The secret is out. I have a passion for cookies. Like everyone else, I have my favorites. Since I bake several hundred each year, I tend to choose those that are the easiest to make without compromising a delicious taste. Each year, I find that I need a lot of cookies for entertaining and for gift baskets. When time permits, I prepare extra batches of cookie dough, store them in the freezer, and bake them as needed. My favorites for parties and for gift-giving are simple sugar or ginger cookies of all shapes and sizes. I do not limit my selection to holiday shapes, but often choose to pair the shape to the recipient’s current interest. You see, these cookie creations satisfy my musings.
Choosing containers for children’s gifts is especially fun. One year, I purchased toy trucks and doll baby beds, filled them with ginger folks, and wrapped them in clear cellophane. Another year, I selected small boxes that looked like toy chests and filled them with decorated cookies of all shapes and sizes. Once, I made large boy and girl cookies (about 8 inches tall) for each child, dressed them with icing and personalized each cookie with a monogram. Cookie templates were cut from cardboard; the dough, rolled on parchment paper, was moved to a baking sheet, where the templates were carefully traced with a sharp knife and the extra dough removed. Cookies of this size tend to break easily. A remedy is to use a bit of icing to attach them to a cardboard backing of the same shape.
Children’s activities are a good idea for an open house to which children are welcomed. Once, we provided simple geometric shaped cookies for children to decorate as if they were gift boxes to be packed into small wire sleighs. The cookie dough was made in advance and shaped into 3×18 inch logs of dough, both square and rectangular. When sliced and baked, they appeared quite plain; but when ribboned with icing, they looked like cute, little packages. Creating a model helps to convey your idea, but children are best left to their own imagination.
I like to place containers of cookies throughout the house when I’m entertaining, being sure to leave small wrapped packages of cookies by the door for favors and for the inevitable last minute gifts.
I especially like to use containers that reveal the cookies inside; open containers filled with cookies, wrapped in cellophane and tied with simple bows are my favorites. When I first began to make cookies for gifts, cellophane was nearly impossible to find. Now, clever and useful packaging is readily available at bargain prices, providing endless opportunities for creative packaging.
Whatever your choice, here are some important guidelines to remember.
Enlist the help of other participants only if you are willing to let go of perfectionism and be accepting of their creations.
Follow recipes exactly, using a timer to prevent overcooking. Doubling batches are tempting, but not recommended unless you have a convection oven.
Do not store or frost any cookies until they have completely cooled.
Store cookies packaged between sheets of wax or parchment paper.
Package only like cookies together. Different types of cookies packaged together will loose their distinctive tastes and textures.
A list of ingredients is always a considerate addition. When frosting calls for egg whites, use dehydrated egg whites for safe measure. The inclusion of any peanut or nut products should be particularly noted on the labels.
Only entrust moist (never crisp) cookies to the tender loving care of the USPS.