Meetup Report: Gingerbread Time

Meetup Report: Gingerbread Time

In early December I hosted a meetup at my house–a gingerbread cookie party! I did this last year and had so much fun that I couldn’t wait to do it again! I’m hoping to make this a yearly tradition~ I really adore Christmastime–the coloured lights, the carols, the snow, all the decorations. Most of all, I like spending quality time with my friends and family. Decorating together, baking together, watching holiday movies–these holiday activities seem more fulfilling than things I normally do with loved ones. (I suspect that maybe everyone makes more of an effort during this time of year.) A gingerbread party is a nice way to enjoy the holiday cheer with my friends.

To prepare for the party I mixed up two batches of gingerbread dough. My recipe is from Baking Illustrated. (I LOVE America’s Test Kitchen, in general, so I jumped on the chance to buy their baking cookbook when I spotted it at a local bookstore a few years ago. Every recipe is accompanied by a small essay that warns of common mistakes and details the process of writing the recipe. I love the way it’s set up!)

As people arrived we filled the kitchen table with cookie cutters and decorating supplies. I provided the gingerbread and tea, as outlined in my original event invitation, but I asked guests to bring frosting, sprinkles, or other treats to use for the cookies. It worked out wonderfully–we had such an amazing variety, just because we all live near different stores. A few friends even ran a quick errand to buy more when they remembered something they had hoped to bring. (It’s a good thing I live near a craft store and several grocery stores~)

Decorationating
For decorating, I lifted the parchment paper off the cookie sheet and laid it on the kitchen table. There wasn’t much space, but we all made the best of it!

I was very amused to see that we all brought aerosol frosting. I purchased some because I think it’s easier to use the cans of decorating frosting with the screw-on fancy tips than it is to manage several pastry bags of frosting. They stand upright, they don’t drip, and changing the tip is fairly simple. The flavor is also pretty good–not the best frosting ever but still quite good.

I started some tea (as that’s a staple of anything I organize) and we got to work cutting out the first few batches of dough. There were lots of shapes to choose from, and we all worked carefully to fit as many cookies on each sheet as we possibly could. The only gingerbread man cookie cutter that I have is unfortunately large, so we made mostly other holiday shapes like snowflakes or rocking horses. As the day went on, however, we started making more and more gingerbread men–they use up more dough! It was a good move when everyone started winding down and there weren’t as many people vying for a spot to decorate.

Frostinating
We had lots and lots of frosting and sprinkles! There was so much to choose from! I liked seeing everyone’s designs~ (And making a few of my own, of course.)

When the party started, most guests expressed concerns about their decorating ability…but one of the nicest parts of a party like this is that it isn’t a contest. It doesn’t matter who has “the best cookie” or “the best skills.” No one pokes fun at another person’s cookie design. When you’re no longer a small child, there can be lots of pressures to have “the best one” or assumptions that getting older magically makes you better at activities you don’t do often. Cookie decorating is something that only gets better with practice. If you don’t do it well, the only way to improve is to keep trying!

Besides, even cookies with frosting that might have looked lopsided or lumpy tasted just as delicious as the most perfectly-decorated treat~

Cookie Aftermath
Finished cookies were lined up to be eaten by others. At first people were afraid to eat others’ designs, but after a while it became clear that the decorators didn’t mind.

Anyone who wasn’t in the kitchen around the table sat in the other room near the tree. I tried to keep a constant supply of tea, but sometimes it was a bit too crowded from cookie-ing for me to start up a new pot the moment we ran out. The morning of the party I paid a stop to one of my favourite tea shops and bought some new varieties to serve. We tried a warm cinnamon-almond blend of rooibos, a blend of black and green teas that smells like apple pie, an elderflower white tea, and tea that both promised to taste like a banana-chocolate crêpe and actually tasted like one! It gave me a wonderful excuse to purchase all sorts of new teas that don’t fit into my poor tea drawer and have to live on in a bag on the counter until I can make more space.

Cookie Collage!
My husband kept taking pictures of individual cookies, to better highlight the talents of our friends, so I tried to combine them into a collage. Everything was very colourful!

By the time the sun was setting only a few undecorated cookies remained. We relaxed in the other room, talking about the holidays under the very, very bright glow of my LED-lit Christmas tree. I’ve been doing quite a bit of knitting lately, so I had suggested to my friends that they could bring knitting projects as well. It’s fun to knit with others when there’s plenty of tea and good conversation. When I originally started knitting I never could have imagined that I’d make friends who would also knit–it’s hard to shake the thoughts of knitting being “for old ladies.” (Then again, most of the things I like are “for old ladies.” I must be getting lots of practice in for when I’m honestly old.)

It was a lovely way to spend the day~ I was sad to see everyone go even though it was quite late when we finally saw everyone off. I didn’t even mind that I had gingerbread to eat for a week afterward, despite sending everyone home with some cookies! I’m very excited to do this again next year~ ♥

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