Easy does it. Last year, we made some lovely Christmas cookies, but the project proceeded like most of our baking projects do.
1. Initial enthusiasm on the part of both parents and offspring.
2. Inventory of ingredients, happy trip to store for butter.
3. Unexpected hunger. Project sidelined for at least one hour.
4. Jubilant batter making for five minutes, mixed with periodic pushing and shoving to see which child can get the best spot next to the mixing bowl. Lee and Ted then leave to play while their parents spend the next 30 minutes slaving over batter.
5. Bowl licking, in all of its glory.
6. Cookie cutting and decorating, with masses of sprinkles all over the floor. First tray goes in oven. Repeat for over one hour, rotating trays in and out of oven. Kids get crankier and crankier because oops – it’s way past bedtime. Yes, we give them a big sweet cookie right before bedtime, ensuring a difficult evening.
This year, to avoid that death-march feeling that sets in when you realize you still have three trays of cookies to decorate, but only five remaining minutes of patience, we decided to split up the work across several days. On the first day, Lee and I shopped for ingredients and made the batter while Bouncy Ted was bouncing in gym class. The next night, when we were not rushing around, we gave each kid one cookie sheet, one slab of dough and their choice of cookie cutters and sprinkles. They lovingly decorated two sheets of cookies. Instead of feeling obligated to bake the rest of the dough, we put it back in the fridge. Yes, the kids still got bored during the process, but this time we were prepared: my husband poured about two cups of flour into a tray and let Ted have at it with his army of miniature cars, dump trucks, bulldozers, graders, you name it. Ted loves so much that he would much rather play with it than squabble with his sister over who has what sprinkles. My husband keeps the flour in a special container, so it gets recycled.
Hint: if you're going to try this at home, see if you can find a tray that doesn't have holes for handles.