Monday, December 1, 2008

Holiday Cookie Party 101

A cookie party is a great way to have a holiday open house. In addition to cookies, I like to serve pb&j sandwich cutouts made with holiday cookie cutters, soup, and warm cider.

Having tried perhaps a dozen recipes for roll cookies, I've settled on this as my favorite. I get multiple requests for the recipe every time I make these for a party. The recipe is simple and delicious.

Rich Roll Cookies
modified from The Joy of Cooking
makes about four dozen cookies

1 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
Beat in:
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract (I like them both ways)
Combine and add:
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
(optional: 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind, if you use vanilla instead of almond extract)

Divide dough into three portions. Place each portion between sheets of floured plastic wrap. Press evenly into a disk about 1/4 inch thick. Stack disks on a baking sheet. Chill dough at least 10 minutes before rolling and up to two days.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Working with one portion of dough at a time (keep remaining chilled), peel off plastic wrap and set disk on a floured board. With a floured rolling pin, roll dough about 1/8 inch thick. With floured cookie cutters, cut out cookies. Transfer to parchment-lined sheets, placing cookies about 1 inch apart. Gather up scraps and press into a ball. Roll and cut out remaining cookies.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly colored.

Royal Icing
(Dries candy-hard.)
3 tablespoons Meringue Powder
1 lb (4 cups) sifted confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons warm water

Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer).
Makes 3 cups.

I recommend not making this too stiff if young children will be decorating/spreading; add water to thin.

Unfortunately, the icing cannot be made in advance, as it hardens. Put it in the mixer 15-30 minutes before your party starts. When the icing is ready, divide into bowls and add color.

Party tips:

Make the dough a couple of days ahead of time; bake all the cookies the day before the party.

Have paper plates available to put cookies on to decorate.

Make more icing than you think you'll need!

Have wet cloths available for sticky hands. Places like Target and Costco sell large inexpensive stacks of white washcloths.

Make about 6 cookies per child.

Cover your table with butcher paper (available at craft stores).

Have bakery boxes available to take home cookies (buy from a local bakery), or use paper plates and staple on another as a lid.

A recipe card with the cookie recipe makes a nice favor to send home with the cookies.

We like to use coconut (looks like snow), marshmallows, holiday M&Ms, gumdrops, red hots, sanding sugars, decorative sprinkles and the like to embellish cookies. Lots of these items are found on the baking aisle of your local supermarket. Check Economy Candy, Fancy Flours and India Tree for unusual candies. We got the little trees, snowflakes and candy canes from Williams Sonoma.

Kids love to use icing pens to decorate with. These can be found on most baking aisles.

Be sure to use food paste to color icing, available at cooking stores or online from stores like Williams Sonoma. A few drops provide vibrant color. I have found it impossible to make red icing with bottled food coloring (pink seems to be as dark as it gets).


Elena said...

Beautiful! What a great idea for a party with adults, too!

KPiep said...

What Fun! My eldest's preschool teacher hosted a party for her class last year and their families, and she included cookie decorating in the fun. It was lovely.

Here at our house, though, we are forced to endure my husband's family cookie recipe each year for our cookies. It's truly terrible, but as it's the only thing he asks for at Christmas time..we do it. At least I'm not tempted to eat them!

Ina J Offret said...

YUM! ..... and what cute little helpers. xo

preppyplayer said...

They do look good to me, the icing is MY favorite part. Yes, economy candy is THE place!

Jeannine said...

Super wonderful, and great photos. I have to try this recipe!

Joyce said...

Will your little elfs decorate a cookie for me? They look so... mmm.... good!!

Lecia- for the recipe is it safe to say the cup of sugar listed is a cup of soft butter? I have a recipe I normally use, but would like to try this one.

On my screen your red looks red to me. If you still have trouble with red- I have found out that Wilton red is the best and true to color. They even have a Christmas red, but I like using the one that doesn't have the flavor. Oh dear I started this now I can't remember what the bottle says. If you are interested in the red let me know and I will go look at the bottle.
Thank you for a start of a sweet morning!! Hugs...xoxo

citysage said...

I wanna come! You have some talented cookie artists on your hands :)

This looks like a great cookie recipe---they hold their shape so beautifully! And I love the idea of serving sandwiches in holiday shapes too. I could see doing that for the grown-ups too, and putting something like salmon and cream cheese in them! Oh boy, I LOVE the holidays and I'm so glad they're in full swing!!

A Day That Is Dessert said...

Good pick up, Joyce - thanks! I've made the correction to the recipe.

I love food pastes for their easy, reliable color, but good to know that Wilton makes good colors.

porter hovey said...

OMG! Just too cute!! Love makin' Xmas cookies . . . I'm just dying to get our tree and really start all the holiday fun!!

amy said...

so gorgeous hon!

Lori said...

these look beautiful - we haven't had kids over to decorate cookies in awhile - we need to do it this year!

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Beautiful post - great idea and so easy too - thanks for sharing..:)

sophstar's mama said...

Cookie parties are the best! I love your cookie cutters too, the mittens are soooo cute!

please sir said...

Oh those look amazing!!

Stacy said...

What gorgeous, yummy looking cookies!

SouthernAccent said...

So fun and so cute! I'm going to have to try this with my little guy! He's going to love it!

Paige said...

Wow, Lecia - thanks for sharing this! When my mom and I do cookies I'm gonna have this ready for my kids. Fun!

katiedid said...

These are fabulous! You have given me some more decorating ideas! Crushed candy canes and coconut are definitely on the list this year!

Elizabeth said...

What an incredibly fun project!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lecia. How do you roll out your dough so evenly? I always struggle with this....

A Day That Is Dessert said...

Anon: I'm pretty sure it's the recipe that makes these roll out so well. This has lots of butter compared to the usual sugar cookie recipe. Try it and if that doesn't help, let me know.