Christmas Ornament Cookies

Baking date: December 8; Decorating dates: December 22 & 23

For a number of years now, I have baked cookies and decorated them for my oldest son’s baseball teammates and their families. 2018 was no exception…but it was a bit different. After 10 years, it was the year my son played his final organized baseball game. I think he handled it better than his parents, and I blogged about the experience of his last baseball game at our home field after 10 years.

I had purchased new cookie cutters in ornament shapes from Crate & Barrel that I planned to use for the 2018 Christmas goody bags. Here’s a photo, as I was unable to find a link to them currently on the C&B site – perhaps because they are seasonal.  Baker’s note: The top two shapes — especially that one on the top left — are more fragile than the others because of narrowing areas of the cut out. This is true for cutting them out, getting them out of the shape and onto the cookie sheet and after they bake. Those shapes are prone to breaking.  Overall, these shapes are large, so keep that in mind for quantity of cookies.

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I made gingerbread cookies — my mom sent me her favorite version of a gingerbread cut out recipe. It makes a ton of cookies, even with large cookie cutters. I actually called my mom after she emailed me the recipe because I thought vinegar was a mistake.

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I also made sugar cookies.  I had made them weeks earlier, and froze them until I was ready to start decorating, December 22 and 23. Here they are in the storage containers, ready to be decorated.

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And here’s my personal “workshop”, ready for the cookie decorating.  In addition to the ornament cut outs, I also had candy canes and stars. You can see some of the ornament cookies that I had started, in the bottom right corner. Each ornament cookie had a unique decoration. I made one cookie for every member of each family – close to 125 cookies:

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So big bummer here – the pictures I took of all the decorated cookies got deleted from my phone. The only one that saved was this one:IMG_2372

And a few friends who received the cookies posted photos (presented in slide show format):

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Here are links to some of the previous years’ cookies:

In addition to cookies, I also make mini-breads:  banana, snickerdoodle, and pumpkin (a Pillsbury mix topped with chocolate chips). Here you see my big mini-bread pan filled with pumpkin, before being topped with chocolate chips. In the background are the very ripe bananas I got at the store, that would soon be turned into banana bread.

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So, while I don’t have photos of all the cookies, I do have this photo of my delivery “elf” along with my new “sleigh” filled with the goody bags. My elf has gone out with me  on Christmas Eve each year to drop off the bags of cookies, homemade breads and candies to all the baseball families we have spent our Summers with over the years.

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I look forward to continuing this tradition as long as possible, even when high school is over.

Star Gingerbread Cookie Tree

Baking date: December 9, Assembly date: December 16, 2018

I had seen this video tutorial on YouTube and immediately purchased the Wilton Star Christmas Tree cookie cutter set because I wanted to try it. It took me a year, but in 2018 I finally got around it.

Baker’s note: I followed the instructions in the video of cutting out the center for the larger stars. But a note of caution – I thought all the stars with centers cut out were the largest and should be stacked in reverse size order. Turns out, one of the full size cut outs is actually bigger than the cutouts with hollow centers. You need to stack the cookies in size order prior to using the royal icing to build your tree.

I used pre-made white cookie icing instead of making royal icing from scratch. The cookie icing was a bit runny for this task. I would recommend making a royal icing from scratch that is a bit thick. It will still drip over the edges and will be less messy. My arm was covered in icing once I was done.

I made the cookies out of gingerbread, from a family recipe. Here’s the tree completely assembled and with white, blue and silver decorations.

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I let the cake “set” overnight. I took this with me to the office to share with co-workers. It was my co-pilot on the hour and a half drive in. It traveled just fine in the top of my turkey roasting pan, because it was too tall for my normal cake holder.

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People were wow’d. At first, no one wanted to break off a piece. But once they started, it was quickly gobbled up.

It was pretty and it tasted great – the perfect combo!

