Christmas Cookies and Obsessive Compulsive Baking Disorder

I have issues.

I’m in overachieving baking mode. I made gingerbread (the best recipe, truly, is from Tartine), my favorite jam thumbprints, green holly cookies, and am considering starting some chocolate shortbread, or the gingerbread stout cake in the Miette cookbook, or perhaps relocating my sanity and finishing the wrapping-shopping-extravaganza that I’m ignoring. Baking = instant gratification. The mall at Christmas = instant wildebeest brat person emerges.

With that happy sanity in mind, I offer you my ideas from this year, years past and some genius gifts from friends:

 

 

 

I have Obsessive Complusive Icing Disorder, just so you know.

The acorns were my favorite (because my baking “assistant” did them all for me. Thanks T.)

Simple packaging: cellphane bags and cheerful ribbon.

Good ideas from other people:

Michael and Jill McNamara — Republic photo team extraordinaire — made homemade salted caramel in diminuitive  jars from Crate & Barrel.

I ate it with a fork. I know. That’s bad — but it was so good.

My friend Lynne (of the velvet pumpkins) bought oversized cookie cutters in last year’s post-Christmas sales. This year, she filled them with homemade fudge — which cools perfectly when poured inside the cookie cutter. That’s edible glitter on top.

She also offered almond bread in those pretty paper pans form ABC Cake Decorating.

My ideas from years past:

2010 — The best chocolate sable cookies and my editor’s famous sugar cookies.

2009 Homemade Butterscotch Sauce (jars from Hobby Lobby)

2008: Homemade Santa Hat Favor Boxes

2007: Peppermint Marshmallows and hot chocolate kits

By |2012-01-11T12:46:03-07:00January 11th, 2012|Recipes|0 Comments

And so this was Christmas

The table set for Christmas breakfast:

Easy, glorious, gooey monkey bread:

The stockings my mother made, trimmed in Mongolian fur:

The obsessive-compulsive wrapping disorder in full tilt:

Pink, too:

Baubles and fresh pine branches, anywhere I could tuck them:

My mother’s bell jar tradition —  memories held beneath glass:

(At my mom’s house):

Peppermint treats in vintage silver dishes:

And in the end, Santa came, and he had a mini mascot, too.

Thanks for sharing my memories.

By |2012-01-11T12:43:58-07:00January 11th, 2012|Parties|0 Comments

And so this was Christmas

The table set for Christmas breakfast:

Easy, glorious, gooey monkey bread:

The stockings my mother made, trimmed in Mongolian fur:

The obsessive-compulsive wrapping disorder in full tilt:

Pink, too:

Baubles and fresh pine branches, anywhere I could tuck them:

My mother’s bell jar tradition —  memories held beneath glass:

(At my mom’s house):

Peppermint treats in vintage silver dishes:

And in the end, Santa came, and he had a mini mascot, too.

Thanks for sharing my memories.

By |2011-12-28T11:40:39-07:00December 28th, 2011|Parties|0 Comments

My gift to you: Homemade wrapping paper that you can download

I dreamed of alphabet wrapping paper with vintage flair, so I got to work in Illustrator, took a trip to Kinko’s, and now have a present for you.

My homemade wrapping paper. Cute, isn’t it? It is my homage to the things I love best: words and books and thoughts and sharing all of the above.

Would you like some? You can download my PDF here, email it to your local Kinko’s, ask them to print it out for you on the oversized blue print machine. Each sheet is three feet by three feet and will cost about $6.

I’m pretty excited about it and may or may not be imagining a world in which I get to design wrapping paper for Hallmark, say. Or Target. Because I have some big ideas.

Wishing you all a week of joy. I’ll be sharing my wrapping and baking adventures to come.

(Remember you can now leave comments below using your Facebook ID. I would love to hear from you.)

