Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.
For as long as I can remember, baking cookies has always been a part of celebrating Christmas. My mom would let my sister and I help, even though that meant the task would take longer and the kitchen be messier. It is a cherished memory.
I kept up the tradition of Christmas cookie baking when I got married, but dialed it up a notch or 2. Mom would make maybe 6 kinds of cookies; I made 16 varieties this year.
People who know about my cookie mania ask, how long does that take you? I reply, about 4 days. I do it marathon style!
Maybe it was because I worked in a bakery in my college days that I learned the concept of the assembly line. I adapted that style of production to my home kitchen.
Instead of making one batch of dough, washing all the utensils, baking that batch, and then moving onto the next type of cookie, I do all like tasks together. I make all the dough that can be made ahead in one day. That is all I do that day. The next day I make the cookies that I can't make ahead and bake them as I go. Then I finish baking the ones from the premade dough. The last day, I bake the refrigerator cookies (slice and bake) and dip the ones in white choc. that need finishing.
Day 1, dough making: I start with the lightest, blandest dough (butter cookie) and move to the more flavorful and darker doughs (spicy or choc. doughs). This way, I only make one mess at a time--I have a small kitchen. Use the best ingredients you can: real butter is a must!
As I make each batch of dough, I place it into a plastic bag (write the name of the cookie on the bag), then place it in the refrigerator. I scrape the mixing bowl and beater as best I can, but I don't wash it. Then I work on the next batch. This way, I just keep all the ingredients out -- the baking powder, soda, spices, vanilla, flour, sugars, nuts, etc. I also have all the measuring cups, spoons, extra bowls etc. out. Having multiple measuring cups and spoons helps too. Wash the utensils at end of day, but leave ingredients out.
For drop cookies or those you are to roll in a ball, I find a scoop very helpful. Not only do you get a perfect round shape, but you get a consistent size. I use the smaller one (just under 1 14" across). Small is good because then you can sample more cookies!
For roll out cookies, a pastry cloth and rolling pin sock keep the dough from sticking. Sometimes pin socks are hard to find. You can cut the leg off of a pair of tights or pantyhose as a substitute. Flour the cloth and sock before rolling out.
Having multiple cookie sheets is a BIG help. I use about 10, but even 4 would help. (Try looking for them at estate sales and thrift stores.) Aluminum is a must in my book--nothing bakes as well. I spray each with PAM several times during the baking day.
Day 3, baking and finishing: This is the day I bake off the refrigerator cookies and dip into chocolate or decorate any that need that step.
Obviously you need some containers to put the cookies in. I use Rubbermaid rectangle containers. It is helpful to have them similar in size and shape--it makes stacking ans storage easier.
Day 4, assembling cookie plates: Make a list of those you want to share your cookies with: teachers, neighbors, friends, stores you frequent, your aldermen, pastors, someone who did you a favor, etc. Don't forget the elderly, widowers, bachelors, and families who are going through a serious illness. They are unlikely to bake for themselves and would appreciate a little taste of Christmas.
Deal them all out at the same time if you can. That way, you know you will have enough and can adjust the amount given to each accordingly. It is also less work to do it all at once, rather than getting out all the containers just to make a plate or two.
I use paper or plastic plates and Roundy's plastic bread bags (clear, rectangular bags) to package. I put a post a note with the name on each package then later attach my Christmas card. My goal is to deal nearly all my cookies out, leaving enough for Christmas Eve dinner and a few more for eating.
Today is day 4 for me in my cookie marathon. That just leaves delivery--the last hurdle. Now if I could just get someone else to do that job... but I am glad to do it. My cookie-a-thon is one of the ways I celebrate the birth of God's only begotten Son: Christmas.
The Journal Sentinel recently had its 2008 contest winner recipes in the paper Gold plated, Cookie contest rolls out treats to treasure. There were some good cookie making tips in there too. Check it out and start baking!
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Brookfield7, Fairly Conservative, Vicki Mckenna, Jay Weber, The Right View Wisconsin, Mark Levin, CNS News