Twenty-eight years ago, my sister and brother and 2 of their coworkers decided that it would be fun if they got together to bake cookies for Christmas. Kinda like a cookie swap, but they could get together and laugh, eat, drink, and talk shit while baking. We’re all Italian so cooking/baking together is the ultimate expression of love. Thus, Bake Off was born.
Since then, Bake Off has grown from an easy way to maximize cookie variety to a marathon of complex confections of epic proportions. Four OG Bakers grew to 7 and 6 helpers have been added. And there is a distinction between bakers and helpers. Bakers come with recipes, supplies (measuring cups, Kitchen Aid mixers, cookie sheets, etc.), and ingredients…and they get an equal share of the cookie booty. Helpers help, and bakers can share cookies with helpers after the divvying has taken place. Confused? Oh I haven’t even gotten to the rules yet.
There’s a lot I can’t talk about. Bake Off is like Fight Club in that regard. I can tell you that cookies must be coordinated. There was one year when everyone made Thumbprint cookies and that severely hampered the variety. Who wants 500 Thumbprint cookies? No one. No one does. Also that year, someone tried to use grape jelly in a cookie. Grape jelly was deemed “not festive enough” and banned from all future Bake Offs. Another year, we stayed really late frosting and decorating cookies. So it was established that any cookie that needed frosting or icing would have to be in the oven by noon, giving the icing enough time to dry in time for divvying. If someone wants to bring a new recipe to Bake Off, it must be approved by The Captain. Who is The Captain? You don’t have clearance for that.
All dough that needs to be chilled must be made in advance. There is no time for dough to chill for 4 hours on Bake Off day. Biscotti are absolutely welcome, but make that shit ahead of time. They have to be baked twice and ain’t nobody got time for that. And may God have mercy on your soul if you use raisins. Raisins have been deemed pedestrian and not festive enough for Christmas cookies. Use dried cranberries! Use dates or figs! Raisins don’t belong in Christmas cookies… as the rant we inevitably hear every year goes. Raisins are banned. Cookies should freeze well. That’s what we do with most of the cookies. Some are brought into work and enjoyed right away. But most are frozen until Christmas Party season starts.
The first tray goes in at 9am and the oven works overtime until about 6 or 7pm. That’s a lot of fucking cookies. We estimated that 3,616 cookies were baked this year. I have been a helper for about 10 years. This year I brought my Kitchen Aid mixer to help keep production running smooth. But I am in no hurry to move up to Baker status. If I had to bring recipes, that would only add to the number of cookies…and hours of bake time.
Side note – Kitchen Aid should sponsor us because that’s the only mixer we use. Six Kitchen Aid mixers running all day. If you’re on the fence about getting one, do it. They really are worth every penny.
Now after reading all if this you might think, “Wow, she’s really into Christmas!” Nope. The opposite. Like my Midnight Eggs cohort, Kelly, I feel that Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year. There’s a ton of Christmas decorations, and Christmas music, and everyone wears Christmas aprons. Oh yeah…and all the Christmas cookies! It would make an elf puke. But I go for the family, friends and fun. I describe it as laughing and talking. My niece says it’s yelling and swearing. Well, I’m always down for that, too.
Bake Off 2017 is in the books. The sore backs and knees have faded. But we’ll have enough cookies to feed the tri-state area through New Year’s Day. And next year, we’ll do it all over again…but bigger.