Christmas Cookies

Long before Pinterest could puncture our creative bubble, there was the nativity Christmas cookie cutter set.

I sometimes call Pinterest the dream site: I can only do those projects in my dreams.

Story_squareThe cookie cutter set was like that. The box seduced me with photos of beautiful cookies in the shape of Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus in a manger. A little piping of frosting, a few sparkles in the right place and we would have a unique nativity set.

And the best part was that we could do this project as a family with everyone helping.

I bought the set.

Yes, I knew we wouldn’t get the cookies quite as perfect as the photos. We had a two-year-old at the time. He’d produce a cute but goofy little cookie.

It was OK.

I forgot to factor in his mother.

I knew we were in trouble when I pulled the cookie sheet out of the oven. Baby Jesus in the manger resembled a toasted marshmallow.

The sheep – and I’d made lots of them – all were blimps. Some had short fat legs but, since you couldn’t tell where the head was, the legs could have been porcupine prickles, too.

The camels’ longer legs had grown together while baking. “Is this a tree?” asked the six-year-old.

The shepherds had morphed into tall planks of wood and kneeling Joseph was now a giant S.

The kids were game, anyway. They slathered on frosting that was too thin so that the blues and oranges dribbled into each other making a muddy brown on the kings.

Well, I thought those were the kings because of the lumps at the top which I identified as crowns. Maybe they were cows, in which case the muddy brown frosting might make more sense.

I had planned to assemble the stable printed on the back of the box but tossed that after our older son frosted an angel as though it were a donkey. I couldn’t see displaying these.

When we were done, with sticky frosting on our fingers and sparkles drifting to the floor, I studied the blobs of cookies. “Well, this didn’t work out quite like I had hoped.”

My husband surveyed the table, surrounded by sets of eager young eyes, and picked up a cookie. “Then we’d better destroy the evidence.”

What’s with cookie dough?

“The best way to eat cookies,” said our young guest as he plopped a spoonful of cookie dough on top of a baked cookie. “Best.”

And that made me think about my cookie-making history, because I thought I had seen every method of eating and snitching bookie dough. But this was new: cookie dough as frosting.

I’ve been making chocolate chip cookies for a long time, long enough that all the adult children know the rules: no snitching of dough until the flour is in.

And now I have grandchildren helping me make cookies and I’ve had to start the process all over again with the snitch rules.

Recently, I made cookies while the two-year-old sat on the counter by me and the four-year-old stood on a chair so he could turn the mixer on and off. (They know the rules about the mixer, too.) The four-year-old was busy adding ingredients. The two-year-old, meanwhile, had lifted the lid on a canister of raisins and was eating handfuls of raisins.

He’d crack the egg if I wanted, but otherwise he’d eat raisins.

He ate raisins until the chocolate chips appeared and then he traded handfuls of raisins for handfuls of chocolate chips.

Then the boys switched to spoons, once the flour and chips were mixed in. They know which drawer and they know they get one spoonful before dropping their spoons in the sink. This is making cookies to them.

I think cookies are meant to be baked but my family would differ. I could leave the dough out and it would soon be consumed.

“We’re saving energy,” one son told me.  Yeah, his sons are the ones with the spoons at ready when the dough is mixed.

When I described the new way of eating cookies to our son, his eyes lit up. “That is the best,” he said and reached for a spoon.

A cookie assault

Pushing the beaters into my mixer was guaranteed to bring at least one small person into the kitchen. A little like how the cat responded to the electric can opener.

No, exactly like the cat’s response.

So my four-year-old son appeared at my elbow right after I clicked in the beaters.

Story_square“Let’s make shape cookies,” he said, pushing a chair to the counter.

Impressive. The process to make sugar cookies cut into shapes with cookie cutters took longer. But I would teach him.

We mixed our cookie dough. “Now, we start with a ball, like this.” I scooped a handful of dough from the bowl and rolled it in my palms.

He watched intently, his nose drawing closer and closer to my hands. Yes, he was being a good student.

“Then I put the ball on the counter.” I set it lightly on the flour I had sprinkled out. “And then we use a rolling pin to flatten the dough.”

His eyes were glued to the dough. I rolled out the mixture into a smooth thin pancake and let him press the cookie cutters into it.

He selected a star. “That one looks like an explosion.”

What a creative idea for a cute little guy.

“I’ll do it this time,” he told me after the first batch was transferred to cookie sheets.

Maybe I was training a future chef. He took initiative and had obviously absorbed my careful directions.

He grabbed a handful of dough from the bowl and squeezed it hard.

“Well, you might not—“

Too late. He slapped the crushed dough onto the counter and began pounding it with the side of his fist until the mixture surrendered into an uneven flat lump.

For me, baking cookies is about the aroma and flavor.

For my would-be little chef, apparently it was more about hand-to-hand combat.