Bake it and they will come

December 17, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Despite a frightful blast of winter weather, my holiday cookie dough swap and bake was a sweet success - and I've got the freezer full of dough and the sugar hangover to prove it.

The rules were as simple as sugar cookie batter: Prepare at least enough dough for six dozen cookies; divide it into equal portions; freeze all but one portion; and bring your dough and an appetite for cookies to our Halfway home Sunday, Dec. 14. My family and I planned to provide a pumpkin pie dip, egg nog and fresh-baked batches of each kind of cookie for nearly one dozen swap attendees - each of whom, we hoped, would leave with a full belly, some good memories and a bag brimming with cookie dough and other treats.

Mother Nature tried, but failed, to intervene. The lesson? Bake it and they will come.

Our friends, including Laura Ernde, Michele and Dave Wills, Eugenia Keller, Lauren Maus, Lelia Boudreaux, Chris Copley and Yolanda DiFabio and their children - Julia, 17, Rowan, 14, and Fedora, 11 - braved Sunday's snow and ice to share some food and fellowship. (The day's only casualty was Lauren's hand-held mixer, which didn't survive her double batch of peanut butter dough.) Machinery aside, our friends arrived safely at noon bearing sugary gifts: chocolate chip cookie dough from Laura; sugar cookie dough from Dave and Michele; Chocolate-covered cherry biscotti from Lelia; Peanut Butter Blossoms from Lauren; Nieman Marcus Chocolate Chip with Oats, Sweet Pecan Dreams and gingerbread cookie dough from the Copleys; and chocolate chip/cranberry/coconut/pecan cookie dough and chocolate peppermint candy from Eugenia.


I had prepared dough for Date Pinwheels, molasses and oatmeal-cherry cookies, while my 13-year-old daughter, Alexa, stretched her growing culinary muscles to make gingerbread and cranberry-orange cookie dough. My husband, Tim, saved his energy for mass consumption.

He wasn't disappointed.

"I don't know which one I like the best," Tim said when I asked him to name his favorite confection. "I have to try them all at least two more times."

We baked and plated at least eight dozen different kinds of cookies - realizing early on that most of us would run out of the belly room needed to sample every batch. And besides, less dough baked meant more dough left for baking. That's the beauty of a dough swap. In past years I've invited friends over during the holidays to make cookie dough, bake the cookies and divide the finished products. It's just too much work for one day. This year, Alexa and I spent the days prior to the get-together preparing for the swap so we could enjoy our guests - and their edible offerings - on Sunday.

And enjoy we did.

The Date Pinwheels disappeared first, either because they were really good or because there were so few of them (I didn't double the recipe). Chris and Yolanda agreed that the buttery softness of the dough perfectly complimented the chewy sweetness of the date filling. Laura beheaded a gingerbread boy to save room for another cranberry-orange cookie, in part because those light, fruity cookies rested a bit easier on her conscience, she said.

Dave and Alexa gravitated toward the oatmeal-cherry cookie tray.

"I like oatmeal," Alexa said, "as long as it's baked with sugar and cherries."

Fedora liked the texture of the cookies, but said she'd prefer the flavor of cranberries instead of the dried cherries and almond extract I'd added to my dough. Rowan and I named Eugenia's decadent chocolate chip/cranberry/coconut/pecan as our favorites among those cookies baked on Sunday. And the Peanut Butter Blossoms also got high marks.

While the cookies were excellent, the stories behind the dough were even better:

n Yolanda called her sister to get their late mother's recipe for the family's favorite holiday cookies. A native of New Orleans, Edith DiFabio called her creations Sweet Pecan Dreams, but most people probably know the cookies as Russian Tea Cakes. Yolanda said her mother always increased the amount of chopped pecans in the recipe to equal that of the flour - creating a cookie that literally melts in your mouth.

- Though her family tree includes several famous Baltimore bakers, Michele has barely tapped into her genetic baking potential. But despite her lack of experience, a mixer, core ingredients and a recipe, she graciously agreed to make the sugar cookie dough by hand. It looked fabulous. And I'm sure Tim will love it.

- Lelia's Chocolate-covered Cherry Biscotti is a holiday favorite in our home - and hers as well. That's why she wasn't too surprised when she found about one dozen biscotti missing from the cooling rack when she prepared to package her creations on Sunday morning. Let's just call her husband the quality control manager.

And mine The Eating Machine in Tennis Shoes.

Sweet Pecan Dreams

  • 1/2 pound butter

  • 6 rounded tablespoons confectioner's sugar

  • 2 cups flour

  • 2 cups pecans, finely chopped

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

  • 2 teaspoons cold water

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