Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Cookies 101 - A Repost

Alright y'all, I tried!  I did - and here I am up in my chair playing around with the blog.
I thought I'd repost this from last year - there's some great cookie baking info here.
I'm enjoying my blog break!  The house is about decorated, we've a 6 inch blanket of snow on the ground, and Phyllis the banty hen is living in the house, with her cage bedecked for Christmas. 
I ask you - does it get better? 
It does.
Ray Coniff Singers.
Peppermint lattes.
Seeing old friends.
The wonder of  Christ.

Thank you so much for all of your comments and emails.
You are all a wonderful gift to me.

Originally posted Dec. 8th 2009

Good Morning Blog Friends!

I'd like to talk about Christmas Cookies this morning.

I absolutely love to bake, so Christmas is Christmas for me! It's a great excuse to have the flour flying and be in a sugar coma by the end of the afternoon.

So often I see Christmas cookies that are overbaked, misshapen, and a bit of a mystery.

Don't let this happen to you and your loved ones!

I thought I'd share some of my cookie baking secrets with you.

First things first.

Get yourself a nice cup of Christmas tea and pull your recipes out. Have some wonderful Christmas music playing.
Christmas baking is as much as reflecting on past memories as it is about making new memories.

Reading recipes that dear friends have given you.

Baking cookies from precious hand written recipes handed down from generation to generation.

Remembering the years you forgot to add the baking soda to a batch of cookies.

Remembering the year you dumped a whole pan of gingerbread men, fresh from the oven onto the kitchen floor.

Good times.

Back in the late 1980's and early 1990's I used to have a Prairie Christmas Open House and sell crafts and baked goods. I made up that little Cookie Cookbook and sold those. It brings back such wonderful memories every year when I bring it out.

Now that you know what you are going to bake, please make sure that you have all of your ingredients on hand before you begin!

One tip that might prove helpful for you, especially if you have a lot of baking to do, is to make all the dough one day, and then bake it the next. I do this often. That way, I have all the mess in the kitchen one day, and I'm not distracted by the oven timer going off, only to go back to the dough I'm making and wonder if I've already added the salt.

I just put all the dough in Ziploc bags, label them with the type of cookie it is, and the oven temperature it should be baked at.

The next day, I can bake away without all the mess.

This is THE biggest secret of my success:

It's Reynolds Parchment paper. I hope I can encourage you to use it. What I love about it is that I can have such a mass production of cookies going with it. I can have a sheet of cookies baking, and while it's baking, I can fill another sheet of paper (without a pan under it) with raw dough.

I pull the baked cookies out of the oven, slide the paper and all off of the hot sheet onto the island, and then immediately slip on the new sheet of paper with the raw dough. Absolutely no down time at all, or waiting for the pan to cool. Love it. I reuse the sheets over and over until they are so brittle they can't be used again. It keeps the sheets clean and the cookies never ever stick. Once you use it, you'll be lost without it.

A few more things that I do to insure my baking is a success is:
  • ALWAYS preheat the oven for at least a half an hour.
  • Make sure the oven temperature is correct, using an oven thermometer. Adjust your oven if necessary.
  • Watch the cookies carefully, I usually remove them before they really LOOK done. Never brown your cookies.
  • I only use SHINY pans. I abhor the dark pans, they always brown the cookies, and quickly.
  • I only put ONE tray of cookies in at a time so that the oven has good air circulation.
  • I only bake when I'm in a GOOD mood.
Let's talk about that last one for just a minute, shall we?

How often are you rushed and stressed during the holidays? As women, we usually bear the load of the holidays. Gift shopping, party planning, decorating and baking.

It's a lot.

I've found that when I'm baking when I feel frustrated, anything that can go wrong will.

Your cookies will end up looking like this:

The next thing you know, you'll be biting someone's head off.

You want happy cookies don't you?

Perhaps Aaron sums it all up here:

Do you have any idea how much we laugh on a daily basis?
(seeing this video again made me so sad for the boy child.  The nerve of him going to public school!)

I'll share the recipe for my Gingerbread cookies at the end of the post.

Rolling cookies can sometimes be frustrating as doesn't need to be.

