Holiday Cookie Party

We love baking and making all those holiday cookies, cakes, breads, and special desserts for this time of year! Our families expect them - and so do we - warm German stollen, sweet Scandinavian rosettes, cute gingerbread men, and those elegantly decorated sugar cookies in the shapes of trees, stars, angels and Santa! But all these "special" holiday treats take time - a very precious commodity! So in a way, we hate to relinquish a large amount of our time to these baking frenzies.

One answer to this love-hate relationship with holiday baking to transform the "baking and creating" time into holiday fun time! Schedule a Holiday Cookie Baking Party in your neighborhood. A warm home filled with stories and laughter seems the perfect environment to create those cookies.

Here are some basic guidelines to follow:

1. Plan the event with at least one other fellow baker. (Don't do it all yourself - remember this is fun and one person can't think of everything.) Decide on which home or kitchen is most conducive to efficient baking and ample workspace. Set a date - such as a Saturday morning or afternoon. Be sure to allow time for visiting and coffee breaks.

2. Invite only the amount of people that can easily fit in the kitchen and work area - you don't want to be running into each other. If this is going to be a large event, renting a community building with a kitchen may be an alternative.

3. Participants should bring their favorite holiday cookie recipe to share.

4. Provide basic ingredients such as flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, brown sugar, eggs, etc. The planners of the event can supply baking equipment such as cookie sheets, cooling racks, cookie press, etc. You may want to split the costs. If someone has a recipe that calls for unique ingredients or equipment, they should supply those.

5. An alternative to providing all the essentials is to have participants check their cupboards and assign supply lists accordingly. This helps to save on costs.

6. Decide how many cookies the guests will take home to their families. Provide bakery boxes for easy transport.

7. Remember to be flexible - don't criticize and do allow people to taste! Yes, you want cookies when you're done, but the main goal is to have fun!

One of the most popular cutters is the snowflake cookie cutter. These elegantly shaped cookies amaze and delight all that receive them. Simply frost with thinned royal icing (maybe tinted with blue color) and decorate with silver dragees or sparkling sugar crystals. Just like real snowflakes - no two are exactly alike.

Spell out some joy with your cookies! Holiday cookie cutters that spell JOY and NOEL say it as well as taste it! Or use an alphabet cutter set to spell MERRY CHRISTMAS! If you are celebrating Hanukkah, Jewish symbol cookies are also great treats to make at a party!

You can decorate cookies easily with sugar art color pens - especially if you want to personalize your sweet treats. Simply add a name and personalized message such as "To My Little Angel Ashley." Kids love reading their names!

A cookie party is just one suggestion. You can also host a candy making party, specialty Christmas bread-baking party (this one should allow more time for dough to rise) or gingerbread house party for children. Ways to celebrate can be as long as Santa's list.

Although this may seem like a lot of work - the time spent with this project is fun and rewarding. Cooking together builds friendships, great baking tips are shared, (you may learn how to create something completely brand new) and you get to take home a wide variety of sweet treats! Package some of the cookies in special gift boxes to take to older friends and families in nursing homes or in your neighborhood. Homemade cookies are always appreciated!

You know you love holiday baking! This year love it even more with friends and laughter!

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