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Chocolate-covered snowball peppermint cookies
Lush with butter, vanilla, pecans, and crushed peppermint candy canes, these lovely Christmas cookies are amazing for the holidays
Baking and decorating cookies is a treasured holiday activity that brings people together in a fun, creative and easy way. Sharing baked treats is just as festive as making them. Unfortunately, cookie baking is another thing the pandemic is changing, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is discouraging potlucks and gatherings with different households.
So what does this mean for the beloved tradition?
Virtual baking parties are a great way to keep it going while physically staying apart, and though the CDC has discouraged food-sharing, it also notes there is “no evidence” to suggest that “handling food or eating is associated with directly spreading COVID-19.”
We gathered some tips on how to adapt holiday baking to…well, 2020.
Have a plan and recipes ready before you start your virtual baking fest
Video chat platforms such as Zoom and Google Hangouts are great for bringing friends and family together. Schedule a date and time for you and your loved ones to convene from their kitchens. Decide logistics such as cookie recipes and gathering ingredients, before you start.
Once you start video chatting, have a designated person read out the instructions, or take turns doing so, to simulate the experience of being together in-person, whether you’re pouring measurements or blending batter. Make sure to show each other your progress, so you can detect (and even laugh about) common baking faux pas, such as dough that’s too runny (add flour) or dry (add milk or oil).
The joy of a baking party isn’t just in the cookies, however. Remember to chat, gossip and laugh, especially while you wait for your cookies to bake in the oven. To spice things up, you can even grab your drink for a virtual happy hour.
After your cookies are ready, you can decorate them with frosting, sprinkles, and candies.
Pick an easy cookie recipe
You’re going to want a quick and easy recipe for your virtual baking party, so you can chat with your friends without stressing over the quality of your cookies. So what are the simplest and easiest recipes to replicate?
For traditional sugar cookies, you can check out this one from All Recipes. It yields four dozen cookies and only requires seven ingredients, most of which you might already have in your pantry. There’s also a vegan alternative from Chocolate Covered Katie, which requires vegan butter and white spelt or oat flour to make 15-20 egg-free sugar cookies. You can also check out this round-up from Ashbury Park Press, part of the USA TODAY Network, which lists 24 delicious cookie recipes from New Jersey home bakers.
Holiday cookies: New Jersey’s home bakers share their recipes
If you’re not a huge fan of sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies are a great alternative, though a bit more challenging. This Taste of Home recipe yields five dozen cookies to enjoy with your whole family along with some extras for your neighbors.
To decorate your cookies, you may find it easier to purchase icing. Pillsbury and Betty Crocker sell an array of frosting flavors. Make your decorating experience more interactive and fun with colored sprinkles, green and red M&M’s, and crushed candy canes.
Christmas sugar cookies: Here are a few of the best recipes
Sanitize the packaging before handing out cookie boxes
One of the best parts of baking delicious cookies is sharing them with your loved ones. The CDC notes that though it’s uncommon, it is possible to become exposed to COVID-19 by touching objects such as food packaging and then touching your mouth or eyes, so make there to safely distribute baked goods.
Before you start baking, sanitize. Thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Sanitize utensils, cutting boards, bowls, containers and appliances. You can take extra precaution by wearing disposable gloves during the baking process as well.
Once you’re ready to deliver your baked goods, wipe down your cookie boxes and follow the six-foot social distancing guideline by dropping off the goodies on a front porch or doormat, rather than handing it over in-person. And if you’re the one receiving these holiday treats, make sure to wash your hands after bringing them into your home.