Do you give gifts to your family and friends for the holidays? What about your boss, coworkers, landlord, mail carrier, dog walker, personal shopper (I wish), neighbors, maintenance guy, bus driver, etc? If you do, what do you give them?
I really do believe there are few things in life as satisfying as giving someone a gift. The great thing about gifts, is that they don't have to be electronics, toys, or clothes. A gift can be something as simple as a card, a home-cooked treat, a favor, or even just some of your time. Of course we all want all those goodies on our Christmas/holiday wish lists (trust me, mine is full of cooking utensils, cookbooks, clothes, gift cards, electronics, and a ticket to Disneyland), but when the economy is tight and you may not have the money to spare, homemade is always excellent. I don't think I know a single person who wouldn't be excited and/or appreciative to receive a homemade gift.
Enter: holiday baking weekend 2012. For the past few years, I've spent the better part of one December weekend baking cookies and putting together goody bags/tins/boxes/baskets for friends and coworkers. I tend to pick recipes that I'm pretty familiar with (and therefore am generally 90% sure that unless I royally eff something up, the recipe will turn out great), and result in things that package pretty easily. It's a lot of fun, and it's even more fun to see how excited people get when you hand (or mail) them a box full o' cookies. I've used all kinds of cookie recipes, chocolate covered pretzels, different breads, lemon bars...you name it, it'll work for this. Just don't pick anything that needs to be refrigerated post-baking. Here's the other kicker: if you pick simple recipes that don't require any crazy ingredients, it's actually a pretty inexpensive adventure.
So, that's why I'm sharing this particular recipe. This would be a great one to use if you were to make your own goody bags, because the dough is super simple. Roll out the dough and use cookie cutters, do it slice and bake style, add sprinkles, experiment with frosting or royal icing...I think you get it, right? It's easy. It's flexible. It's delicious. I made some fall-themed cookies a few weeks ago, and am planning to make ornament and snowflake shaped cookies for my holiday treats.
(you'll want to make these probably a day before you apply the icing)
recipe from The Food Network
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon milk
1. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2. Beat together butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light in color. Add egg and milk to the mixture and beat until well combined.
3. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour, mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
4. Divide the dough in half, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
For royal icing, check out Annie's Eats for an excellent recipe and tutorial.