Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Fabulous Baker Boys

I lied when I said I finished baking cookies for the holiday season. I mean, I had finished baking my cookies, the ones I had intended to give away and deliver to friends this month.

But I also had plans for one last burst of cookie baking, reserved until this weekend before Christmas –- one that I hoped would be the start of a new holiday tradition.

I've talked with the Southern Belle a number of times before about baking cookies with my adorable "nephews" Beaker and Scooter, but it wasn't until this year that we decided we could finally do it. So we made a date for making sugar cookies, watching a couple of short holiday films, and exchanging Christmas presents.

When I arrived at their house late this morning, I was thrilled to discover that the boys were both as excited as I was to spend the day in the kitchen. And surprisingly, given how young they both are still (Beaker is 5 1/2 and Scooter is just shy of 3 years old), they both wanted to participate in the process for a good long time.

The Southern Belle decided we should make a double batch of sugar cookies, so it took us a while to mix the dough, especially with four people and two spoons involved. (Yes, the little ones took turns working the dough!)

Once all the ingredients were added and the dough had become crumbly, the Southern Belle showed her boys how to work the dough by hand to make it stick together better.

After I had my turn at working the dough, I divided it into smaller portions before she rolled it out and the boys helped cut out the shapes.

It took us a good two hours to cut out and bake every last bit of dough, but we finally had several cookie racks and plates full of bells, stars, hearts, Santas, angels, and even cacti and cowboy boots (thanks to the Southwestern heritage of one side of the family).

We took a long breather to enjoy pizza for lunch and one short Christmas film. By the time we returned to the kitchen, the cookies had cooled and were ready for decorating. So with a little frosting, a few food colors, and an injudicious use of sprinkles and colored sugar (thanks to the exuberant artistry of dear Beaker), we covered almost all the cookies in festive style.

At the Southern Belle's urging, I packed up a couple dozen to bring home and enjoy once today's sugar rush wore off. I'm sure she thought it a fair trade for all the cookies and baklava and julekage I brought for them, but just spending that time with the boys, doing something I really love and seeing them enjoy it too, was Christmas gift enough for me.

We've decided that this should be our annual Christmas tradition, and I'm already looking forward to next year's event. (It might even require a new cookie cutter or two.) And those little guys? Given the happy looks on their faces while they helped make the cookies and then as they sneaked warm cookies from the baking racks, I'm sure it's safe to say that they'll be ready to do this again sometime, too.

Until then, though, I'll enjoy this year's cookies -– and memories, too.


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