On The Table: Christmas cookies!

Christmas is less than a week away. How awesome is that? VERY AWESOME.

Seriously, no other time of year makes me this happy, this often.  The radio can play all the versions of “Jingle Bell Rock” they know, and I will still jump up and down like a three-year-old when I remember Christmas is actually approaching. My presents are all wrapped and waiting for distribution.  I’m drinking even more tea and hot cider than usual.  Decorations are going up everywhere.  Christmas carols abound.  We’re watching our favorite holiday movies (aka “Muppet Christmas Carol,” “Die Hard,” and “Love Actually”) while bundled up in extra socks and long underwear.  And at the end of it all, there’s my most favorite night at church ever, followed by a morning of gift-giving and eating coffee cake.

In the meantime, my cheerful little snowman advent calendar is counting down the days, and our kitchen is churning out Christmas cookies.

The first batch was baked a couple weeks ago, but they’ve been eaten already.  There was no evidence. This is kind of a shame, because we used Jessica’s dinosaur cookie cutters on my family’s sugar cookie recipe.  We gave them frosting Christmas sweaters!

A few nights ago, I got the urge to make more cookies. My vision of how this would work out did not exactly match up with the end results. You’ll see why as we go along.

First of all, we didn’t have enough sugar.   I texted Kevin to ask if he could grab some on his way home, since I had done some grocery shopping after work the day before and didn’t want to make a second trip.  Kevin’s phone, however, decided this text was not important and failed to deliver it until around 4:30 – after Kevin was already home.  So I had to stop at Fred Meyer, in the dark and the cold, for the second night in a row.  This meant I was in a bad mood when I started baking, which is just not the point of baking cookies at all.

Next, I made a small concession to the health of our arteries and decided to use half butter, half Smart Balance.  The bakers among you are probably screaming in horror what what turned out to be a terrible, terrible mistake.   (It says it’s good for baking on the side of the can! How was I supposed to know?)

The first part – creaming the butter and sugar – came together much better than it had the first time, possibly because we didn’t put enough butter in that batch.  Or possibly because I was using very soft, mixable not-butter.

Other than that, though, things kept going wrong.  Our largest mixing bowl was not big enough to contain a double batch of cookie dough.  I forgot to add the eggs until the very end, which left me digging through a mound of flour trying to break up gooey bits of egg white.  And when the time came to actually bake the darn things, they kept puffing up and losing their shape and finally collapsing into leathery-looking blobs that might have once been stars.

I called my mom for help.  “It’s always the butter,” she said.  “The dough is probably too warm, or you’re working it too much.”

Realization hit.  “Or…I could have substituted half of the butter for Smart Balance.”

“What’s Smart Balance?”

“It’s a buttery spread thing.  It’s healthier than butter.”

“Oh.  Yeah.  That would do it.”

We raised the temperature in the oven and shortened the cooking time.  The last couple trays held their shape a bit better, but…not much.

Some got frosting, some got sprinkles, and we went a little crazy with both.

Exhibit A: deformed, slightly burned

Exhibit B: the last tray, somewhat recovered.

We tried to make jam-filled cookies too, but it turns out they require a different recipe. We wound up with jam craters.

Our little vampire monster guy. Merry Christmas?

The frosted batch. Some of these turned out better than others...

Do you guys have any baking traditions?  Any fun holiday plans?

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5 thoughts on “On The Table: Christmas cookies!

  1. Ah, Love Actually – one of my favorite Christmas movies!

    We don’t have any baking traditions at my house per se, but we’re very Canadian, and very British-Canadian at that, so the holidays are full of Welsh Rarebit, Yorkshire Pudding, Beef Wellington, and the world’s most AMAZING shortbread made by my actually-from-Scotland-so-she-knows-what-she’s-doing Great Aunt Margaret. Only she won’t tell us the recipe, so I’ve no idea how to make it myself.

    I decorated cookies like yours for the first time last week. But we only had animal cookie cutters, so there were a lot of bats.

    • I would pay to have Christmas with your family – that all sounds AMAZING. Especially the shortbread…*drool* That’s so cool to have someone in the family who can generate authentic cooking like that!

  2. Pingback: christmas blues…or greens, whatever « Hey, hello, hi.

  3. My grandma makes a gazillion different cookies for Christmas. My favorite are the chocolate toffee bars. They’re not actually toffee, but they taste like it. Coincidentally, my attempt to make these last week failed horribly also due to a butter problem. I’m planning to try again.

    Another tradition we have is to eat Huntington Chicken on Christmas Eve. It’s basically a Mac and Cheese with chicken. It’s horrible for your arteries, but does wonders for your soul. This year I’m not able to visit my family so I’m going to make this myself – without chicken so my roommates will help me eat it. I sense that this might be a bad decision, but I’m powering ahead with confidence.

    Merry Christmas!

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