I was looking for something different for the Christmas season last year.
Inspiration struck in the form of the Cookie Advent Calendar provided to me by Saveur magazine. Yes, it really was just that: 24 days and 24 cookie recipes. And we made every single recipe.*
As if baking a new batch of cookies every day for 3 1/2 weeks (or just HAVING that many cookies in harm’s way) wasn’t foolish enough, I also converted them to gluten-free versions (my husband is gluten intolerant). If you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking, no, I don’t have too much time on my hands. I DO have a splendid assistant in the person of my 13 year old daughter-with-aspirations-to-be-a-chef, so between the two of us:
- she filled in on the days I was just tapped out;
- I admit that we both bailed out on a couple of days, which we made up on the weekend;
- we often cut recipes in half or even in thirds, with the goal being no more than 24 cookies in a day (or no more than two trays, so we could get them all in and out of the oven in one pass).
And the effort, while significant, was manageable.
Without a doubt best part – really truly even better than eating them – was the immense pleasure I found in knowing that at some point in the day, every day, we’d be dropping everything…and baking cookies.
Another treat: Each recipe would be posted at midnight, but as the mag is in Eastern Standard Time my girl and I would check every evening at 9 pm here on the West Coast and find our next day’s offering ready and waiting.
All the cookies were good, but there was indeed a range of results that traveled from, “hmm, tasty sand, that one,” to “wow! oh wow! greatgreatgreat!” Many (though not all) were of a European lineage, and they were the most interesting. We all agreed that traditionally American cookies, while good, are by comparison pretty bland, generally being dominated by one flavor: peanut butter, or cinnamon, or chocolate, for example.
The down sides:
We did our best to be true to the original recipe (gluten-free conversions notwithstanding), but at times the ingredients were challenging. Among other things I now have all but a few ounces of a rather expensive, very strong, very weird liqeuer which as far as I can tell will only go for future batches of those specific cookies they’re used in…which is, thankfully, a pretty darn good cookie. If you’re in the Eugene area and want to give them a try, call me. I’ll share. I also bailed out when the recipe called for a cookie mold that I could only find on eBay for $40. THAT crossed deep into “well this is just silly” territory.
There were too dang many versions of shortbread cookies. How may riffs on a theme can there be for butter, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla? Quite a few, we found. On that note, and on the upside…
Converting all the recipes to gluten free might be considered ‘above and beyond the call’ but it wasn’t impossible, and I’d been on the hunt for a really great shortbread cookie that worked in GF flour. I’m pleased to report that I found one! Mention in the comments if you’d like to know how I converted it. It turned out crisp, tasty, and didn’t spread a whit, which had been the recurring issue with all the other GF cookie-cutter cookies I’d tried.
After the best part, above, the next best part was that we always had something to bring to friends’ houses all month long: “What’s that you say? Laura’s having a few people over tonight? Hey, we’ll bring cookies!!” In fact, I think that’s where most of them went, in the final tally.
The last best part: We still have a freezer full of cookies. Only a few remain of each of maybe half the cookie recipes, but it’s enough to know that a sweet treat – not much, but just enough – is only a few steps away.
Stay tuned: Next Tuesday I’ll post the hands-down favorite cookie of the whole season.
*Disclaimer: Okay, fine. There were actually 25 recipes. We didn’t make the last one. It was yet another shortbread cookie, and we didn’t have the right ingredients, and it was CHRISTMAS DAY, for cryin’ out loud. We all agreed that all the Advent Calendars we knew had 24 days, not 25, so we called it a wrap at 9:15pm on Christmas Eve. Mea culpa.