Monday, December 26, 2011

Guest Post: Laura's Chanukah Cookies

I had the pleasure of mentoring Laura in her role as a marketing program manager at our previous place of employment. She's exemplifies the kind of talent companies should be nurturing today. While our new jobs have taken us in a different directions, we stay in touch daily thanks to IM, Facebook and email. We are also venturing into other areas of collaboration as this post will attest. Laura's a whiz in the marketing department and it looks like she might have a good fall-back plan if she gets the urge to try something new. 

Laura also pens this very funny blog about her traveling travails: alifeinplasticbaggies.  Enjoy!

Putting the 'oy in holiday joy by Laura Monn Ginsburg

Although the holidays tend to bring out my Rachael Ray instincts more than usual, I must confess that I’m not much of a cook/baker/entertainer. 

For three years now, my husband and I have thrown a Chanukah party for our friends to add something nontraditional to the usual Christmas party mix. We have one of those amazing problems, however, of having too many friends. This year, the guest list was over 80 people.

As our guest list has grown, so has my tendency to make things more complicated for myself. Because most of our friends are of the Gentile variety, I like to make it really feel like they’re at a Chanukah party versus just another holiday gathering. To this end, I make about 10 batches of matzo ball soup and order amazing bite-sized latkes from Linda’s Latkes (Oprah recommended!) in addition to making my signature icebox cake and cucumber sandwiches. This year, I decided to forgo the icebox cake (which takes up a lot of, um, icebox space) and make Chanukah-shaped cookies instead. What could be easier? (Answer: lots of things. Onto the oy.)

Unlike your usual posting goddess, I make very few things from scratch and these cookies were no exception (just call me Sandra Lee-vowitz). I used three packages of Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix to yield approximately nine dozen cookies. I did make sure to add an extra tablespoon of sugar per mix packet as directed since I’d be using cookie cutters.

Although I’m not a whiz in the kitchen, my father put himself through college working part-time at a bakery, so I have picked up a couple of things most bakers know (no secret tips here)— refrigerating the dough for at least a half hour and making sure to flour your rolling surface and pin generously before even thinking about attacking your dough.

I finally got to work rolling and cutting the cookies but it took me a while to hit my stride—do you know how frustrating it is to make cut-out cookies?!?!

Regardless, they were looking pretty good from the second batch on:

As you can see, the three shapes are a Star of David, a dreidel and a menorah (incorrectly identified as a Kiddush cup by my husband. Like Crate & Barrel makes a Kiddush cup cookie cutter).

After hours and hours of baking, my husband freed his law office shackles and made it home just in time to ice. I found a simple icing recipe online and, using powdered sugar, milk, food coloring and corn syrup, made a simple blue and white icing for the cookies (like a true English major, I just added ingredients together until the consistency looked about right and the coloring looked ‘shiny.’ This was my legitimate icing criteria). Then we got to work:

Bella the dog was super excited about the cookie making as well.

At this point it was about 10 p.m. so we put the cookies in the fridge overnight for piping the next day. 

I did not make my own piping frosting, I hope you’re not too disappointed. I got these great pouches from Betty Crocker that come ready to go with just a minute of kneading and a snip of the tip. Luckily, I actually read the instructions for once and noted that although the frosting sets in minutes, you should wait about three hours to stack them. I piped all nine dozen cookies in about a half hour and left them to sit:

Three hours later I put the cookies in airtight containers until show time that evening. The cookies were a HUGE hit which means that, barring a further loss of sanity, you can look forward to a follow-up post next year!

Happy Chanukah!

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