By Libbie Summers
Creative Assistant: David Dempsey
Photography by Chia Chong
Production Assistants: Candace Brower and Anthony Lunsmann
There’s really only one secret to a great party…lean in…it’s juicy…
The secret to a great party is to make sure the guests are as colorful as the decorations!!
For this Chinese New Year party, I started with a colorful guest list, called a pedi cab company and then started the decorating!
It’s customary in the United States of America to leave cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve. But what if your Santa isn’t American? Let the kids think outside of their home circle this Christmas and bake up some Santa treats for an International Saint Nick!
French Santa: 1 serving Macarons
1 glass Armagnac
Santa got first dibs on the only sugar cookies I ever had growing up.
I knew from the pictures I’d seen of Santa in books that he wore white gloves. Still, that didn’t help my germ phobias. Really, how clean were those gloves, what with taking care of the reindeer and all? I was not about to let some old man I’d never met—no matter how glowing the reports about him were—touch my food. Each Christmas morning I let my sisters finish off the sugar cookies that Santa allegedly didn’t touch. I was fine waiting for the extras my mom had made.
I never understood how come we had sugar cookies only once a year. Not to mention the confusion about their being for someone else—a fat man in a red suit who, truth be told, was sometimes a mediocre gift giver (case in point: the sewing machine I got as a teen). Mom said sugar cookies were time consuming, with all that cutting and decorating. She had a point. Not to mention, they didn’t hold up very well either. Only a few days after Santa put his cooties on my Christmas cookies, they weren’t much good anyway. So, I decided to make a sugar cookie that was crazy good, super simple, chewy, and a blank canvas for most anything you wanted to put in it. It’s your call whether to leave them out for Santa. I don’t. Six-Way Chewy Sugar Cookies (one basic dough makes six different cookies)
yields 48 cookies
What You Need: For My Original Sugar Chewies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 1⁄2 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon Almond Extract
2 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons milk
Decorative sugar sprinkles or turbinado sugar
What To Do:
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and granulated sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and almond extract.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
With the standing mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix in 2 tablespoons of the milk, or enough to just soften the dough.
Roll level tablespoons of the dough into balls and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Use the spoon to flatten the top of each ball slightly and brush on just enough milk to moisten. Sprinkle with decorative sugar sprinkles or turbinado sugar.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until just barely golden. Let cool on the baking tray for a couple minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.
The Other 5 Ways!
Substitute 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract (page 198) for the S&V House Blend Almond Extract. Whisk 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1⁄4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper into the flour mixture before adding to the butter mixture. Moisten the tops of the cookies with milk and sprinkle with a simple cinnamon-sugar mixture (2 teaspoons cinnamon mixed with 4 tablespoons sugar) before baking.
Hemingway Chewies Add 1⁄16 teaspoon store-bought spearmint extract,
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves, and 1 teaspoon grated lime zest to the butter mixture just before adding the flour mixture.
Coconut Sugar Chewies Substitute 1⁄2 teaspoon store-bought coconut extract for the S&V House Blend Almond Extract. Fold 1⁄2 cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes into the flour mixture before adding to the butter mixture.
Citrus Crush Chewies
Substitute 1 teaspoon orange extract plus 1⁄4 teaspoon lemon extract (both page 199) for the S&V House Blend Almond Extract. Add 2 teaspoons grated orange zest, lemon zest, or grapefruit zest (or any mixture of the three) to the butter mixture.
Lavender Sugar Chewies
Stir 1 tablespoon crushed dried organic lavender into the flour mixture before adding to the butter mixture.
Sugar, like snow, is beautiful. I’ve made a sugar angel out of my weight in sugar, baked up more sugar cookies than I could ever remember and this holiday, I made sugar ornaments!
Simple really, but stunning on the tree or in my case just in a clear mixing bowl for a holiday decoration in the kitchen. Do this one with the littles! It will be messy and fun and fun and messy!
What You Need: Clear glass ball ornaments
Small piece of paper for a funnel
Dark brown sugar
Light brown sugar
Strips of colored leather or yarn to hang on the tree (I used strips of pink metallic leather)
What to do:
Fashion a funnel out of the paper and use the spoon to layer in the sugars. It’s like sand art you used to make as a kid! Just have fun. No two sugar ornaments are the same! Tie the leather or yarn on the top and hang on the tree or just pile in a glass bowl!
Sure gingerbread boys and girls are cute and delicious, but how about giving your cookie a back story. What really happened to that gingerbread girl? Sure, she’s still delicious, but I want to know where her life took a turn! There is no better cookie exchange party conversation starter than these buxom ladies!
Take a screen shot and print out this Retired Working Girl Gingerbread Cookie Cutter Template! I make mine 6-inches in length. They expand which is where the fun back story starts! Retired Gingerbread Working Girl Cookies (spicy + curvy gingerbread women)
yields 8 to 12 cookies, depending on how far yours have let themselves go
A bit more buxom than they were in their prime, these retired gingerbread working girls may not have seen a dance pole in years, but they still pack a dollar’s worth of spice and a whole lot of fun.
What You Need:
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3⁄4 cup (1 1⁄2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2⁄3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1⁄2 cup molasses
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla paste
Red Hots candies (optional)
What To Do:
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar until creamy. Add the egg and beat until just incorporated, then add the molasses and vanilla paste and beat for 2 minutes, or just until smooth. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating until well combined. Remove the dough from the bowl, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1⁄8 inch thick. Using your favorite cookie cutters (or my stencil pattern and a paring knife), cut and place the cookies on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Decorate with candies at this point, if you like. (I like.)
Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are firm to the touch and lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack.