It started several years ago when we realized we seldom got to see our friends and their kids, what with sports, activities and all. The solution: a holiday cookie party, in which the kids got to decorate and create with abandon while the adults got to catch up. It has become an annual event that the kids ask their parents about weeks ahead: When's the cookie party?
If you're hoping to grab the attention of a kid (or her parents) in the holiday crush, a cookie party's your ticket. Here's what to do.
The keys to success:
Be organized, and have something to engage the kids at all times.
Make just two kinds of cookies; kids will provide the variety as they decorate. We make a roll-out sugar cookie and a gingerbread.
It's all about the kids; theirs is the joy of sprinkling way too much green sanding sugar all over the gingerbread men. So let them do it the way they want.
The kids cut out cookies.
While those cookies bake, kids decorate cookies you baked in advance.
When those are done, the just-baked cookies are ready to decorate.
Bake cutout cookies in a variety of shapes, five or six per kid. Leave them undecorated; store in airtight containers. Can be made well ahead and frozen.
The day before, roll out one piece of cookie dough per child, about the size of a cookie sheet, on waxed paper. Stack on a cookie sheet to stay flat; wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate.
Cut sheets of parchment paper to fit your cookie sheets.
Cover the table(s) with butcher paper (try uline.com) or plastic tablecloths, something to withstand the royal icing.
Put a variety of cutters down the middle of the table so kids can choose what they like.
Put decorations in spice jars with shaker lids or in small bowls. Tuck them away until the kids are done with the cookie-cutting.
Put out lots of small, food-safe paintbrushes. You will need a few per color of icing so that no one has to wait for the red while Erin paints Santa's big belly.
Designate counter space to re-roll scraps; get older kids to help or a patient, speedy, adult.
Make royal icing about two hours before the party. Divide the icing into small, sealable plastic containers. Dye with food coloring or paste, making two of each color you will offer. Make sure you have plenty of white icing too. Cover with plastic wrap down to the surface; you don't want the icing to set. Chill.
Heat the oven to cookie-baking temperature.
Transfer each sheet of dough to a sheet of the pre-cut parchment. (The waxed paper will be wet and tear easily.) Place one in front of each child; let them go to town with cutters. Have parents help the younger ones. (This is fun for the adults too.) Write each kid's name in pencil on the parchment paper.
Slide the parchment onto cookie sheets; bake, in batches. Put platters of the pre-baked cookies on the table for kids to decorate.
After cookies that the kids cut out are baked, the kids decorate those.
Don't worry about the mess. Icing will be everywhere, caked on brushes, smeared on the shaker jars. Sprinkles too. It all cleans up easily.
Keep an eye on the oven or designate someone to do so. You'll be busy. Kids don't understand mistakes happen. They just know you burned their cookies.
Today is Saturday, May 25, the 145th day of 2013. There are 220 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: The annual review of the fire department of this city took placeyesterday and made a fine showing with machines and hose carts in tip-top order. 1888 -- 125 years ago: Last night's prayer meeting at Central Presbyterian Church wascalled off due to water in the basement, residue of last week's flood. 1913 -- 100 years ago: The junior class of Rock Island High School will hold a riverexcursion on the steamer St. Paul next Tuesday. 1938 -- 75 years ago: The 75th Anniversary of the Rock Island Arsenal today finds thenation's largest ordinance manufacturing plant filling many important orders for the army. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Miss Patrice Daly, Rock Island, a senior at Rock Island HighSchool, won second place in the recent state public speaking contest held in Peoria underthe auspices of the Knights of Pythias. 1988 -- 25 years ago: Hampton's sesquicentennial committee and the Hampton HistoricalSociety have scheduled a full slate of activities, which will be held throughout the year, to celebrate the village's 150th birthday. The first celebration will be the Memorial Dayprogram at 10 a.m. May 30, at the Brettun and Black Store Museum on River Road. Therewill be a sesquicentennial display.