It started several years ago when we realized we seldom got to see our friends and their kids, what with sports, activities and all. The solution: a holiday cookie party, in which the kids got to decorate and create with abandon while the adults got to catch up. It has become an annual event that the kids ask their parents about weeks ahead: Whenís the cookie party?
If youíre hoping to grab the attention of a kid (or her parents) in the holiday crush, a cookie partyís your ticket. Hereís what to do.
The keys to success:
Be organized, and have something to engage the kids at all times.
Make just two kinds of cookies; kids will provide the variety as they decorate. We make a roll-out sugar cookie and a gingerbread.
Itís all about the kids; theirs is the joy of sprinkling way too much green sanding sugar all over the gingerbread men. So let them do it the way they want.
The kids cut out cookies.
While those cookies bake, kids decorate cookies you baked in advance.
When those are done, the just-baked cookies are ready to decorate.
Bake cutout cookies in a variety of shapes, five or six per kid. Leave them undecorated; store in airtight containers. Can be made well ahead and frozen.
The day before, roll out one piece of cookie dough per child, about the size of a cookie sheet, on waxed paper.
Stack on a cookie sheet to stay flat; wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate.
Cut sheets of parchment paper to fit your cookie sheets.
Cover the table(s) with butcher paper (try uline.com) or plastic tablecloths, something to withstand the royal icing.
Put a variety of cutters down the middle of the table so kids can choose what they like.
Put decorations in spice jars with shaker lids or in small bowls. Tuck them away until the kids are done with the cookie-cutting.
Put out lots of small, food-safe paintbrushes.
You will need a few per color of icing so that no one has to wait for the red while Erin paints Santaís big belly.
Designate counter space to re-roll scraps; get older kids to help or a patient, speedy, adult.
Make royal icing about two hours before the party. Divide the icing into small, sealable plastic containers. Dye with food coloring or paste, making two of each color you will offer. Make sure you have plenty of white icing, too. Cover with plastic wrap down to the surface; you donít want the icing to set. Chill.
Heat the oven to cookie-baking temperature.
Transfer each sheet of dough to a sheet of the pre-cut parchment. (The waxed paper will be wet and tear easily.) Place one in front of each child; let them go to town with cutters. Have parents help the younger ones. (This is fun for the adults, too.) Write each kidís name in pencil on the parchment paper.
Slide the parchment onto cookie sheets; bake, in batches. Put platters of the pre-baked cookies on the table for kids to decorate.
After cookies that the kids cut out are baked, the kids decorate those.
Donít worry about the mess. Icing will be everywhere, caked on brushes, smeared on the shaker jars. Sprinkles, too. It all cleans up easily.
Keep an eye on the oven or designate someone to do so. Youíll be busy. Kids donít understand that mistakes happen. They just know you burned their cookies.