When The Hubs and I were in baby talks, we somehow decided that a November birthday was a good decision. I mean, November is such a chill time of year with very little going on. There aren’t holiday parties and programs at school and church. We don’t have a lot of family coming to visit and aren’t expected to travel much. It really is ideal.
And when it was time for our second kid?
“Yeah! Let’s aim to have a second November birthday! It just makes practical sense, right? We can combine their birthdays and have one major party in the middle of the holiday season. Hey, maybe we can even have a party right about the time everyone is going home for Thanksgiving. This is a brilliant plan!”
Well, our brilliant plan has backfired, as November is a downhill slide into holiday insanity. And, to capitalize on this busyness, I decided to wield all of my stay-at-home-mom skillz and bake about 200 cookies for various birthday-related events for my two children.
It all started with gingerbread cookies.
I love gingerbread cookies. They’re not everyone’s jam, but I’m thrilled with that potent mix of sugar and spices. Molasses is the weirdest substance on the planet, but the oven seems to dissipate some of its funk.
Thanks to Google, I discovered the most fantastic gingerbread cookie recipe. They came out perfectly and stayed deliciously chewy for days. I even froze a few batches, and they were still fresh. My only tweak was this: After you cut out the cookies and put them on the cookie sheet, slide the cookie sheet into the refrigerator for a few minutes. This seems to prevent the tiniest bit of spreading. I even tried the accompanying icing recipe. It tastes good, but took for-e-ver to dry, which meant the cookies stuck together when I stacked them too early.
I made a ton of tiny gingerbread men to put in my kids’ birthday favor bags (I love me a good favor bag), then froze them for the appropriate time. Since I was in the mood, I decided to keep going and make a bunch of gingerbread scientists for my husband’s scientific journal club. I’ve never really piped icing before, so I decided to take on the challenge.
Then, I decided that not everyone loves gingerbread. A pity, really. So, I went on a hunt for sugar cookie recipes. I especially hate cookie recipes that don’t keep their shape once baked, so I searched “Sugar cookie recipes that keep their shape.” I’m nothing if not specific.
I found this perfect sugar cookie recipe.
I think the key is really chilling the dough thoroughly before and after you cut out the cookies. It just holds the butter together long enough so it won’t melt and spread too far. And, by the way, there is a TON of butter in both recipes, which is, of course, why they’re delish.
OK, let’s talk about the cookie-fied periodic table of elements. About a month ago, almost-5-year-old George was obsessed with countries. I purchased country-themed birthday accoutrements and planned a half-Peppa-Pig/half-countries birthday party. This love then morphed into states, and, somehow, it oozed into the elements. He’s gone through these phases before, but not in such rapid succession.
I had made Peppa Pig cookies for 3-year-old Olivia’s birthday, so I offered to make Earth cookies for George’s. Simple, round cookies splattered with some blue and green. Easy!
Well, no. He requested states. I hemmed and hawed, then offered to make a bunch of rectangular Colorados and Wyomings. No deal.
Later that day, he was watching YouTube videos about the elements. (He/We like this one, this one, and this one best…that last one is my favorite). And, eureka! The periodic table is made of squares! Cookies can easily be made into squares! This would be significantly easier than trying to make, say, Michigan, right?
And this was when the over-ambitious baker in my brain got excited (too much Great British Baking Show). So I started making batches and batches of sugar cookie dough. I made big element cookies for my husband’s journal club (apparently, the room full of biologists were excited about them) and more for George’s preschool party (he explained each element to the other 4- and 5-year-olds). Then I started on the 118-element periodic table for the birthday party. George has also invented Grammium (Gr, #119), Papium (Pa, #120), Grandmaum (G, #121), and Grandaddium (Gn, #122) in honor of his grandparents, so there were four additional squares decorated. That’s when my piping hand started screaming in agony.
But, I actually did it! I mimicked George’s favorite periodic table in terms of color, and I didn’t miss a single square! I had a continuing nightmarish thought that we’d be looking for, say, Arsenic, only to discover I had forgotten to make it! There would be a tiny square of notebook paper to fill in for the missing cookie. Oh, the shame!
While I loved the impressed comments from friends, my favorite part was watching George explain to party guests what elements they were eating. Like, “That one is radioactive!” or “You’re eating Neon!” He lorded over the mass of baked goods while standing on a bar stool.
I can’t write a birthday party post without mentioning the fantastic Earth cake a friend of mine made. When we started planning, George loved countries, so an Earth cake made perfect sense. My friend–who is a pharmacist, not a professional baker–did an amazing job. And I threw together two “jumping in muddy puddles” Peppa Pig cakes to appease the 3-year-old’s tastes. Yes, I delegated the more challenging baking to my friend, who actually knows what she’s doing. (Thanks, Rebecca!)
So, there you go. If you need great cookie recipes, either sugar or gingerbread, I’ve dug around and experimented for you. These recipes couldn’t have produced better results, as they were all buttery and delicious.
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving this week! I’m thankful for you, dear reader.
While I was pretending to take a Sunday-afternoon nap today, I actually finished The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem. I gave it the lowest rating I ever give books that I finish–three stars out of five. Call me old-fashioned, but I can’t read a chick-flick-esque book and (SPOILER!) not see the protagonist end up in a happy relationship. Don’t tease me all the way through, then leave me hanging. I read all 300-plus pages! I deserve a happy ending! It was six hours ago, and I still feel peeved about this.
After wading through dozens of Thanksgiving dessert recipes today, I’m now starting The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine. Or maybe I won’t. I like being a wild card.