Christmas cookie baking... whoever invented this holiday tradition was a genius! I can’t think of a better way to spend a day than elbow deep in butter, flour, and sugar. Of course, for Lisa and me, Christmas cookie baking is just an excuse to make our 5-year running rosemary shortbread. This particular recipe is the only recipe we have consistently repeated over the years, and all I can say is that if you tasted it, you would know why! It’s savory, it’s sweet, it’s buttery, it's everything...and cut into thin rectangles that dip perfectly into a cup of Irish tea. It’s our absolute favorite baked good. Hence the reason you can even find it as one of our homepage photos on our website! But I digress, it’s not all about the shortbread here I promise.
Back to cookie baking. We started this annual tradition five years ago. I know this will be something we do together, with our kids, for years to come. At the rate, we are improving each and every year, so much so that we could soon be entering ourselves into a holiday baking championship of some kind! Just kidding! In all honesty, we started out pretty pathetically five years ago with a pre-made package of sugar cookie mix and enough tubes of icing and sprinkles to make Betty Crocker proud! We tossed the round discs into the oven, and 10 minutes later, we had our miniature easels ready for the "artistry" to come - a stocking, Santa, and snowflake or two later and we were off! We had a lot of fun and we actually surprised ourselves with our creativity, finishing off with a full-blown fireplace scene and a pretty impressive Frosty the Snowman! We anonymously put a picture of each of our final plates of cookies up on Facebook and put it to the vote. Two hours later, we had gone viral, and by this, I mean our Mom and Dad and upwards of 20 friends like our efforts!
The following year we upped our game and pulled out the Kitchen Aid, a contraption which I believe, to that point, had gone from wedding registry to the back of my cupboard! Peppermint Thumbprints, red velvet cream cheese-stuffed cookies, and caramel shortbread. We packed up bags and bags and shipped them off to offices, neighbors, and pretty much anyone that glanced our way. From that second year, it became a habit, one that we cherish and look forward to every December.
In keeping with our Irish background, we like to do cooking baking in style, i.e., by opening a bottle of wine just as we are about to begin, even if that time happens to be 10 or 11 am! We have a good system now where Lisa handles the mise en place, I grab what I need and whip up the various doughs in the Kitchen Aid. I then scoop and dollop the cookies onto baking sheets while she washes up for the next round.
Over the past couple of years we have hired a helper, one who perches himself on the counter, likes to ensure lots of shells get into the mixture while cracking eggs and is an expert spoon licker! We typically take a late lunch break and although we are ordinarily pretty full with all the required cookie tasting, we feel it’s very important to balance out the day with something savory - cheese, chips, dip, and appetizers do the trick!
It’s a wonderful day and one I look forward to this time of year. The mess in the kitchen, the smell of freshly baked cookies, Christmas music playing in the background, and invariably, we always have a laugh at whichever one of the cookies ends being a disaster - whether in taste, look, or complete lack of understanding of the recipe! We finish with a full display on the kitchen table with cookies adorning all my best dishes and perfectly positioned in a way that would make any food photographer proud. Lisa takes the snap and bam we are done for another year!
Christmas is about making memories and creating new traditions. Our yearly cookie baking extravaganza is one that we stumbled onto, but one that has become the mark of our Holiday season. We hope you all find and create similar traditions with your loved ones.
Merry Christmas….I’m off now to enjoy a cup of tea and a piece of rosemary shortbread!