On New Year’s Eve, we had a wee party. Not a debauched, drunken, what-was-I-thinking kind of party. No, this was something a little gentler, a little more in line with my life these days. We had two of Harry’s buddies—and their moms (aka my friends)—over for some cookie baking. An hour or two before our guests arrived, I threw together the dough (based on this recipe from Health magazine) and popped it in the fridge to chill. I’d never tried this particular recipe before (in fact, I don’t have a long and successful history with rolled cookies at all—I usually cheat and buy a Pillsbury cookie schlong) but I liked the idea of avoiding additives and using some whole wheat in there, and not too much butter. It was crumbly when I piled it all onto plastic wrap, but I figured some time to sit would do it good. And I was right.
Attempting to make cookies with not one but three toddlers is nothing to take lightly, so I prepared. While the dough coalesced in the fridge, I cleaned the prep stuff and stowed the mixer, wiped down the table, and pulled out a dozen cookie cutters, my pastry mats, spatulas, cookie sheets, Silpats, and every kind of cookie decoration I could find in my pantry. And pre-heated the oven, of course. By the time our guests arrived, I was ready.
And it was fun! As long as I let go (a bit) of my perfectionist tendencies, that is. Toddlers do not care if their dinosaur’s leg has been eaten off before making it into the oven.
Here’s Harry, wielding a mean spatula:
And his pal L, who takes her rolling quite seriously indeed:
And M, who only wanted to use the airplane cookie cutter he’d brought from home:
Some quick tips, now that I’ve survived my first toddler group-baking event:
- Preparation is key. Read your recipe beforehand, and assemble all your ingredients and tools before you start.
- Don’t stress about mess. Start with a clean surface and make hand-washing part of the fun, but don’t expect anything to stay clean.
- Make sure you’ve got enough room for each kid to have his or her own space. Toddlers + taking turns = disaster.
- Who’s going to know if you cheat and speed things along while the kids are each focused on a single masterpiece? In the time it took H and his pals to decorate one cookie, I managed to transfer other cookies onto baking sheets, restock depleted decorating supplies, and even do a little cleaning up.
Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Health magazine
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 egg white
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
Whatever decorations you like
Whisk together first 4 ingredients (through baking soda) in a medium bowl.
Beat butter and sugars together in a separate medium bowl until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl, and add the egg white and vanilla and almond extracts; beat until just combined.
Add flour mixture, and stir until incorporated. Turn dough out onto plastic wrap, pull the plastic tightly around it to form a disc, and chill for at least 2 hours [the original recipe says 4 hours, but I did 2 and it worked just fine].
Preheat oven to 325. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
Dust a work surface with flour. Remove half the dough from the fridge, and keep the rest in there while you work. Roll dough out to a 1/4-inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes in dough, decorate with sprinkles, sparkling sugar, etc., and gently transfer them to baking sheets. (You can reroll the scraps, just move quickly and chill in between if dough gets too floppy.)
Bake cookies for 12 minutes or until set but not browned. Remove cookies from oven, and cool for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.