I use a flour sack tea towel, well floured and I flour my hands and rolling pin. I used to use a sleeve on the rolling pin, but it left fabric marks on the gingerbread. Me no like.

Take your time. I make mine about 3/8" thick so that they are easy to handle, and hold up well for decorating and packaging.

I decorate them with a simple powdered sugar and milk frosting.

Mini M&M's are fun.

I like tucking them in all around the house. They seem to disappear one by one though....

Here's the recipe! I hope you'll try them, and perhaps they can become a tradition with you, as they are here. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.

Gingerbread Men
(makes 20-24 small, or 14 large cookies)

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup water
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice

Cream the shortening and the sugar. Blend in the molasses, water, flour, salt, soda and spices. Cover, or put in a Ziploc bag, and chill for 2 to 3 hours (or overnight!).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll the dough 1/4" thick for small cookies, or 3/8" for larger cookies. Cut with cookie cutter and place on ungreased (or parchment lined) cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes (DO NOT BROWN). Remove from pans immediately.

Cool thoroughly and decorate.


  1. So much fun! I don't care who you are, where you live, whatever age loves to make cookies and eat them! I made Amish Sugar Cookies yesterday, stuck them in the fridge and last night I baked them after dinner. Hubby who always says no to cold cookies was like a kid again with his glass of milk and s-e-v-e-r-a-l cookies! The rest are going to Mom and the Ladies of Windcrest (the Alzheimer unit) today!

  2. I loved this blog, as usual. I laughed out loud when I saw the grumpy cookie. Laughed hard! Your adorable Jaym. Will have to make these soon. Thanks for sharing your life with the rest of us. xoxo, me

  3. Great tips Jayme! I'm gonna start my baking tomorrow! :)

  4. Me too, the laugh out loud part. But when I got to Aaron's video it became a screech, wet your pants (euphemism only as I got fixed up this spring), scared the dogs (sorta really), made the baby cry (for sure really) type of 3 minute long laugh. Thanks for the recipe, now I need a cookie cutter!!! Oh and an icing bag. Oh, and mini M & M's. Oh, and allspice. Oh, and your icing recipe. But really, thanks.

  5. Oh, and molasses. Other than that I'm on it.

  6. Oh, my...your post reminded me of my mom at Christmas time. She loved making gingerbread cookies and always made a gingerbread house!

  7. Oh. Yum. I'm starving here. Those were good tips. I think I'm going to do the dough and baking on different days. That's a great tip. I need to sit and go through my recipes too. Maybe tonight. You've inspired me.

  8. Aaron is a hoot! I bet he does keep you laughing. Your gingerbread men look great. I usually just stick to drop cookies. I have no patience for baking but have always wished I did. Love how your cutter makes them a little fluffy through the middle. Cute.

  9. Great post, great tips, great recipe and great video clip! I've made three batches of cookies so far and only my first one turned out ok. Must have been in a p#&^* mood the other two times...

  10. Jayme - It is NOW officially the Christmas Cookie season!!

    gingerbread men are the reason

  11. That Aaron is one lucky fella. I don't bake much anymore. I use to make pies (never could master a pie crust though) and cakes and such. But with my girls now grown, I don't do it much. Maybe I should. But it's also fun to eat what the neighbors bake!

  12. Jayme,
    I so remember your Prairie Christmas Open Houses. I use my cook book often ! I remember standing over by the stove cutting and wrapping homemade carmels and refilling cookie trays, at the open houses. Those were the days of good times. I also remember the year you gave us all gingerbread men and I would not let anyone eat them, because they were so cute !!
    Baking is definitely a GOOD THING !

  13. Oh thank you so much for the gingerbread man/woman cookie recipe. I had been looking for a good one and this I know is just the ticket. Can't wait to get started and I promise I will not even be mad or in a bad moood when I make them. How could I be with the smell of gingerbread in the air.

  14. Great hint on doing the dough and actual baking on different days. Think I might have to get me some shiny cookie sheets and definitely give the parchment paper a try..thanks...

