I rarely bake cookies during the year. Maybe two or three times, if that. Usually I would rather bake breads--yeast breads, sourdough breads, sweet breads like banana or pumpkin. Una will bake brownies or muffins now and then. But I save my cookie-baking energy for Advent.
I don't bake sugar cookies at this time of year. No, I roll up my sleeves, tie on my apron and let my German blood take control of my body. I do fancy little things, dipped in chocolate, rolled in crushed nuts, spiked with Asbach Uralt. I reached the apex of this baking insanity in Charlotte, NC, the year before I had Una. I baked over a thousand cookies, twelve varieties in all, and gave them to all the neighbors, to friends and to the mailman.
Well, I won't be doing that this year. I have a mere seven varieties planned for this year (two already baked and the dough for four others in the freezer), and Una will bake Chocolate Walnut Toffee Bars. Over the years I have gathered tools that make all this baking a breeze:
1) The Queen Appliance of my kitchen, the KitchenAid Mixer. I love this thing. I got the big, 6-quart model with the metal attachments and it will knead even my very stiff sourdough rye. I
hate it when the baby cries and you're up to your elbows in bread dough...
2) This is new, and I love the way it works. It is called the Beater Blade (www.beaterblade.com), and it eliminates the need to stop and scrape down your batter or cookie dough. I have used it with cheesecake batter (where I usually have to stop frequently and scrape down the sides of the bowl to prevent lumps of cream cheese from remaining in the batter), and it really works. It isn't cheap (probably because it is new), but it comes in two sizes and fits all the major brands of standing mixers.
3) I wouldn't even consider baking cookies without this stuff. I don't like greasing and re-greasing cookie sheets.
4) I got the 1-teaspoon scoop last year, and my sister got the two-teaspoon one for me as one of my birthday gifts in November. These are nifty. Scoop and drop, scoop and drop, and you have perfectly uniform little dough-balls on your baking sheet in no time. The bigger one is good for little kid-sized meatballs, too.5) Not a necessity by any means, but with limited counter space this triple-tiered cooling rack is nice to have. This one came from Aldi a few years back.
6) And if you do icing, these are nice to have and much easier for the kids to handle than a pastry bag. From the wedding/specialty baking section at Wal-Mart.
And that's that. I hope to post at least one of my favorite recipes over the next few days.