Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sunshine and Sprinkles

For the past month or two, Beaker -- the elder of My Adorable Nephews -- has been asking his mother if I would bake Christmas cookies with them again this year.

Considering that we all had so much fun last year, the answer was a resounding "Yes!" on all parts. And now that he's out of school for the holidays and I have started my two-week respite from the office, today seemed the perfect day to get together and round out our holiday baking.

Earlier in the week, it struck me that this might also be the perfect time for me to pull out a little story book I'd been saving for the boys. Called Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven, it tells the story of a resourceful baker who made a bread so light and warming that it enticed the long-lost sun to return to a wintry world gone gray. And since today marks the winter solstice, what could be more appropriate?

I threw the dough together at home just before setting out, and given that my hike to their house took about 45 minutes, by the time I arrived, settled down, and read them the story, the dough was ready for us to shape it.

The boys enjoyed the bouncy reaction of the bread dough as well as the need to work the bits of dough with our hands. And while I certainly tried to keep the design of the loaf fairly neat, it ended up looking like a beautiful ornate stylized sun that might have adorned a Mayan temple or a Celtic stone circle.

The oven ran a little hot, so the sun bread itself got a little, er, toasty -- but it still tasted wonderful!

While the bread baked, the Southern Belle and I mixed the cookie dough, and we called the boys back into the kitchen when we were ready to roll out the dough...

...and to cut out a wide variety of Christmas and Southwestern shapes, from Santa Claus to cacti and coyotes.

My Adorable Nephews didn't last long. There wasn't a whole lot of room at the counter for both of them to cut out cookies, and computer games looked a lot more appealing to them. So instead, the Southern Belle and I cut out most of the remaining cookies and baked them, saving the last couple dozen for after lunch.

Once we had finished all the baking, we brought the boys back in to help frost the cookies, and this time they stayed until the very end, putting their own creative stamp on the decorations by piling on the frosting, swirling together colors, and adding sprinkles of colored sugar.

I noshed on a few while I was there, hoping to avoid the temptation to take too many cookies home with me, and I managed to pack away only a few unusual shapes to share with My Wonderful Parents. (My Dear Papa had expressed interest in a cactus cookie.)

By that time, the boys had pretty well worn me out, and I headed home with every intention of taking myself out to dinner at the Bistro.

We'll try a couple of things differently next year, the Southern Belle and I, since the boys will still be a little young to last through the entire baking bash. But we agreed that it's a tradition worth continuing, just for the sheer fun and joy of being together.

And how could I do without my Christmas cookie sunshine?


At 12/23/2007 2:52 PM, Blogger foodperson said...

Love the bread! Maybe you can take credit for the sun coming out here today. Meanwhile, as a longtime bake-with-kids person, I highly recommend stirring as a coveted activity. Dough can be too stiff, but mixing other things together (dry ingredients, or beating eggs) always seems popular with my young friends and relatives.

At 12/23/2007 4:21 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

We did have the boys help mix the dough last year, and they loved that. I think they probably had a bit of overload this year with the bread coming first. But at least they both enjoy playing in the kitchen, so I think we'll have to come up with other projects!


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