By |2011-12-20T11:53:28-07:00December 20th, 2011|DIY + Projects|0 Comments

New Years Gone Wild

I thought I could do it.  On New Year’s Eve, I decided to be less OCD about entertaining and host a last-minute open house for a handful of family and friends. The next day. New Year’s Day. The day after a party at which breakfast was served.

And thus on New Year’s Day, when I woke to windows that needed to be cleaned, a bedroom covered with masks and crinolines and clutch bags, I broke every single resolution: no white flour, no sugar, no cursing, and being nice to Tyson. Poor Tyson.

The guests waited an hour for dinner, but in the end, it was a glorious, laid-back start to 2010. (Thanks, dear ones, for being so patient. And for eating on your laps. And for not minding that I didn’t make placecards. Or dessert.)

I turned my Christmas bell jar ode to Bergdorf windows into a New Year’s ode to time:

Shauna and I made these mini 2010 banners together out of cardstock, an old book, glitter and glue.

I have napkin rings with clocks on them. Tore the house apart looking for them to no avail.  We counted down with the napkins instead.

Dessert: Macarons and Lemon bars from Trader Joe’s, plus homemade butterscotch sauce, which we ate with a spoon because I forgot to buy ice cream. (I am never throwing a non-OCD party again.)

Dinner was a repeat of the Christmas dinner menu, which was so good Ty and I decided we wanted to make it again. Prime rib and double mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, green beans and tomatoes. Heaven.

Lots of girl talk on the patio, and then a major puzzle session closed the night.

I am lucky to have a mother who always comes early to my parties because she knows that at that exact moment, nothing is ready, my hair is a mess, the kitchen sink is full of dishes and I need my mom.

 

The day after my bash, we went to a party at Mark and Angela’s that was practically perfect in every way.

The house glowed.

There were cocktails and ghost chairs by the pool.

Happy friends.

Each guest tucked into a mini homemade chicken pot pie.

Dessert? Oh, yes. There were three, each made by Tammie Coe.

She garnishes her cakes now with mini-tarts. I love this.

A secret Tammie Coe dessert available only by special order (and the best dessert any of us have ever eaten): Boozy Berry Bread Pudding. Call her and order it straight away. I tried to get a photo, but the spoons were moving fast.

Paul Taylor and Nicole Juntenen played and sang “At Last.” (Here we are in heaven, indeed.)

In the end,  I kidnapped Heidi’s rhinestoned Valentino and played Vanna.

And then found Angela in the kitchen, doing dishes in diamonds and fur.

She wins.

 

 

By |2011-01-01T20:22:31-07:00January 1st, 2011|Parties|0 Comments

My Mother’s Christmas Tea

A few Decembers ago, my mom called with magic in her voice.

“I’m having a Christmas tea party,” she said. “Please come.”

My nieces and nephews gathered at a tiny table set near the tree. We sipped hot chocolate with our pinkies up, ate goldfish crackers and pretended to speak in British accents. It was hilarious fun and became one of our favorite traditions.

This year, long roads and pesky colds kept the tea party to a single guest: Miss Scarlett, and my mom fussed the tea party up in grand pink princess fashion.

Enjoy:

Even the sugar was pink.

Our guest was charmed from her pink bow to her pink toes (and wanted to play with that sugar for days).

 

My mom set the table in miniature splendor.


This included mini napkins that she cut out and tied with bows, complete with mini sprigs of evergreen.

Mini boxes of chocolate were our party favors:

And the (Scarlett-approved) menu included mini Oreos, mini circus cookies (pink!), mini bites of cheese in the shape of Mickey Mouse, and the following: bread in gingerbread shapes. (Cookie cutters are a tea party’s best tool.)

That gorgeous Tammie Coe cookie.

And mini pizzas in the shape of candy canes.

There were even a few pink baubles brought in just for the occasion.

Pinkies up!

Scarlett opened her gift from Granni early:

Her own tea party supplies.

My sister reports that Scarlett was so enchanted that days later, she’s STILL playing tea party at home.

Dear Mom: You are the magic in all our Christmas memories. Thank you for creating joy.

