Have you ever had a weekend where you come into the office on Monday morning and for once you aren’t sleepy or grumpy to be back at your desk, but instead you are filled with this intense joy? This kind of happy where a calm just washes over you and literally nothing can bring you down.
Not even that asshole who took the parking spot you were patiently waiting for (with your blinker on!) at the mall. Or when someone in the office overflowed the coffee machine for the third time in a week. Instead, you wait for the next parking spot. You diligently wipe up the coffee. Without a sigh. Life is wonderful.
I had a weekend like that.
This past weekend was the annual Zauner women Christmas cookie bake. An all-day festival of sugar and sprinkles that has been a tradition in our family since before I was born. It has evolved over the years from a moms work and kids play day to a well-oiled efficient machine of cookie intensity, settling into an event that is equal parts wine and baking.
Three aunts, three grand kids, one cousin and a grandma join together bright and early on a Saturday morning in December with our pre-chilled balls of doughs. We all lay our well-labeled baking sheets and cooling racks down on the common table. It’s cookie bake after all and somehow 20+ baking sheets will still not be enough. The oven is preheated. The Kitchen Aid starts to run. It won’t cease for the next 8 hours.
The grunt labor (as we have so aptly named ourselves) spreads out around the dining room table. We roll dough into balls. We cut out sugar cookies, gingerbread and shortbread. We spread jam between lightly sugared stars. We roll cookies in powdered sugar or dip them into egg white and chopped pecans. We pipe frosting onto everything we can. We sip wine from a box and we talk.
We talk without cease while our hands stay busy. We talk about love and relationships and family. We talk about money and jobs, about dreams and about goals. We share and we listen. We bond in a way that is so hard to find time for during our hectic lives.
Sometimes we fight. Okay, often we fight. Tension runs high on cookie bake day with many opinions and many decisions to be made, but we make it through. The wine is essential.
Grandma keeps up on the dishes as best she can. We divide up the dozens and dozens of cookies into decorative, well-labeled tins. We pack our cars even fuller than they were on the drive in and we part ways until Christmas.
I woke up on Sunday and I think my soul might have actually been smiling. My life felt better, brighter, fueled by the love and support of a dynamic and varied group of women. Everyone brings a different story to the table: different challenges, different flaws, different approaches, different lives. And I get to learn from them all! I’m a lucky, lucky gal.
Then again, maybe it was just all the sugar.
Happy Christmas week!
Credit goes to my Auntie Deb. She’s a real cookie hot shot. And pretty damn hilarious too.
Makes 2-1/2 dozen cookies
Takes 45 minutes plus time for chilling
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg, separated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3-1/2 cup chopped pecans
Powdered Sugar Frosting:
1 teaspoon butter, softened
4 teaspoons milk
1 cup powdered sugar
In a bowl, cream butter and sugar together until smooth, creamy and pale yellow. Add egg yolk (reserving egg white for dipping) and vanilla. Stir until well combined. Fold in flour and sea salt. Cover and chill for at least an hour for easy handling.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a small prep bowl, beat egg white until frosty. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Dip top in egg white then into chopped pecans. Place on baking sheet.
Bake in preheated oven for 6-7 minutes. Remove from oven. Dip a thimble into flour and lightly make an indentation in the middle of each cookie, dipping thimble in flour as needed. (Your pinky could work too so long as you don’t press too hard.) Return to oven and let bake another 6 or 7 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
Wait until cookies are completely cooled until making frosting, then in a small bowl, stir together all frosting ingredients. Add food coloring as desired. Using a pastry bag, place a flowered drop in the middle of each cookie.