For me, winter is a season of traditions, baking, decorating, time with family and friends, and cozy nights with hot chocolate or a glass of champagne. I relish the time to slow down — read the pile of books that collect when I’m just too busy or the weather is too nice, write notes to friends and family, make plans for the year ahead, and bake – a lot of baking.
To celebrate the start of the holiday season and my love of baking, we hosted a cookie decorating party to start December on an extra sweet note! We love hosting, so inviting friends into our home so early in December really got us in the holiday spirit (and, thanks to their assistance, got our house nearly all decorated!) and left us with plenty of cookies to nibble on these last days as the weather has turned cold and the area has been dusted with snow.
The house smelt like gingerbread and sugar cookies, officially queuing the holiday season! My husband loves gingerbread, but my specialty is sugar cookies. My secret is to always use European butter (trust me, it’s worth it) and vanilla bean paste in lieu of vanilla extract. I love the delicate little flecks of vanilla bean and the richer taste that the vanilla bean paste lends the cookie. I use Rosie’s Bakery’s Classic Sugar Cookie recipe as a starting point, modifying and adapting for the holiday or how sweet my sweet tooth is that day. I’ve provided my sugar cookie adaptation below – it’s so fast and easy, but I highly recommend you check out Rosie’s Bakery Cookie Book (I have the Kindle version – perfect for deciding to make cookies on a whim and needing the list of ingredients!). My family first came across Rosie’s Bakery when my parents were living in Boston when they were first married and stopped into the original Inman Square location (they now have locations in Chestnut Hill and South Station – definitely worth a visit if you’re in the Boston Area). As soon as Rosie’s Bakery’s cookbooks were published, they quickly became a staple in the kitchen library and remind my family of their years in Boston.
Inspired by the sugar cookie and gingerbread snowflakes we made to decorate, I chose a sugary palette of white, browns, silver, and marble for the evening’s decor. The sugar centerpieces were on theme and perfect for a sugary bite while decorating the cookies! Sugar cubes, rock candy, walnuts, gingersnaps, molasses cookies, walnuts, and shimmering sanding sugar were sprinkled down the table, still leaving plenty of room for us all to frost cookies.
We sipped on White Russians and champagne cocktails while we visited, enjoyed an assortment of artisanal cheeses and homemade bread by our friend Nick (who also whipped up delicious frostings for us mid-party!), and finished the evening nibbling cookies with a mug of peppermint hot chocolate with homemade vanilla marshmallows (superb recipe courtesy of Sinclair & Moore).
The evening was a wonderful whirlwind of sugar and friends, and the most perfect start to the Christmas season. I wish you a season filled with joy, love, and plenty of sugar.