1 : small flat or slightly raised cakes
As I've mentioned, this Christmas season hasn't gone exactly as I would have liked. The tree went up on December 6th, more than a week post-Thanksgiving. The nightly Advent calendar didn't happen. My book of Christmas devotions went largely unread. A gingerbread house was never made. I knew I had to give myself some grace with the little things in order to get A to and from Nutcracker while retaining some semblance of family sanity. So it came as a huge blessing and a bit of a surprise to find that the Christmas I know and love was waiting for me on Christmas break.
Earlier this week, the girls and I hosted a Cookie Party. When A was 3, a friend invited her to a cookie party. I went with her and we decorated cookies with a few friends and their moms. Ever since, we've hosted our own cookie party. We've done it many different ways - one year we invited classmates from ballet class, another year we hosted it at their ballet school, last year it was a family affair with Scofields, Horns and Trusses in town from Alabama and Wisconsin. This year, each girl was allowed to invite three friends, so we had a house full of girls (and two boys).
The day before the party was busy. A was still recovering from The Nutcracker and her cold, so she spent a lot of the day reading and lounging in bed. I joined her for a few hours while B & K were at a party in order to finish a great book. This was a Christmas gift in and of itself, but it put me a bit behind in cookie preparation. Just before bed on Monday night, I finally threw together a sugar cookie dough and put it in the fridge to chill overnight.
When I got up Tuesday morning, I pulled the dough out and got to work while I drank my first cup of coffee. It wasn't long before K joined me. She picked her favorite cookie cutters and went to town, making star after star, Christmas tree after Christmas tree. B soon joined us, using multiple cookie cutters to make hearts with stars inside and stars with hearts inside. Leave it to B, my most creative daughter, to find her own way to make cookies. I loved having them in the kitchen with me, cutting the dough, sneaking a bite here and there, hanging out with me doing something I love to do. It made it that much sweeter to see them decorate their cookies later with friends.
Things only got better the next morning when I started melting chocolate for dipping pretzels. All three girls wanted in on the action and they quickly developed their own system of each doing a certain part of the job. Dipping and decorating the pretzels went so well that I figured they would all want a break while I worked on the next batch of cookies. So I let them watch a TV show while I got started. They all surprised me by joining me at the dining room table and rolling dough, leaving the TV blessedly unwatched.
And then their final cookie gift to me: Christmas Eve dawned with one very important cookie left to be made, along with my entire Christmas Eve menu. I was making a gumbo for the first time ever and was nervous, so I decided to start with the roux. Once that was done, I could get the gumbo base simmering and move on to cookie making and appetizer prepping. Unfortunately, the roux burnt.... and I was out of flour. So J left for the grocery store while I decided to go ahead and get going with the final batch of cookies.
The girls were playing quietly in their rooms when I started. I got the dough separated and lining the mini-muffin tins about the time J returned with more flour for my second attempt at a roux that was dark brown, but not burnt. My daughters came to the rescue. A was the first to join me, lining each pastry shell with pecans. B and K soon joined us, allowing me to give them instructions and say a quick prayer before heading back to the stove to stir up a roux.
I don't think my daughters know it, but their biggest and best gift to me this Christmas season was the way they joined me again and again in making cookies. I have such fond memories of baking cookies with my grandmother. We did it every year at Christmas, using the same recipes I made this season. I didn't have to cajole, beg or even ask the girls to help me. They helped because they wanted to. They helped because it was fun.
And I hope they will want to help me year after year because it makes my heart sing to bake alongside them, to roll out memories with the dough and pop them into our hearts to bake.