Monday, December 19, 2011

holiday baking & sharing

packaged and ready to go!

I love to bake.  So when we were invited to my bff's this past weekend for a holiday party and was asked to bring some festive cookies for a "cookie swap", I was super excited to partake. I was however overwhelmed with choices of what to bake!  There are always so many recipes to choose from, and during the holidays especially, so many fun, festive, and delicious ones!  After a few sifts through my recipe "pile" (I have yet to find the best way to organize my recipes...some are in a folder, others in a binder, some are on my computer, and the others are scattered throughout the internet, friends and family)...I decided to make 2 of my favorites.  I made one of the more challenging "cookies" that I only attempt every few years when I really have the time and patience, petit fours (I used this basic recipe but filled mine with raspberry jam, tinted my frosting green and decorated with red hearts, red flowers and sugar gingermen).  After working at Martha Stewart TV for so many years, I really learned the tricks of these by watching John Barricelli, one of the master chefs in the prep kitchen there, (really I would eat the "scrap bowl" while he was making the beautiful creations!)  They are definitely labor intensive and I have to be honest, I did lose about 1/2 of them in the making...but the 1/2 I "lost", were just not as "pretty" for the swap and they stayed home for my husband and I to enjoy.  The other "cookie" I chose to make was not really a cookie either.  It is one of my favorite recipes from a good friend I used to work with at Martha, the worlds best Gingerbread Cake from Gramercy Tavern!  If you love gingerbread the way I do, I really recommend trying this recipe.  The original one is made in a bundt pan, however I decided to make individual cakes (reducing the baking time accordingly) and package them in cello bags with a cute tag.  Again, this way I could contribute to the swap with a smaller, take away portion.  With so many cookies, I felt the cakes were a great addition at the end of the night for the guests to bring home and eat the next morning, perhaps with their coffee, or share with other family members.  Another great thing about this gingerbread cake recipe is that it just gets better after a day or two!  Making these individual cakes also reminded me of the small loaves of zucchini and banana bread my mom, husband and I made as part of our wedding favors.  We made the breads to go along with jars of currant jam my mom made from the berries my dad grew in his garden.  Small home baked gifts of breads, cakes and cookies are always loved by just about anyone and what better way to spread the love and give thanks to someone during the holidays?  Maybe you have someone on your list you too can bake for.....the dog walker, babysitter, postman, kid's teachers, house keeper, doorman? Kids love to bake too!  Really, who doesn't love homemade AND home baked?  What is your favorite holiday cookie recipe?
individual gingerbreads baked, cooling and waiting for packaging
this years petit fours!

my cookie swap box to come home!  
note the festive gingerbread owl peering out made by my bff (and the host) Sweet Dani B!
Whooos ready for the holidays now?

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