Aspiring author Debra
Sennefelder has two constant writing companions, her Shih-Tzus, Susie and
Billy. She's been an avid reader since childhood and found writing came
naturally for her. When she's not writing, she loves to cook, exercise (yes,
really) and read. Learn more about Debra at her website.
There are a few things I share in common with Hope Early,
the amateur sleuth in my mystery series. One of those things is the love of
baking, and Christmas is my Super Bowl. The other thing Hope and I share is
that we are extremely busy, so we look to streamline as many things as
possible. Since I love to bake cookies at Christmas and I work a full-time job
and I am writing and I have a home to maintain and I ... you get the
picture...I've come up with a method to bake batches and batches of cookies
without having to spend countless hours in the kitchen.
been baking Christmas cookies for over 20 years and I've learned a thing or two
about the process. This baking obsession started innocently enough with a cake
when I was about twelve years old. My mom wasn't a baker so she used boxed
mixes and I made a simple one-layer cake and covered it with white frosting and
added some Christmas decorations to bring to our family's holiday dinner.
was greeted by oohs and ahhs and I admit, I liked it. Watching everyone enjoy
my cake made me feel happy, accomplished and proud. Over the years I traded in
the Christmas cake for cookies because everybody loves a cookie and they're
easy to make. But since I usually bake 10-12 different types of cookies for the
holiday season, I needed to find a way to streamline the process. I've
experimented with a few ideas - fewer cookies (not a good option), freezing
baked cookies (not every cookie freezes well) or adding mini-cakes to my cookie
trays (the people in my life want Christmas cookies, end of story). And over
the past few years it's become more important to me that I not spend hours
every night after work baking because I need to use that time writing. And
weekends? Well, errands need to be run and the house needs to be cleaned and I
need to write.
how do I manage to deliver dozens of cookies to friends, family and co-workers?
how I pull it all together.
October I pull out my planner, and I list all the cookies I want to bake. There
are some that I bake every year--Ginger Crackles, Double Chocolate Crescents,
Rugelach, Sugar cookies, Chocolate Chip (the only cookie my husband eats), and
Cranberry Drop cookies.
I decide on 4-6 other cookies I'd like to bake. With my list completed I create
my shopping list. I review each recipe for the ingredients, and over the next
few weeks I spread those purchases out during my regular shopping trips so it’s
a little easier on the budget and I can take advantage on any sales. I also
make sure to include gallon sized zip lock bags.
then schedule my baking days. Since I gift these cookies, I usually bake ahead of
Christmas Eve so I have time to make deliveries. I base the baking days on when
I plan on delivering the cookies. I identify which cookies can be held the
longest (it's usually no more than three-four days) and work down to the
cookies that need to be delivered within 24 hours of baking (my Double
Chocolate Crescents are those type of cookies, best served right after they’re
I set the dates for my prep work.
prep period is usually Thanksgiving weekend. I settled on this period a few years
ago. I used to do the prep work in the evening after work but between working
all day and writing at night, I couldn't continue to do that. Thanksgiving
weekend gives me 3 full days to dedicate to prepping all of my baking bags.
prep days I prepare all the dry ingredients for each cookie. It's that simple.
Scoop, measure and dump into a re-sealable gallon sized bag and label. Then I
move on to the next recipe. By the end I have all of the dry ingredients ready
to go for baking. At this point, you can make the cookie dough and freeze it
for baking at a later date. Depending how many cookies I have to bake, I will
my baking days all I have to do is grab a bag and then pull together all of the
wet ingredients and mix, scoop and bake. Or, if you’ve frozen the dough,
defrost in the refrigerator and bake.
use more re-sealable bags and containers to store the baked cookies.
before I deliver the cookies, I bring out my trays (everyone on my cookie delivery
list returns my trays and cookie tins so they can be reused) and cookie tins
and begin assembly. I typically post on Facebook my baking progress so friends
and family eagerly await their gift. It's so awesome to see their faces light
up when I hand over my cookies. It never gets old. And the added bonus is that
I am still able to balance everything that I need to do, which includes writing
the second book in my series this holiday season.
this time of the year we’re all in a time crunch and this is one way I found to
help ease the stress of the season. Do you have a tip or two that helps lessen
the stress of the holidays? If so, please share.
I go I’d like to share the recipe for my Double Chocolate Crescent Cookies.
They are my favorite cookies and it’s very, very hard to resist devouring them
just after they’ve come out of the oven. As I mentioned earlier, these cookies
do not do well stored and should be baked within 2 days of sharing.
Double Chocolate Crescent Cookies
approximately 2 dozen
cup unsweetened cocoa powder
pound butter, at room temperature
teaspoon vanilla extract
cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (in a pinch you can use regular chocolate
sugar for dredging
oven to 325 degrees. Combine flour, cocoa and salt.
an electric mixer set at medium-low speed, beat butter and sugar until fluffy
and light in color. Beat in vanilla and eggs. Reduce speed and beat in flour
mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Dough will be crumbly and dry. That’s okay.
dough into approximately 1-1/4” balls (you can use a tablespoon measure spoon
for this part or an ice cream scoop). Roll each ball into a log about 3” long
and taper ends. Bend each log into a crescent shape. (I use a donut cutter for
uniform crescents, gently shape the log inside the cutter). Place about 2”
apart on a silicone sheet lined baking sheet pan and bake until the edges are
set and the bottoms are dry but corners are slightly soft, 10-15 minutes.
from the cookie sheet carefully as to not break the cookies and immediately
dredge in confectioners’ sugar. Continue to handle the cookies gently. Let them
cool completely and dredge a second time in confectioners’ sugar.