All December long, I have felt like I was playing catch-up. Somehow, the holidays snuck up on me this year, and I was woefully under-prepared. My decorations were barely up in time for my cookie party, I had less time to cook for my guests this year, and when it came time to select a final lineup for this year's Cookie Bonanza, I made the horrifying realization that I had only tested five new cookie recipes in all of 2012.
Facing a choice between giving out untested, and therefore potentially sub-par cookies or working myself to death trying to test enough recipes in time, I discovered a third path: this year would be the fifth year of my beloved giveaway -- what if I treated my recipients to a retrospective of my best recipes? A "Greatest Hits," if you will.
I read through the past three years of posts here at "The State I Am In," and looked at pictures of my 2008 cookie boxes (the only record I have of my inaugural year), thought about what had received the best reception, and what recipes held the fondest memories. Eventually, I was able to pull together a list that was both full of nostalgia, and managed to meet my criteria for scope and balance.
Here is what ended up going into every box:
- 2 Chocolate Gingerbread (2008)
- 2 Snickerdoodles (2008)
- 2 Iced Sugar Cookies (2009)
- 10 Vanilla Bean Spritz (2009)
- 2 Chocolate Peppermint Cookies (2009)
- 3 Lemon Poppy Seed Thumbprints (2010)
- 3 Cranberry Pinwheels (2010)
- 1 Maple Macadamia Sticky Bar (2011)
Every cookie had a story. I first made the chocolate gingerbread for a friend who is allergic to eggs; when she came to my first cookie exchange and didn't see them again, she was devastated, and I realized for the first time the impact that my baked goods could have on people. Snickerdoodles are my dad's favorite, the cranberry pinwheels are my mom's. Justin is partial to the lemon poppyseed (I first made them with him in mind, after all), and the maple macadamia sticky bars might just be my favorite cookie in my repertoire, though honestly, asking me to pick a favorite cookie is like asking someone to pick their favorite child.
I once paid $80 to FedEx a box of chocolate peppermint cookies to Katherine when she was living in Japan because she loves them so much. The iced sugar cookies have been the star of the show ever since I first learned how to decorate them in 2009, and now I feel like no assortment is complete without them. And while they play more of a support role, I have a soft spot in my heart for the vanilla bean spritz. They may not be the most impressive cookie in the lineup, but they are deceptively addictive, and I get to make them with a cookie press that was passed on to me by my grandma, which is a powerful connection to history that I cannot ignore.
Even if my cookies weren't new and exciting this year, it felt good to relive these memories, and to share the best of the best of my baking repertoire with my family and friends. I ultimately gave out fourteen boxes this year, but when you factor in sharing, it's hard to know how many people my act of generosity ultimately touched. It may be a ton of work every year, but to me, it is totally worth it to make so many people happy with the gift of cookies.
For whatever reason, revisiting all my old recipes left me feeling renewed instead of exhausted. Normally, I can't stand to so much as look at a cookie, much less think about baking, for months after the annual Cookie Bonanza. This year, however, I can't wait to get back in the kitchen and see what adventures it has in store...