Monday, December 21, 2009

Cookie Party F.A.Q.

I didn't notice the waif in the bottom right-hand corner when I was taking this picture.

Essay Answer to Frequently Asked Questions about the Cookie Party:

If you're not familiar with my Cookie Party craziness [for a primer, view all Cookie Party posts on Snackreligious], here's the scoop. Feel free to comment with other questions you might have.

For this year's menu, see this post.

I started throwing my Annual Holiday Cookie Party (AKA, "Jenny and Dan's Holiday Cookie Party," once we got cookie-level-serious) in college, when I was living in Kansas. This year marked my 13th party. I have never missed a year. Traditionally, it is held in December, but one year I had it in January, due to travel plans.

Yes, this used to be called "Jenny's Annual Christmas Cookie Party," but then my friend and former co-worker Sarena gave me a dreidel cookie cutter and I changed the name to be more inclusive. I celebrate Christmas, but you don't have to!

The whole thing is based on the Open House my mom had before Christmas every year when I was growing up. Mom's party was held over several hours on a Sunday afternoon and she never asked anyone to RSVP. She made hundreds of cookies in advance and invited everyone in the church, my sister's and my friends, and close neighbors. My philosophy is similar, though I start receiving guests in the evening, and I never know how many people to expect. Usually there are between 30 and 50 attendees. Mom began baking in October, freezing everything, but she had a big chest freezer in the garage. I live in New York City in a small apartment (with a small freezer), so I have to do everything on a smaller scale -- and in just a few weeks. I also can't invite everyone I know, so my invite list is a little smaller (though not restrictive).

Yes, I bake them all myself. Though I'm happy to have friends come over to help (or keep me company), only Steph (last year's fudge) and Angela (during the Kansas years) have been extra hands in the kitchen (also, Rachel has been a big help during clean up, and I can already tell her young daughter is going to be a good sous-chef). This year, I started baking cookies for the party at the beginning of the second week of December. I made them whenever I had a free night -- usually 2 kinds per night -- including most of the nights last week and most of the day (and evening) on weekend days. I finished baking around midnight most nights, but occasionally stayed up until 1 or 2.

I would estimate that for this year's cookies I used around 15 pounds of flour, 12 pounds of butter, and more than 10 pounds of sugar (granulated, natural, brown, sanding, and powdered). Many of the recipes I use are my mom's. Others are from internet searches, blogs, cookbooks, magazines, and friends. I do tweak some of the recipes to my own needs/desires, but I have never created a cookie recipe from scratch. The menu is never the same. I haven't officially "retired" any cookies (except possibly the bacon cookies described below), but I do like to rotate what I make.

I don't have a favorite cookie, but I always make Snickerdoodles. They're a favorite from my childhood.

The weirdest cookie I ever made was a bacon cookie that turned out like a hard biscuit. Dan named them "German Wartime Treats." I don't plan to make those again, though I remain open to a bacon cookie in theory.

This year, my surprise temporary favorites were the Cornflake Pecan Honeys (made with local honey) and the Walnut Rum Errors. The latter are named that because I mis-read a Martha Stewart cookie recipe and didn't follow the directions correctly. The result was a sticky cookie dough that almost didn't survive the baking process. They came out fragile, flat, burnt-looking, and were hard to remove from the cookie sheet. But they are actually delicious!

How is it that all those cookies don't go stale? Each year, I freeze everything I make in airtight containers until my freezer is full. This year, when my freezer was at capacity I moved the next several batches into a friend's freezer (thanks, R!). When that was stuffed, and with the party less than a week away, I moved on to piling cookie containers into my fridge, storing items there for a couple of days. If there's no refrigerated room left in the inn, last minute items do well at room temperature during the final week, as long as they're in airtight containers.

People who attend the party should NOT bring cookies! They are invited to bring booze, if they want something special. I do make a couple of spike-able drinks available. It's not just cookies, either. I also make savory and sweet non-cookie items like meatballs, pralines, toffee, cheese puffs, etc.

A few years ago, Dan started printing out a menu for our guests to peruse. I make sure to note which cookies have nuts or peanuts, for those who may be allergic. I don't have many vegan guests, but I started making at least 2 or 3 items vegan each year, and most of the other dishes are vegetarian.

In recent years, I have added a "fresh" cookie option. I bake one kind of cookie (usually a chocolate chip with nuts) during the party, so that they can be eaten warm.

Here come meatballs!

This year I made 2,244 cookies (21 different varieties). I don't count "testers" eaten by Dan or me during the baking process. We don't eat a lot of them, though. Maybe 2 or 3 per batch -- unless a lot of them break or they're really fab. I also did not count the Mrs. Fields cookies baked during the party, but the recipe claimed it would make around 50 of them.

Yes, I love doing this. I drive myself a little crazy every year (I usually have 1-4 mini meltdowns, and I learn something from each one), and Dan helps a lot with the dishes and cleaning (and he always makes the Crispix Mix), but it is all worth the effort once I'm at the party. I think of it as a gift for all my treasured friends.

Kitchen, Jeremy included.

Real men eat cookies
(photo by unknown)

After Party
(photo by Dan)


Mechanic said...

this party is just the pinnacle of special!!

Jennette said...


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