By |2010-12-22T11:52:45-07:00December 22nd, 2010|Parties|0 Comments

Chocolate Christmas Cookies of Doom (and my favorite sugar cookies recipe)

My sisters and I had a cookie-baking session this weekend. These chocolate sables are pretty much perfect: small and rich and shiny on the edges. Heavy on the butter. Solid with chocolate. There’s even a hint of cinnamon in the dough to make them taste like Christmas. I discovered them in 2006 after the LA Times picked them in its Cookie of the Year competition. Hooray for newspapers. (Recipe below.) Serious chocoholics will swoon.

Chocolate sable cookies

Total time: 50 minutes, plus several hours chilling time

Servings: Makes about 6 1/2 dozen

Note: From pastry chef Michelle Myers of Boule and Sona. Coarse sugar crystals can be found at Surfas in Culver City.

1 cup (2 sticks) plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 pinches salt

3 cups flour

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups chopped top-quality chocolate such as Valrhona 70% cacao (Note from Jaimee: I use two four ounce bars of Ghirardelli 60 percent cacao.)

Grated zest of 1/3 lemon

1 egg white

1 egg

1/4 cup coarse sugar crystals (Note from Jaimee: I use Williams-Sonoma’s Sanding Sugar.)

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, brown sugar, vanilla and salt.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking soda. Add to the creamed mixture and mix until well combined. Mix in the chocolate and lemon zest. Add the egg white and mix just until blended.

3. Roll the dough into two 1 1/4 -inch diameter round logs and wrap in plastic film. Chill several hours or overnight. Cut the logs into rounds about three-eighths-inch thick.

4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the whole egg. Place the sugar crystals in another small dish. Dip the sides only of each cookie into the egg and then in the sugar crystals. Place the sables on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes until slightly puffed in the center. Place the baking sheet on a rack and let cookies cool for 5 minutes before removing them from parchment paper.

My editor Diane makes these sugar cookies for people who have done exceptionally nice things for her. The recipe is one of my favorites. (How you know: cardstock covered in flour and food coloring.)  They are thick, soft and ruled by butter and vanilla. You don’t even need frosting. (Although cream cheese icing and sanding sugar come with compliments implied.)

Sugar Cookies

From Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies
3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
additional granulated sugar (for topping)

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. (Note from Jaimee: I use Martha Stewart’s cheater sifting method. Dump everything into a bowl and whisk it to break up clumps and lighten.) In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat well. Beat in eggs one at a time and then add milk. On low speed, gradually add the sifted dry ingredients, scraping the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula and beating only until thoroughly mixed.
Divide the dough in tow and wrap each half in wax paper or Saran Wrap. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for three hours or longer if you wish.
Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat to 400 degrees.
Place one piece of the dough on a lightly floured surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough to desired thickness and cut into shapes.
Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with granulated sugar, if desired, and bake 8-9 minutes.
Let cool completely before frosting.

Notes from Jaimee: Do not overmix. Roll them out 1/2 inch thick. They can be hard to transfer to a baking sheet after they’re cut. Genius: my sister Kapri figured out that it’s much easier to roll the dough directly on a Silpat mat or parchment paper, cut out your cookie, and peel the excess dough off the mat. Also: underbake for the softest cookies. These snowflakes are the size of my outstretched hand and they baked for 8 minutes. You don’t actually want browned edges.

By |2010-12-21T11:54:56-07:00December 21st, 2010|Recipes|1 Comment

Wrapped: A Peek Under My Tree

My adventures in paper overachieving and ribbon obsessing continue.

It’s possible that wrapping presents is among my favorite things about Christmas. (There is something wrong with me, I’m sure.)

Christmases past: Peek at gift wrap 20092008, and 2007 — a year that amazes me because it seems  I also baked and gift-wrapped truffles and homemade marshmallows. Who was that girl? Where did she find the time? And seeing these reminds me that I need to go dig out those glittered belt buckles. Where can they be?