  15. Holy Merry Christmas to me! You have no idea how excited I am to have your recipe.....I'm gonna send my mom a whole batch (did i ever tell you how much she loved your cookies?) now the holidays plans feel complete! love you my jayme mae

  16. Love the recipe. I'll give it a try.
    Gotta get in the right mood first.:)
    I'll have to skip the news.

  17. Jayme, I still have my prairie cook book too. Remember when that ladies hair caught on fire at your open house? She apparently got too close to the candle on the wall. Thanks for the gingerbread cookie recipe.

  18. Anonymous.....oh my gosh I'm laughing so much! I totally remember that ladies hair catching fire....oh myyyyy....who are you!? I'm so curious. So you still have that little book. Too funny.

  19. Jayme, I'm just an old friend who lost touch with you. I'm glad you have such a wonderful life. I wish I could say the same. Happy Holidays to you.

  20. Well, I ain't neva hearda rolling cooking out on a tea towel!

    Let's sneak cookie mens into the picture show...

    (I'm not a popcorn eater. Sue me!)

  21. Kiss that boy Aaron for me!! Is he still doin' flips??

    Thanks for your recipe for Gingerbread men. I'll show you on Monday what I bought to decorate my little men with this year!!

    I want to have a cookie exchange. I make some smashing Shortbread cookies! If your good, I'll make you some!!

  22. Oh my! Saw your post in my feed and got a BIGGGG smile! I was hopin'..... Thanks for the recipe, the smiles..I needed em today, and Just give Aaron a BIIIIIG Hug, and tell him He's Da Man! Making us all LAUGH!! Comedian he is, as well as photographer! Love ya. Thanks for the past post. Have a Merry Jayme!!!!....... hugs.

  23. Isn't this the BEST time of year!
    This makes me want to bake cookies right now. And I think I will :D
    Have you ever thought about reprinting your cute cookie book and selling them again? Maybe opening a "Coop Keeper" etsy shop?

  24. I am buying the paper and trying that. I stink at cookie baking. I put them in the oven then promptly lose my mind and take a walk or go upstairs and start cleaning a closet til I smell burning!! Someone needs to tie me to a kitchen chair!
    I was happy to see this post! But I am sad at anonymous' last post :( I said a prayer for them.

  25. Oh joy! My computer says there's a new post from you and it appears to be true. I haven't read it yet. I just had to say thank you, Jayme. I'll read it now.

  26. Since I didn't know you a year ago, this post was all new. Dear girl, will you consider printing more little cookbooks for us late comers? This is the kind of cookbook I treasure. And, I'm with you on parchment paper. Can't live without it! It makes nice bottoms.

  27. You are my new hero forEVAH!
    I need SHINY PANS!
    "Don't even!"

    I am going to show my husband your angry gingerbread cookies. hahahhahha.

  28. Gonna pick a not so busy day and try it! This post cracked me up! And you seem to be the Cookie Guru, so now I gotta try!

  29. Jayme, Love your post on the cookies! My mother was the baker, she started baking for Christmas right after Thanksgiving, everything you could possibly imagine! Remember once her hiding some sugar cookies in a big tupperware container overnight so my brother would leave them alone and guess what ? He threw a pair of jeans in the dryer the next morning and the cookies became crumbs! I still laugh about that, and by the way the lid stayed on!

    Wishing you a Merry Christmas!


  30. I meant to say she put the container in the clothes dryer thinking no one would look in there!


  31. I love the parchment paper idea. I always hate the wait until the cookies are cool. Now I can just use the parchment paper. I made gingerbread once. Only once, as when I put their faces on I was less than skilled and they came out really scary. My grown kids couldn't stop laughing and teasing me. I have an awesome big gingerbread cutter but left it at home. I will make these next year

  32. Jayme, Love your GINGERBREAD MEN, there beautiful, I'am going to make some as soon as I can find your cookie cutter, have looked everywhere but none are as cute as your's, where did you find it, and please do another cookbook, I would love to have one, I cant wait to see pictures of your house all done up in christmas. You and Your Family have a Very Merry Christmas, from Sharon and Her Family in Oneonta Alabama.


Thanks so much for leaving a comment!