About 15 years ago, I was broke and decided to give baked goods to everyone I knew for Christmas. I invited my mother and sister over one Saturday and along with my 9 year old daughter, we churned out recipe after recipe, making hundreds of Christmas cookies and a family tradition was born. Now we do our holiday baking together every year.
The first get-together was full of mishaps and a few disasters but we learned so much from it. Each year we try new cookie recipes as well as making the family favorites. There is always at least one recipe that goes wrong and one that is huge hit. More valuable than delectable treats we turn out are the memories we make together. My daughter is now a young woman with a young daughter of her own. Soon there will be four generations sharing the Christmas cookie baking duties. Here are some tips for starting your own Christmas cookie baking holiday tradition.
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Select the Location
You’ll need a kitchen with plenty of counter space. If that’s not available, you’ll need another room where tables can be set up. Work areas for mixing, rolling, decorating, cooling and displaying are an absolute must for Christmas cookie baking. Multiple ovens are nice but we get by with just one.
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Select the Recipes
One year we all showed up and had nothing but chocolate cookie recipes between us. While they were all good, the effect was overwhelming. Also, for manageability, we limit the baking to 2 or 3 recipes per person. Everyone has to pick their recipes 1 week before the baking date. We compare and make sure we aren’t making things that are too similar.
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If everyone brings their own 5 lb bags of flour and sugar, the cooking area becomes clogged with supplies. If everyone chips in a few dollars, the host can stock up on the essentials like flour sugar, butter, brown sugar and other commonly used ingredients. Then each person has to only bring the unique components of their Christmas cookie recipe.
Everyone brings measuring cups, spoons, cookie sheets and cooling racks. This helps keep the work flowing. Some can be getting washed while others are being used. Stand mixers, such as KitchenAid mixers, with extra bowls are handy but as long as you have access to at least 2 mixers, you can keep the recipes moving forward.
Anyone who is bringing a recipe that requires refrigeration before rolling or cutting should make the batter at home, the night before and bring it already chilled. Nothing can slow down a cookie baking marathon like having to wait for dough to chill.
One person starts on their recipe and gets the first trays in the oven. Once the first batches are baking, the second person begins their recipe. The first person starts washing the utensils and bowls used during their recipe’s preparation. Person number three takes the baked trays to the cooling racks. When person number 2’s cookies hit the oven, she begins the next round of wash up and person 3 begins making their recipe. This way the oven, the sink, the mixer and the cooling racks are in constant flux. And of course you have lots of hands to reach for that spatula and pass along an oven mitt.
With Christmas music playing in the background and the scent of brown sugar and cinnamon in the air, the holiday spirit fills the room. We always have a wonderful time baking Christmas cookies together. When my daughter was away in the service for a few years, it was one of the holiday activities she missed the most.
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