2010  SOURCES: Sheet music paper, The Container Store. Black snowflake paper, Target. Snowflake kraft paper and silver quilted paper: my years-old stash. Glittered frame for silhouette: West Elm. Wide gray satin ribbon: SAS Fabrics. Pennant banners: made from stickers (!) purchased at Melrose Vintage. Folded paper lollies with feathers: I busted out the glitter and made them, but you can find ornaments similar to the initialed centers at Pottery Barn (and save yourself from a glittered kitchen, too). Silver numbers: vintage. Linen ribbon: Paris, but try The Willows for something close. Vintage “His” flashcard (used as gift tag): Frances.

By |2010-12-20T11:57:30-07:00December 20th, 2010|Style|0 Comments

Scarlett and the Ballerina Girl

One of the more glorious rites of being a girl, at least in my family, is seeing The Nutcracker onstage for the first time. My mom would give us a real Nutcracker doll of our own to encourage enchantment, dress us in ruffles when the night finally arrived and whisper when it was almost time for the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. I saw Ballet Arizona at Gammage when I was 8, and the wonder of that night still tingles.

Last night, it was Scarlett’s turn. Ballet Arizona invited me to read the story of the Nutcracker to little girls before the show, and my mom and sister bought tickets and came to join the fun.

The day began, most appropriately, with Scarlett’s ballet class. She’s 2 and she loves to twirl and twist like Angelina Ballerina. My sister encourages the tutu dreams.

When the curtain went up that night, revealing Clara dancing beneath a giant Christmas tree, Scarlett said, “Look at this!” and the magic took hold.

“Ballerina!” she whispered during The Waltz of the Snowflakes, which was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen on a stage:  shimmering costumes, tulle for days, and toe shoes making paths in the snow. (Scarlett wanted to get down and twirl in the aisle.)

The Sugar Plum Fairy that night was Paola Hartley, a ballerina from Chile whose arms seemed to fill the whole stage. I loved watching the joy on her face while she danced. When Scarlett saw her, she whispered, “I love you, princess.”

And after, in the lobby, Scarlett twirled around in her tutu, playing ballerina, the happiest little girl in the world.

(And then she took OFF her tutu and ran through the lobby in her underwear, squealing.)

Ballet Arizona’s Nutcracker plays through Dec. 26 at Symphony Hall in Phoenix.

By |2010-12-16T11:59:19-07:00December 16th, 2010|Stories|0 Comments

I love a good ball: Biltmore White Christmas Gala

An honest girl will tell you that the best part of any ball is getting dressed up (and wearing false eyelashes).

This weekend, Ty and I were guests at the White Christmas gala at the Biltmore: 40s themed and all. The event benefits Ryan House.

 

I wore my (faux) fur, the velvet gown that emerges once per year, a vintage veil and a truly insane feathered hat. (Maybe not so ’40s, maybe a little Kate Middleton, but still fun to wear.)

The eyelashes: IMPORTANT. Also crucial: girlfriends who love to get glammed up, too. Maggie and Marissa joined us in high style. (I wish you could all see Marissa’s dress when she twirled.)

The Biltmore is gorgeous at Christmas. A giant tree on the front lawn welcomed us.

And inside: star lights twinkle on that famous gold-leaf ceiling. I suggest you take yourselves to the Biltmore bar this week for a champagne cocktail. Sip it under the twinkle lights, admire the giant gingerbread houses on display, and celebrate the birthplace of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” (Truly: He wrote the song sitting next to the Biltmore pool.)

Ask them to pour your champagne in a vintage-stype coupe so you can pretend you’re Veronica Lake.

Posh appetizer idea: caviar and cream cheese in individual tins.

There was deconstructed cherries jubilee for dessert.

And, of course, dancing.

When the band played White Christmas, we all looked out the windows. There it was: snow in Phoenix.

I’m dreaming of more.

By |2010-12-13T12:02:22-07:00December 13th, 2010|Parties|0 Comments
Go to Top