How to style a holiday cookie tray

T‘is the season for sweets of all shapes and varieties: frosted and glazed, rolled and stamped, sandwiched and sprinkled.

Today’s mail delivery brought a pretty box of assorted cookies and confections to our door, straight from the kitchen of my talented friend, Marie. Along with the goods from my recent cookie swap, our cousin cookie decorating party, and a few baking projects of my own, our stash of holiday sweets is quite substantial.

It’s a good thing we love to share. Most of our treats get boxed up and delivered to neighbours, teachers, and family; others are served up for tea time with friends around our table or brought to a gathering for all to enjoy.

A tray of assorted cookies is a sweet and simple way to end a holiday meal. Sure you can always just heap them on a plate and call it a day, but today’s post shows you how to have a bit more fun with presentation .

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Soft Maple Sugar Cookies + cookie swap recap

We’ve been on the Christmas cookie train longer than the tree has been up, since before the the first greeting card arrived, and well in advance of the deep drifts of snow blanketing our homestead.

‘Tis the nature of my work; I was developing recipes for a feature in Montreal’s French newspaper, La Presse, hence frosted, cut-out cookies were in abundance shortly after our Thanksgiving celebrations ended.

Early tryouts for the best holiday cookie meant that there was more time to narrow down a favourite and find that unique recipe to highlight for my annual cookie swap. This year, that cookie was a soft, maple-sweetened delicacy, cut into snowflake shapes, topped with a maple syrup glaze and dusted with sparkling sugar.

I wouldn’t tell you about these soft maple sugar cookies without sharing the recipe for your own baking project, so who is ready to dust off the cookie cutters?

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Cinnamon Shortbread Bars with Chocolate Ganache

It was a last-minute decision, but I cancelled my highly anticipated annual cookie swap to make a trip out East last week.

Instead of an afternoon of conversation over coffee and literally hundreds of cookies, I stood rooted to the ground in front of an incubator in the NICU of a Halifax hospital, transfixed by a wee wonder that was my new nephew.

I had traveled back to support my sister, who delivered a darling little premature boy of just over 3lbs. The days and nights we spent together were a complete blur, yet some moments replay in my thoughts as clearly as HD video clips, both the highs and the lows.

My dear friends were ever so understanding about the cancelled cookie swap. Suffice it to say, all the cookies in Canada couldn’t have enticed me away from that sweet baby. Some choices in life are easily made.

However, even though my plans to bake and exchange dozens of cookies went awry, Christmas is yet a week away and there is still enough time to break out the mixing bowls and bake a batch of these beloved shortbread bars, to share or to keep.

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Whole-wheat double chocolate mint cookies (food processor)

Last weekend we hung lights on the house, wrapped our twig tree in twinkly lights, and put on a big pot of spiced hot apple cider to welcome a dozen friends for my annual cookie swap.

It’s the event that kicks of the holidays every year, held early enough in December to give us ample time for baking before the Christmas parties and other calendar duties take over our days and nights. The snowstorm held off for us and an afternoon flew by, sweetened by over one thousand home baked cookies. [Read more…]

The after school gingerbread project: icing and assembly

Last night in the bakery section of my supermarket, I spotted a stack of generic kits for gingerbread houses. I wasn’t tempted to buy one in the slightest, knowing that we were all set at home to assemble our very own, freshly baked creation.

Now that we have prepared our ingredients, mixed our dough, and baked our pieces, it is finally time to raise the walls and put a roof on our gingerbread house.

No, we’re not going to fully decorate in this post, because it is best to let the house dry overnight before adding roof tiles and all the other details. At least, this is my experience. You can certainly carry right on through if you like.

Let’s get to the recipe for royal icing and the assembly process.

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