Christmas baking in our house is a big event. BIG. I learned somewhere along the way about a 6 day baking process which we have cut down to 4 days, which works really well for us. We make about 100 dozen cookies, many of which will proudly have their pictures displayed here in a few short days. Here's our 'sane way to holiday baking' breakdown. First of all. TAKE NOTES! It's important to know how many cookies you made last year, what kind, what worked and what didn't. We always make the tried and true favorites, and then we always add a few new varieties to the bunch. Some of the new ones stick around, and some...well, let's just say they're not so lucky!
This year, the tried and true varieties making their returns are corn flake wreaths, cranberry/orange/walnut cookies, peanut butter blossoms, Russian tea cakes, raspberry thumbprint cookies, and strawberry jelly sandwich cookies. The cranberry, thumbprint, and jelly sandwich cookies, were all new once but now have become Christmas staples. The cranberry are our favorite cookies of all! After I've started the baking, I'll share some recipes with you. Perhaps they'll be 'new' at your house next year!
OK, this year for 'new' cookies I'm making peanut butter balls (I found a recipe without rice krispies, even though my husband insists they should have them...yuck!), chocolate Swedish spritz cookies (because I am the proud owner of a new cookie press compliments of my daughter :), carrot cake sandwich cookies (oh my gosh, I'm drooling just thinking about these...more on that later) and finally kisses chocolate chip cookies. These are chocolate chip balls with a kiss inside, drizzled with chocolate. We might call them 'death by chocolate' instead!
Now, back to the carrot cake sandwich cookies. A few weeks ago I toured an inner city Chicago School when I was at the school board convention. This school had an award winning culinary program. They gave us these MOST delicious carrot cake sandwich cookies AND the recipe. The cookies had almonds, pineapple, carrots, and coconut. They were filled with cream cheese frosting. Simply delicious! Sadly, I promptly proceeded to lose the recipe. Soooooo....I had to find the school, contact them, feel foolish, and ask them if I could please have another copy of the recipe. They did indeed fax me a copy. I searched google high and low and there were no recipes similar to that one. I cannot wait to make a wonderful batch of those. I know that they will not be on the 'new' list for long.
Enough about that, now on to the system. Now that you know to take impeccable notes...the next part is easy. I keep a 'cookie folder' in my cook book cabinet, where all my cookie notes go. When it's time, all my recipes and information are safely stored in one spot. Here is our 4 day process.
Day 1: review notes, recipes, yields, decide what you'll be baking, add a few new recipes. Make a list of what you'll be baking. Make a list of recipients (if you give cookies for gifts as I do) Figure out how many dozen will be required.
Day 2: create your shopping list. I make a list of all ingredients, i.e. butter, flour, eggs, sugar, etc., and then stroke tally how many cups of each I'll need. I convert this into my shipping list and shop. Don't forget things like cookie tins, parchment paper, and any tools that need replacing. For example, last year we broke the 1 tsp. cookie scoop. I got a terrific new one at Walmart this year. They now carry Wilton...(I have a tremendous crush on all things Wilton by the way)
Day 3: make all of your dough. Most dough performs better if it has been refrigerated. Roll it up in plastic wrap and label the outside with temp and cooking times with a sharpie marker.
Day 4: BAKE!
Optional Day 5. Day 5 may be required if you have cookies that need to be decorated. In years past when I made gingerbread men or cut out cookies, we would decorate on a separate day, when we were fresh and not tired from baking. This year we're using the cookie press instead of cut out cookies...so no day 5 for us!
At the Ruchus, we have day 1 and 2 complete. Tomorrow is baking day. Here's the real kicker. Every year about this time I remember I only have one oven rack. Every year I swear I'm going to remember to order another. Every year I don't. So....baking is truly an all day thing here, with my one lone oven rack. We will start by locking the pets in a room and scrubbing the kitchen...I despise pet hair in the cookies personally...If we have lots of energy, we may begin baking tomorrow.
Now...I'm going to share my final trick. Listen closely...I do not like crisp or crunchy cookies. Yuck! I know some of you do...I do not. So, you know the easiest way to keep your cookies chewy until delivery day? Store them in zip lock bags with a slice of cheap white bread in each bag. I don't remember where I learned that tip from, but it works like magic. Truly!
So, there you have it....the Ruchus baking system. Stay tuned for pictures and recipes...and if you're lucky enough to be on the list....yummy cookies!