Fall has finally given way to winter. Driveways are being shoveled, snow tires are mounted onto cars and steaming mugs of hot chocolate warm our souls. I, however, sit on a snowy-white beach contemplating what to bake for Santa’s annual visit, a tradition my mom started when I was very young.
Fast-forward to today: As one who works with flour, sugar and eggs, I bring joy year-round (to the many sweet tooths out there), but never a more important time than at holidays. This time of year, I bake for a “claus.”
I like to deliver tasty treats to my local police and fire stations as my way of saying thank you for saving lives. All of this leads me to sharing some of my fun holiday traditions. Some are past favorites, some are newer ideas soon to become classics.
Cookies left on a plate for Santa maybe very traditional, but who says it has to be boring? Invite the neighbors, family and friends over for a decorating party.
Step 1: A few days prior to the marathon decorating party, go to your local hardware store and purchase long 2-inch-round wooden dowel rods, one per holiday decorator. Have the rod cut into 12-inch-long pieces. This creates instant inexpensive rolling pins. Make sure you have enough for the group because sharing becomes tricky.
Step 2: Purchase a plastic tarp large enough to cover your dining room table and one for the floor (food coloring on the tile will ruin the Christmas spirit — been there, done that!).
Step 3: Buy several holiday-shaped cookie-cutters. I love throwing in a few other holiday cutters to see if anyone notices.
Step 4: Make a ginormous batch (several batches) of sugar cookies, shortbread or any other cookie dough you prefer. Place large jars filled with decorating goodies down the center of the table. Goodies such as holiday colored sugar, mini cinnamon Red Hots, nonpareils (colored sprinkles), mini M&M’s, little silver decorating dragees (tiny candy beads) and anything else that screams out Christmas.
Step 5: Have work-stations for each of Santa’s helpers equipped with: A rolling pin, a sheet pan with each baker’s name on a piece of parchment paper and a disposable piping bag with a decorating tip filled with decorating gel or frosting of your choice. Yes, you need to prep this after Step 2.
Step 7: Bake the cookies as soon as guests have finished decorating them so they’ll have time to cool then pack them to go.
As an added bonus, you could also have aprons and chef hats for everyone. They make great gifts for mini-chefs-in-training.
Whether baking for Mr. or Mrs. Claus, third-grade classes or your family doctor, vet or mailman, encourage friends and family to be generous with their spirit and spread love and joy throughout the year.
Hedy Goldsmith, a 2012 James Beard Award finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef, is the executive pastry chef for the Genuine Hospitality Group of restaurants including Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami and Grand Cayman, and Harry’s Pizzeria in Miami. Now in her second season of Cooking Channel’s Unique Sweets, Hedy has appeared on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate and lauded in The New York Times, People, Wine Spectator, Bon Appétit, The Huffington Post and Food & Wine magazine. Hedy’s first cookbook, Baking Out Loud: Fun Desserts with Big Flavors (Clarkson Potter / Publishers), is now available.