Have you ever unwrapped a holiday gift and thought, "Where in tarnation am I going to put this?" I have thrown away not more than a few items that sat on shelves collecting dust until they got sacrificed to the latest decluttering effort. Networx.com is a hardcore home improvement website, and we don't often publish food posts, but I'm publishing this one because it is really about clearing clutter. It's about saving money, using what you have, producing less waste, and generally living green. Please accept this break from our regularly scheduled programming to read about something that probably everyone in the Western world likes: cookies.
Here is my case for giving tins of home-baked cookies for holiday gifts: 1. I would want to receive a tin of homemade cookies (my subjective feelings are foremost, aren't they?); 2. After you eat the cookies, you're left with only a handy tin, which can be reused as a handy storage box. Instead of giving someone clutter, you're helping him to declutter; 3. People will be impressed with your craft skills, and will think that you are more domestically inclined than you are. If you happen to actually be domestically inclined, I hate you. Just kidding. I want to be you.
In order for your cookie tin extravaganza to seem like an extravaganza, you'll need to make a few varieties of cookies. Of course, you work full time and just getting dinner on the table is a pain in the keester. Well so do I, but here is how I am personally going to solve this problem, without making 10 different kinds of cookie dough: I am going to make huge batches of two basic cookie doughs, and then I will divide them, mix in different tasty treats, roll some of them out and cut them, and make drop cookies with some of the dough. 2 doughs, 10 different kinds of cookies. I know, it's just too good to be true. For once in my life, what seems too good to be true is actually true.
Oh, wait. Here is a tip for making homemade bread if you work full time: Last night I didn't get home until 9 PM due to an obligation after work and an hour-long commute. As soon as I got home, I whipped up a double recipe of bread dough and kneaded it while I carried on a phone conversation on speaker. By the time the conversation was over, I had kneaded the dough, covered the large metal mixing bowl that I had mixed it and kneaded it in with plastic wrap, and popped it in the refrigerator to do a slow 24 hour rise. The long, slow rise in the fridge makes homemade bread possible for the working woman (or man). Incidentally, the slow rise improves the flavor of the bread. It allows the flavor of the wheat to really develop. When I get home tonight, all I have to do is punch the dough down, shape it, and put it in the oven. Also, bread recipes always say, "Kneed it on a floured surface and let it rise in a clean, oiled bowl." Wrong. You totally don't have to create those dishes or take the time to wash them. I bake amazing Italian bread by mixing, kneading, and letting the bread rise all in the same bowl. Maybe it is unorthodox, but it works, and it saves me a lot of time.
The two basic cookie doughs are a Basic Sugar Cookie Dough from Real Simple and a Chocolate Cookie Dough from Giada. There are no exotic ingredients in these doughs, just good old-fashioned baking ingredients like sugar, flour, salt, and eggs. These cookies contain gluten, but you could use the same concept and substitute gluten-free (or vegan, or whatever) recipes.
I plan to triple the sugar cookie dough recipe, and double the chocolate cookie dough recipe. I will divide the sugar cookie dough into 7 parts, and the chocolate cookie dough into three parts. Boom! It will become a palette for 10 different kinds of cookies.
Here's what I'm doing with the sugar cookie dough: Cinnamon crisps (press dough into a jelly roll pan and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar; bake and cut into triangles while still warm), cut out cookies (the only cookie cutter I have is in the shape of a brontosaurus), white chocolate cranberry cookies (mix white chocolate chunks and dried cranberries into the dough), coconut cookies (mix coconut flakes into the dough), sprinkle cookies (cut out shapes and sprinkle with rainbow sprinkles), lemon cookies (mix grated lemon peel into the dough), and ginger snap cookies (mix ginger candy chunks and a little powdered ginger into the dough).
This is what I am doing with the chocolate cookie dough: Chocolate mint chunk cookies (mix chunks of chocolate mint wafers into the dough), chocolate nut cookies (mix chopped walnuts and almonds into the dough), and chocolate cherry cookies (mix dried cherries and chocolate chunks into the dough).
Then I'm a gonna pack it up and pack it in (let me begin) decorative tins. Well, not that decorative. Just basic large rectangular tins, purchased from JAM Paper & Envelope, a local NYC purveyor of any kind of decorative packing material you could ever imagine. Like the pros do, I will line the tins with corrugated paper, and make cute little dividers from corrugated paper. I'll cover the top of the cookies with, again, corrugated paper. Then I'll put the tin's lid on, and seal with clear packing tape. See how easy it is to do something stylish? I told you, people will think you have mad domestic skills.
Chaya Kurtz writes for Networx.com.