Christmas Cookie Decorating Party

Baking date: December 8; decorating date: December 15

Each year, I invite my sisters, mom, aunts, nieces, nephews and cousins to my house for a cookie exchange/decorating party. Each family who comes brings cookies to exchange, and I make roll-out/cut-out cookies for people to decorate. We decorate the cookies and while they are drying, I serve a buffet lunch to everyone who comes. It is a great way to spend a Saturday during the weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday.

Here is a sampling of the cookies from this year, including a sassy little gingerbread man that my cousin’s daughter created:

Here’s the table full of cookies, waiting for the icing to dry:

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And here’s the buffet table:

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And here’s my mom, aunts, cousin, niece and nephew during the decorating.

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I hope you find a way to make the holidays special with your family!

 

 

Halloween-themed Gingerbread Cookies

Baking date: October 31, 2018

Each Friday night there is a home game for our varsity football team, the families provide a dinner for them and the coaches. I usually don’t get the sign up information until late, and dessert is always taken by the time I log on.

For the final game of the season, we invite the varsity cheerleaders to join the meal. I asked the team mom to put my name down for desserts before she launched the potluck sign up.

I made gingerbread cut out cookies that I could decorate with royal icing. I used a recipe from the Mary Meade’s Country Cook Book:

Ingredients: 1 cup softened butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 beaten egg, 2 cups molasses, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 8 cups flour (yes, 8  cups!), 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 tablespoons ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 3 teaspoons baking soda, 1 cup boiling water

Directions: Sift flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg – set aside (for amounts this large, I place all the ingredients in a bowl and use a whisk to “sift” them). Beat egg in small bowl; set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg, molasses and vinegar.  Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water (it will fizz up!). Add water alternately with flour mixture. Chill at least one hour prior to rolling out.  Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes (oven temps and cook times may vary, also the size of the cookie may mean more or less baking time).

I made some generic Halloween-themed cookies, using white, black, orange, red, purple and green cookie icing, a variety of sprinkles, as well as large and regular candy eyeballs. (Wilton also makes bloodshot eyeball candies – next year!)img_2111img_2113

There were also cookies with royal blue and golden yellow cookie icing, which are the team colors. There was also one huge pumpkin that I shaped from the remaining dough.

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Here are the cookies on the plates:

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The players and cheerleaders were well fed and enjoyed the cookies. Thanks for a great season to all of them!

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Football Player Mummy Gingerbread Cookies

Baking date: October 26, 2018

This year, my son helped to coach players in the junior football program he grew up in. The kids on the team he helped to coach are 6th and 7th graders, who are on the D2 team. The D2 team is more of an instructional level than the competitive D1 squad.

My son always played on the D1 squad when he was in the program. His D2 team made it to a “Bowl” game, that took place October 27. Because it was so close to Halloween, I decided to make the players and coaches football player “mummies”.

I used a gingerbread cookie recipe my mom sent me from the Mary Meade Country Cookbook. The edition my mom has is probably from the mid- to late- 60s. The recipe is:

Ingredients: 1 cup softened butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 beaten egg, 2 cups molasses, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 8 cups flour (yes, 8  cups!), 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 tablespoons ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 3 teaspoons baking soda, 1 cup boiling water

Directions: Sift flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg – set aside (for amounts this large, I place all the ingredients in a bowl and use a whisk to “sift” them). Beat egg in small bowl; set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg, molasses and vinegar.  Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water (it will fizz up!). Add water alternately with flour mixture. Chill at least one hour prior to rolling out.  Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes (time may vary, depending on your oven and the size of your cut out cookie. The gingerbread man cut out I used was 14 minutes).

When decorating the cookies, I started with an all white royal icing base. I then piped on a black royal icing square where the eyes would go – I got the idea for the eyes from a Nicki Lee Bakes video tutorial. At first, I thought it looked like a bunch of astronauts!

