Christmas Cookies

Our family has had a wonderful friendship with another family for three generations. Somehow, through 45 years, we have lived practically next door to each other, first in Maryland, and then in California. The grandkids of the original friends are now growing up together, though with a more challenging distance, as Adam and Kate are in Northern California and Olivia and Luca are in Southern California. Still, we manage to meet several times a year and celebrate major holidays together.

One non-negotiable date is for Christmas cookies. We've been meeting at one of the matriarch's homes for this for 11 years now. She makes a wonderful dough ahead of time, from a recipe that has been passed down in her family, and the kids cut out the cookies into various shapes. When the kids were little, they basically just made a mess, but as they've grown older, they've been able to roll, cut, and bake more and more cookies. This year, I think they would have kept going as long as there was dough!

After the cookies are baked comes the decorating with Nana's buttercream. Again, when the kids were young, this stage mostly involved eating, but now they like the decorating best. As the years have gone by, second generation buddies Greta and I have stretched our creative wings and gotten more adventurous with our decorating. I remember graduating from spreading buttercream with knives to cobbling makeshift pastry bags together using ziplocs, which was a major step up in our skillz. 

This year, I found an interesting post on The Kitchn, my go-to place for new and different food ideas, and thought this icing technique might raise our game even further. I bought a giant pack of four- ounce Wilton mini squeeze bottles on Amazon, and spent a morning making icing out of powdered sugar and milk. This is exceedingly easy - just dump some powdered sugar into a bowl, add a little bit of milk, and whisk. Add more milk to make it the consistency you want. If you make it too thin, add more powdered sugar. You can't mess it up. It has a very simple taste; it's not as delicious as buttercream, but this icing allows the flavor of the cookie to come through.

I find that many fancy food colorings add a bad taste to icing, so this year I went back to the standard liquid stuff you can find at any grocery store. Certainly not good for you, but just once a year, I think it's gonna be ok. And it's tasteless and makes great colors. I made a rainbow and filled the squeeze bottles.

This technique had a learning curve. Unlike buttercream, this liquid frosting floods the cookie and everything runs. We had a few melted-looking snowmen and listing trees, at first.

We finally got the hang of it, realizing that you need to flood the cookie with a base coat first, let it dry, and then add decoration. Either that, or make the icing thicker to begin with, which I'll try next year.

Greta also stumbled upon a great way of making a sort of tie-dye with the colors, and dipping the cookies into it. This yielded some very interesting results. Here's one of Kate's:

Greta always makes cute cookies:

The cookies look great all together.

And, the best part is, no matter how they look, they taste AMAZING!

I found this picture from seven years ago - so fun to look back at these cuties.

And here they are this year, teenagers or almost-teens:

Watch out for sisters with rolling pins!

I hope all of you had a blessed Christmas, filled with family, friends, and love. Our plans for the coming week include researching chicken coop building plans, taking the dog for long walks, and trying to keep the nighttime frost from killing the winter veg (so far, the hoop houses are winning!). I'm actively seeking chicken advice, so if you've got some, lay it on me.