It's holiday baking time for me. Ben and I give a lot of homemade gifts, especially to people we see on a regular basis. For us, that includes the folks at the bank, the staff at our favorite restaurants, our staffs at our respective churches, my choir, the neighbors, and so on. I love to bake cookies and have even branched out into a couple of different kinds of candies.
While the candies can rarely be made ahead, most of my cookie doughs can. Already I have oatmeal-cranberry-pecan-chocolate chip cookies and Christmas spice cookies from my senior pastor's mother's recipe in the oven. My little "secrets"--which I tell everyone I talk to about making cookies--are parchment paper (no sticking, no burning, no destroying the cookie taking it off the cookie sheet) and my cookie scoop.
If you've never seen one, think ice-cream scoop, only smaller. Once I've made a batch of cookie dough, I line a pan with waxed paper, fill it with evenly-sized scoops of cookie dough, and let them set up in the freezer for an hour or up to overnight. Then I put them into a freezer safe container (sometimes separating layers with waxed paper, when I want to be careful) and they are ready to be baked when I'm ready.
The charm to this is two-fold: first, and most obviously, it's a huge time-saver. I can turn out many dozens of dozens of cookies in an afternoon. Secondly, on a cold afternoon when I'm tired and feeling like doing nothing, and especially on one of these afternoons when I have something I must accomplish, I can preheat the oven, take out just a few little cookie dough balls, and have warm cookies for an afternoon pick-me-up. Mmmm...
In fact, there's the timer. Gotta go! Cookies are calling!