Friday night was planned as our "get together" night before everyone heads home for the Holidays. We had just had a Canadian/American combination Thanksgiving a few weeks before, so instead of cooking a huge meal, we decided to just make baked goods. That way, everyone could enjoy each other's company as opposed to cooking/cleaning/suffering from food coma. The party was set to start at seven, but as the evening progressed, more and more people were not able to make it. By the time eight o'clock rolled around, it was just me, Tenie, Carmen, Mr. K and a friend who is visiting who also attended the Christmas market with us. Despite our dwindling numbers, we went ahead with the party and the five of us had a great time. Since there was baking involved though, of course there were mishaps and it was decided that Friday was a good practice for a repeat party Saturday, when more people would be able to attend.
First of all, I attempted to bake a traditional Ginger cookie from Finland. My grandparents are Finnish on my dad's side and I have very fond memories of baking/eating these particular cookies with my cousins, Grandma, aunts and Mom. Grandma would make the dough the night before, as it needs to sit chilling for at least 8 to 12 hours. I had forgotten this part until Tenie and I tried to bake them Thursday night. Thankfully, we had the forethought to get some baking done the night before and the dough was able to chill for the suggested amount of time.
Once the dough has chilled, it is supposed to be rolled out really thinly on to a floured surface and we kids used to go crazy using cookie cutters of various shapes and sizes. Some of us would race to see how many we could make, but I was more concerned with how perfectly my shapes came out. It was very important to me that my bells looked like bells, my Christmas trees like Christmas trees and so on and so forth. If the shape was even a bit uneven or the lines weren't straight, I'd crumple up the dough into a ball and start all over again. I think it used to drive my family nuts. My cousins always tried to hurry me along because, as they pointed out, we were just going to eat them. My argument was that this was not entirely true because some of them we would bake longer so that they were a bit harder and would loop a piece of string through a pre-made hole and hang it from Grandma and Grandpa's tree. They were some of the nicest smelling tree decorations I can remember.
The problem is, I didn't remember all of this until we started attempting to bake the dough. I made two mistakes:
1. We couldn't find "dark corn syrup" and substituted it with some molasses based product. I think it made my cookies dry.
2. We didn't roll the dough out thin enough and so it took longer to bake them. Again, drying them out.
The first cookie was tasted after I'd baked at least a dozen or more an they were immediately dumped into the garbage. The cookies were kind of like eating ginger flavored saw dust. They were much too dense, dry and did not have the harder, sweet outer shell with the soft middle I remember. My cookies were a bust and so Mr. K and I provided some liquor and mix instead of baked goods.
The second problem of the night was Carmen's brownies. She first made the Raspberry Cheesecake brownies for a Christmas party we held at our house when we lived together for university in Canada. She had never made them in a convection oven and so parts of the chocolatie goodness ended up burning. There were still pieces that were salvageable and so we ate those.
Tenie made a traditional Scottish dessert that is made with cream, whisky, raspberries, honey and roasted oats. She went a little heavy on the whisky the first time around, but we all enjoyed it immensely.
We spent that night eating the desserts that actually turned out and playing "Things in a Box;" a board game that asks the players a question, such as "what is something that should not be on a Valentine's Day card?", and each player writes his/her answer down. The answers are then read out loud and people have to guess who wrote what. It was a lot of fun and my tummy hurt by the end of the night from laughing so hard.
The best part about our Christmas Cookie party was that it never ended; we repeated the dessert eating last night, only with more people.
I didn't bother baking anything since my cookies kind of flopped; or should I say, crumbled. I was going to make peanut butter fudge, a favourite at Mr. K's house during the Holidays. His mom always makes it and I had it for the first time last year and I couldn't stop eating it. The problem was finding marsh mellow fluff. Apparently it's sold somewhere in Edinburgh, but it is not easy to come by. So, again, we provided liquor and mix.
Carmen attempted the brownies again and they turned out wonderfully. Tenie made her dessert with a bit less whisky and I'm pretty sure it tasted better than any of the stuff I've tried in restaurants. Two other friends joined us bringing bottles of wine with them. We spent an enjoyable evening eating and chatting. Both nights were low key as far as Holiday parties go, but the intimate setting made it better than most parties. We were all able to talk to one another and laugh with each other, which I think are some of the key elements for a good Christmas party: good food could be considered another and since we had plenty of that, I would say it was a success.