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After I added the red royal icing and then candy eyeballs, I added strips of white using a #46 basket weave tip.  I then used royal blue cookie icing (pre-made royal icing, if you will) to pipe on the helmets, with royal icing dyed golden yellow for the facemask and stripes on the helmet. Finally, I added each players’ number in royal blue cookie icing.

Here are the finished cookies for players:

Player Cookies

These are a few on the ones that I made for the seven coaches (including my son), For those, I piped a baseball hat instead of a helmet:

Coach Cookies

And, of course, we can’t forget the Team “Mummy”:

Team Mummy

I placed each cookie in a treat bag. After the game, as the coaches spoke to them, I handed out cookies to the kids and coaches. I also had made cinnamon spice drop cookies (I use butter, not shortening) for parents, siblings and other fans in attendance.

The kids were a muddy mess after the Bowl game:

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Even though they lost, the kids loved the cookies! I believe you should always be paying it forward as much as possible. Cookies were one way I could do that for these kids.

Below is a slide show of my gentle giant (Walkersville High School varsity O-line tackle), with the kids throughout the season.

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Christmas Goodies for Co-Workers

Baking date: December 17, 2017

Each year, I make goodie bags for my immediate team (6 individuals, including my supervisor). In addition, I make a variety of cookies (small cut outs of gingerbread and sugar) to share with the people on my floor.

This year, the base cookie was a gingerbread cookie. I decorated one for each team member with their name, and then filled the boxes with some mini-breads, other generically decorated gingerbread and sugar cookies and a $10 Starbucks gift card.

Here are the personalized cookies, along with some of the generically decorated cookies, mini-breads and gingersnaps:

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Here are more of the sugar and gingerbread cookies:

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Here’s the assembly line of cookies and boxed treats for my team:

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As one person commented: “Thoughtful, personal, and edible – I like it! Great job.”

 

Annual Family Christmas Cookie Exchange

Baking date: December 18, 2015

Each year — as long as a snow storm doesn’t ruin it (some of my family lives 2.5 hours away) — I invite my mom, sisters, aunts and cousins to my house for a cookie decorating party. It started out as a cookie bake, but that seemed crazy with one oven, 5 or 6 different cookies to bake, and everyone’s travel time factored in.

So I modified the event. Now, attendees bring a selection of baked cookies and I make cut out cookies. We decorate the cookies, then have lunch, and everyone shares the cookies they brought and takes home some of the decorated cookies.

This year, I made gingerbread cut outs, sugar cookie cut outs, and shortbread cut outs. My uncle is allergic to eggs, so that’s the reason for the shortbread cookies.

I provide the icing and decorations. Once we finish decorating the cookies, we have lunch – typically deli meats, cheeses, and the fixings for sandwiches, along with potato salad, pasta salad, and fresh fruit.

After lunch, we divvy up and package the cookies everyone brought so each person can take some home. By that time, the decorated cookies are dry enough.

This year, the cut out cookie shapes were Christmas trees, stockings, rounds, candy canes, bells, snowmen, and gingerbread men.

Here are the cookies up close, as well as a shot of the whole table full.

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My friend Rebecca’s daughter Sami has joined the fun the past few years. She had a basketball game and arrived after lunch. She hung out with me after everyone left and we decorated cookies in the early to mid-afternoon. I was taking her home around 4:00pm, as she, her brothers and her dad were going to see the new Star Wars movie that evening. Her designs included a homage to some of her favorite things:

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…like the Pittsburgh Steelers…

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…a beautiful wreath — channeling her designer parents’ talent…

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…a salute to the new Star Wars movie…

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…and this clever creation – she even broke off the leg. Oh Snap! indeed.

Sami and I decorated a bunch of cookies, although I did the most decorating. She focused on a few cookies, but spent a good deal of the time eating the decorations right out of the containers. I was able to send her back to her dad all sugared up!

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Sami had a great time.

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That green smile is from eating all the decorations!

And so did I. Every year, it’s a tradition that means a great deal to me.