In these times of prepared foods and mini-marts, it’s understandable that many folks forego baking and decorating Christmas cookies and settle for store-bought instead. It’s the patient home cook who bakes dozens of cookies, one sheet at a time, in a traditional radiant heat oven. And really, how many Santas, stars and trees can you slather with icing and spot with sprinkles before your eyes glaze over?
Rather than let the cookie cutters gather dust in the pantry this holiday season, try holding a Christmas cookie decorating contest. By injecting a little friendly competition into your cookie decorating process, you can create an activity that brings your entire family together or adds some merriment to your cookie party. And with advances in cooking technology — such as convection ovens — the home cook can bake multiple sheets of cookies, all at the same time, with the confidence that each cookie will be come out of the oven evenly browned.
The rules for our Christmas cookie decorating contest are simple and forgiving:
- Anyone of any age can participate.
- Each competitor can decorate as many cookies as he or she likes.
- Competitors must decorate the cookie so that the finished product differs from the cookie cutter’s intended shape. In other words, a Santa-shaped cookie can’t be decorated as a Santa — the finished product must be something else, say, a boy in a canoe; a Christmas tree shape could become a colorful fish; a gingerbread man turned upside down, an insect’s face.
- Breaking off parts of the cookie to alter its shape is discouraged.
- This should be a fun activity. Good-natured ribbing or boasting is allowed.
You’ll need a recipe.
There’s really no argument that convection cooking is the way to bake cookies. A convection oven uses a fan to circulate heated air throughout the oven, providing even, consistent heat over multiple racks. Because you can fill up your oven with multiple baking sheets, you’re able to bake more cookies at once, saving you time.
“Here in our test kitchen, we have baked tens of thousands of cookies,” said Brigid Blocker, home economist and test kitchen manager for GE Appliances. “While all of our GE ovens bake really well, convection is the best option for multi-rack baking.”
Not all convection ovens are alike. Many have a fan that circulates air in just one direction. GE’s PreciseAir™ convection system incorporates a third high-power heating element around the convection fan. During the cooking process, the fan periodically reverses direction, changing the air flow through the oven. The result is more consistent heat over multiple baking racks.
The only design rule is that the finished, decorated cookie should look nothing like its intended shape. Some competitors may have a difficult time thinking outside the cookie cutter — and that’s okay. The whole point of the competition is to breathe new life into a favorite tradition.
How do you determine who wins? It’s simple: everyone does. Make up categories and award “prizes” — real or bragging rights — for best use of the color blue. Best moose. Best race car with two wheels. As long as everyone who participates has a good time, then your competition is a success. You’ll also have a tin filled with unique edible masterpieces to bring to cookie parties or share with co-workers, guests and family throughout the Christmas season.
Note from the Author:
About GE Appliances & Lighting
GE Appliances & Lighting spans the globe as an industry leader in major appliances, lighting, systems and services for commercial, industrial and residential use. Technology innovation and the company’s ecomagination (SM) initiative enable GE Appliances & Lighting to aggressively bring to market products and solutions that help customers meet pressing environmental challenges. General Electric (NYSE: GE), imagination at work, sells products under the Monogram®, Profile™, Café™, GE®, Hotpoint®, Reveal® and Energy Smart® consumer brands, and Tetra®, Vio™ and Immersion® commercial brands. For more information, consumers may visit www.ge.com