape it into logs, and freeze (or refrigerate).

"cookie logs"

Kids forget to tell you they have to bring in dessert for the community supper tomorrow? No worries you’ve got cookie logs. Invited to a going away party for a neighbor but forgot to make something? You’re covered because you have cookie logs and can have fresh-baked cookies in less than 17 minutes. Stressed out with all the holiday stuff you still need to do including finding a ukulele for your husband who wants to learn to play the instrument at age 53? No sweat, Christmas cookies are covered due to a fridge full of cookie logs. I am telling you cookie logs make you feel you can handle whatever culinary curveballs life throws. If you make three or more doughs today and turn them all into logs, you’ve just taken more than half the stress out of baking. Tomorrow (or Sunday or Monday) you will be a slice and bake Queen or King! Guaranteed.

"getting ready to roll cookie dough"

Getting ready to roll.

Martha Stewart puts her logs in empty paper towel tubes to keep them perfectly symmetrical. I’m down and dirty with mine. Plop some dough along a sheet of wax paper, fold over and use a dough scraper or ruler to push the wax paper around the dough and form into a log shape, then twist the ends and throw in the fridge or bag up for the freezer. It really doesn’t mater if they have a slightly flat side – they’ll sit on the counter and not roll when you go to slice them.

I usually give myself a clue as to what is in the log plus note what temperature the particular dough bakes at with a magic marker. Remember lower your baking times. My logs tend to be about the size of a quarter, which is usually smaller than a regular cookie. This means their cooking time is shorter. You’ll smell/see when they are done. Smaller cookies also means you’ll end up with a larger yield. I like this because often all I want is a nibble, not a cookie the size of my hand.

"dough scraper cookie log rolling"

Dough scraper log rolling.

The other thing to know is not all doughs are able to be turned into logs. Anything which ultimately gets rolled out flat, such as sugar cookies, I don’t make into logs. In the past I haven’t “logged” dough that needs to be rolled into balls, but lately I’ve switched over to logging just about everything. With doughs that call for being rolled into a ball, I simply slice off bigger chunks and roll them into marble or walnut sizes depending on the recipe. You also may need to leave those doughs out to soften a bit before attempting to roll them, especially if they’ve been frozen.

"plastic ruler cookie dough log rolling"

Plastic ruler cookie log rolling.

Since my doughs don’t have preservatives I only keep them in the fridge for 5-7 days. When I pop logs into the freezer I place them in zip lock bags to guard against freezer burn.

"slice and bake cookie dough logs"

Slice and bake.

So now you know one of my favorite culinary tricks. I hope you enjoy your cookie logs!

"cookie crown"


Filed under In between

Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies

I love making Christmas cookies. To me they signal Christmas is coming as much as lighting each week’s Advent candle, a yard full of snow, listening to Christmas CDs on repeat, or enjoying a glass of eggnog with rum and freshly ground nutmeg.

"Picking out a Christmas Tree"

Many years ago my friend Marisa Gorgoni and I  tried to cash in on this mutual love we both shared for baking Christmas cookies. Our money making scheme was to sell homemade cookies to people who were too busy to bake. Good idea right? Our basic math skills were sharp enough, though we clearly didn’t understand how to estimate in our time (or for that matter the cost of electricity) when we came up with our prices. Here, in Marisa’s very neat handwriting, were the costs of our cookie ingredients:

"Prices of cookie ingredients"

We sold them to a captive audience – our teachers at F-M High School (I’m guessing our parents probably bought some as well, but that is another story). Here is what we charged:

"Cookie prices"

All I can say is our underpaid teachers got a great deal that year, and they all probably knew it.* Especially our math teacher. When all the dishes were done and the cookies distributed I think we each had made about 5 cents/hour. Lesson learned, ever since I have only “sold” cookies when I was getting well paid for my time (either as a pastry chef or as a food stylist). It doesn’t mean that I haven’t made cookies out of love, as a thank-you, or for a get well present. I do it all the time. I just don’t try to make a career out of it.

With roughly twelve days to go ’til Christmas I am embarking on my annual cookie baking marathon. B.K. (before kids) I would go nuts. Nowadays I’ve settled into a somewhat predictable and slightly shorter cookie roster which consists of Grammy Caldwell’s snickerdoodles, Arlene Sullivan’s Molasses Snaps, Grammy Thompson’s Scandinavian CookiesSugar Cookies, Butterscotch Icebox Cookies, Gertrude’s, and Snowballs. There are plenty of other cookies that I love, I just stay with these since I associate each one with Christmas, especially those of my childhood.

To get the recipes of the first four cookies mentioned above click on the name of the cookie and it will link you to the original blog where I wrote about it. The others I will post as I bake my way through them.

Happy baking to all my readers! I’d love to know what you’re planning on making this holiday season –

"staring to fill up the cookie tin"

*I may not be being fair to my high school teachers when I say they got a real bargin, since you could buy a whole box of girl scout cookies for a little over a dollar in 1978. With that in mind a dollar for a mere dozen cookies may have seemed expensive to them. Of course today I’ve seen a single cookie (and grant you it’s a large cookie) sell for anywhere from $1-2.50 depending on where you’re buying it. Sheesh, I sound like an old curmudgeon so I’ll stop now.


Filed under 50 Recipes, In between