For many, many years the Friday or Saturday of the Thanksgiving weekend meant cookie baking in my family. My mom, aunt, cousins and I would meet up and spend the day making hundreds of cookies. Cookie making day had to fit in around Christmas shopping and football games on an already crowded four-day holiday break, but we loved it.
Aunt Barbara’s Christmas Fruitcake Cookies and Aunt Jokie’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls were a delicious and labor intensive annual event. We also usually tried one or two other newbie cookie or candy recipes that were easier to make, but nowhere near as good.
We chopped everything by hand; even the food processor couldn’t handle that sticky candied fruit without turning it into mush. And we rolled and dipped by hand too. My youngest cousin Megan had a “seven-year apprenticeship” to master the art of chocolate dipping. We told her she would be a master when there was a little chocolate left in the double-boiler at the end, and of course we always ran just short of chocolate on the last few dips. She believed us the first couple of years, then she became a teenager and would just give a good-natured eye-roll as she dipped the umpteenth chocolate ball.
We laughed, complained, told stories and placed bets on how many last-minute runs would be made to the Ingle’s down on the highway for something we forgot to buy. At the end of the day we divvied up the cookies into tins, and said “this year’s batch was the best ever”. We’ve all gotten older and things have moved on as they tend to do in families, so we no longer get to spend the day together baking, but we still share cookies and treats during the holidays.
I made cookies this week for a cookie swap here in town, and I guess in a way it’s like our traditional family bake-a-thon. Make dozens of cookies, divvie them up and swap them around with others. I am not much of a baker, but can generally manage cookies. I decided to make Chewy Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies from Martha Stewart . I made a triple batch to get the six dozen to sample and swap. The cookies were very good; perfect with a glass of cold milk, and held up well when stored in air-tight containers.
Though I broke the effort down over a few days (mixing the dough to chill one evening, then baking the next evening, and boxing the next day) it was still pretty much a day’s work – and not quite as much fun as our family baking days, but still rewarding. The cookies turned out nicely, and packaged up well – and I did laugh some remembering the stories we used to tell. The cookie swap party was a lot of fun with some new cookies to sample and interesting folks to meet. And now I have new cookies to share and stories to tell my family when I see them during the holidays. Nice when it works out that way, past and present 🙂 .
Merry Christmas and happy baking to friends and family all ~