I get to be Mom and provide the playtime part of Christmas baking: the dough already made, and ready to go, the decorations ready. The “kids” – all women dear to my heart – shape dough into coffee beans, or mice, or balls to roll in icing sugar or cocoa.
The regulars are Mary, my partner in Yoga on 7th, Marla, our long-time friend who does the studio graphics, and Judy, once a yoga student, for many years our informal business coach.
They cut out cookies with Mom’s cookie cutters from the 1950s and some new ones – the Christmas moose is one of my favorites. They decorate gingerbreads with royal icing, colored sugar and Smarties, and dip just about everything else in chocolate.
We drink Prosecco and play Elvis singing Blue Christmas, repeatedly, and rather loud, until Alan takes over the playlist. It’s chaos and hilarity, and I love it.
When we’re cookied-out, we eat supper – Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic this year – and the cookie makers go home with as many cookies as I can press on them.
This year we had cookie night on Wednesday, December 12. Maybe the auspicious string of twelves made it an especially happy night. Whatever the cause, it was splendid.
Back for the second year: Peppermint Patties, (from Gourmet’s 2011 Holiday Special Edition). Ridiculously easy, and Gourmet is right, “so much better than anything you’ll find in a foil wrapper.”
New this year: Clove Snaps, and Lemon-Lime Butter Wafers, both a success.
And then the best thing of all, also new: Jackson Pollock chocolate lace.
It’s dead simple, as Jamie Oliver would say, and maybe did say, when he made it in the Christmas special Alan and I watched.
To make it, you lay down a light layer of flavored sugar on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Then you melt the chocolate, and using a wooden spoon, drip the chocolate onto the paper: solid enough that you can pick it up later, but lacy enough that it looks like it wouldn’t hold together. Then you put it in the freezer until the chocolate is good and solid. (You can brush up on your technique at the fabulous Jackson Pollock website created by Miltos Manetas.)
It softens quickly at room temperature. Luckily, if there are a few interested people around it won’t last long enough for anyone to notice.
Jamie Oliver didn’t talk much, if at all, about how to make it the powdered sugar.
I’ve made vanilla sugar before and I knew I didn’t have enough time to wait for vanilla beans to flavor the sugar. So I Googled, and after finding instructions, grated the rind of an orange into one cup of sugar, massaged the rind in, and let it sit around for a day.
Just before we started, I melted a pound of 70 per cent Belgian chocolate and passed out wooden spoons. Magic.
One great joy of the evening was the newest “kld,” Shirley. I met Shirley when I was eight and she was the sparkling, laughing, impish new best friend of my big sister Ann. You can see from the photo above that not much has changed.
What I didn’t know until cookie night is how they met.
When Ann was 14, she spent a couple of weeks in Kelowna visiting Grandma Johnson with our Auntie Glad and her two little boys, David and Bobby.
The boys were a handful, so Ann was along partly to babysit and partly because she had always been close to Auntie Glad, and they had fun together.
Shirley lived in Kelowna. They met, hit it off, and ended up a few years later being each other’s bridesmaids. Next time I hang out with Shirley, I’ll be looking for a few more details on that story.
And for now I think I’ll work on getting some of the cookie night recipes posted here.