Cookie Decorating Drop-In: exchange confidences; firm up friendships
Last night I learned that you are never too old for gingerbread. That spicy, sweet confection, in the form of cookies, houses and imaginary concoctions, evokes memories of Christmas to me as sure as a child’s -endearing, tinsel-trimmed, pre-school ornament dangling on a Charlie Brown tree … or the innocence of a six-year-old singing her heart out at her first school concert. Little did I know, though, that the magic of gingerbread goes beyond childhood’s visions of sugar plums.
Wanting to party and re-connect with my women friends, I hosted gingerbread cookie decorating at my house and was truly amazed at how much fun it was for all who attended. I had the joy of baking a batch of edible goodie-gifts (see below for the easy Wilton fail-safe recipe which can be pre-made in do-able stages) and hosting my fun-minded, female friends with some favorite appies and beverages.
For the women who came, packaged sprinkles , glitzy icing gels in shiny red and green , white butter-cream in a disposable icing bag with a #3 outlining tip, and a double page spread in Wilton’s “Cookie Exchange” book were more than enough inspiration. The spectacular results (see photos) and the fact that guests were reluctant to give up their spots at the decorating table, speak to its success.
And this is what I most enjoy about my women friends: they so appreciate the gift of your time. Who knew that cookie decorating could be so bonding? It’s like going to the beauty salon was for women in the 1950s, or what a spa visit is for busy moms and new young career women today: sitting around the cookie table and working en groupe to personalize your own gingerbread boy or girl brings out hidden talent and promotes sharing and confidences. When you’re concentrating on something entirely removed from the everyday whirl of our busy lives to be creative, conversation and sharing flows easily across the generations. It made me realize how important time with girlfriends is to me. The bonus was getting my Christmas décor unboxed and up early, so I can enjoy it longer and really engage with family and friends. Forget your perfect housekeeping, go for cookie decorating zen with your friends at home!
Grandma’s Gingerbread Recipe from Wilton
5 cups all-purpose flour 1 tsp. baking soda 1 tsp. salt 2 tsp. ginger 2 tsp. cinnamon 1 tsp. nutmeg 1 tsp. cloves 1 cup solid white shortening 1 cup sugar 1 ¼ cups unsulphured molasses 2 eggs, beaten
1. Thoroughly blend flour, soda, salt and spices. Melt shortening in large saucepan. Add sugar, molasses and eggs to melted, but not bubbling-hot, shortening. Mix well. Cool, then add four (4) cups of the blended dry ingredients and mix well. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Turn mixture onto lightly floured surface. Knead in remaining dry ingredients by hand. Add a little more flour, if necessary, to make a firm dough. Divide dough in half and form into two discs. Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate to keep for weeks. Bring to room temperature and knead briefly to resume baking at a later time or day.
3. Roll out dough on the backs of lightly oiled cookie sheets to 1/8 inch thickness. Position and cut out shapes so that they are at least one inch apart. Remove excess dough, re-form into ball and re-roll surrounding dough on back of another cookie sheet. Cut shapes again and repeat process until all dough has been used. For large pieces, 1/8 inch thick, bake as long as 14 minutes; for smaller pieces, rolled thinly, six or seven minutes may be enough. Check frequently to avoid over-browning. Using flat spatula, remove from cookie sheets to wire racks and cool for 30 minutes. Then cover a flat surface with paper toweling and place baked pieces on it to dry overnight. Yield: about 40-45 regular size (six inch) gingerbread boys or girls.