The Henricksen Holiday Cookie Party is a long-standing, fabulous tradition. Christian's mom has been hosting her own holiday cookie party since the mid-90s and I was introduced to it back in 2002 when I started dating Christian. I thought it was such a fun idea and Christian loves cookies so much that we decided to continue with the tradition for our own little family of friends. It's a fantastic way to gather friends together, sample a dazzling array of cookies and imbibe in festive drinks while listening to the Carpenters croon Christmas carols. Be forewarned though, it's a party that almost guarantees a sugar hangover!
So, what's on the menu? You'll be happy to see it's super easy and low key!
- Cookies of course...some of your own and a batch from every group of guests!
- A savory table with decadent cheese & charcuterie platters along with all of the requisite accompaniments such as nuts, olives, figs, etc...
- A crudité platter
- Homemade Gløgg (mulled wine)
- Warm spiked apple cider with homemade whipped cream
But first, let's talk about the cookies. This is a cookie pot luck, if you will. So I usually bake 3 cookies and guests are required to bring 1 dish of cookies of their own as well. It's fun because you often get a peek into their family traditions or discover a fabulous new cookie for your own repertoire. Since we've been doing this for so many years and have many repeat guests, our party tends to get a bit competitive...those who show up with store-bought cookies are ridiculed a bit :)
So for my 3 cookies, I usually make 2 family cookies (Krumkake & Rosettes) and one new cookie that strikes my fancy. Last year, I went a little overboard though and made 5 cookies though...I almost made 6, but decided to forgo my beloved Rosettes so that I could make the fan favorite Chocolate Peppermint Bark cookie that I first made in 2010. So, my cookies this year:
Krumkake....this is a traditional Norwegian cookie that we love to eat with coffee. Mildly flavored with cardamom, it IS the holidays to us. They also remind us of Christian's Norwegian grandparents so there's a bit of a sentimental touch to these cookies for us. You need some special tools and a pear of heavy duty rubber gloves (so you don't burn your fingers in the rolling process but the whole assembly line methodical approach to making them is a holiday tradition in itself!
Almond-Oat Lace Cookies - this was a new one last year but I have had similar cookies in the past and always loved them. Super easy to make as well. Delicious! I actually like them better the next day so a bit of the grease absorbs into the wax paper. Also, be careful to really space them out good on the cookie sheet (9 per sheet max)...mine all melded into one big pan sized cookie that I had to carefully break back apart!
Chewy Ginger Cookies (or as I call them, Triple Ginger Cookies)...these were also new last year and a huge hit...they'll definitely be making another appearance this year. So delicious and they came out looking just like the ones in the magazine!
Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies - I made these for the first time in 2010 and they were a huge hit. So delicious and soft. I personally love Trader Joe's Peppermint Bark so only use that for this recipe. As you can see the topping doesn't look super pretty if you follow the recipe, so I encourage you to be creative and do something a bit different to make them a little prettier! Also, be careful to store these separately from other cookies. The peppermint is so strong that it will make all of the other cookies kind of taste minty as well if you store them all together.
Zuccarini Cookies - These were new last year as well...but had a fun story behind them. I held a "Family Recipe Contest" out at the contact center that I manage in IL when I went to visit. Michelle Turchi's Zuccarini cookies were the winner and part of the prize was that I would make them and post them on my website! They're pretty yummy and reminiscent of biscotti in flavor so perfect for the morning. To be honest, though, they're pretty labor intensive so I likely won't be making them again.
In addition to these 5 cookies, we also had about 10 others arrive with our guests (make sure to get some gift baggies to send everyone home with a sampling!). Some of the fan favorites were the always welcome peanut butter hershey kiss cookies, Mexican wedding cookies and chocolate brownie cookies with a peanut butter filling. We have cookies for dessert for a week after this party!
Next on the menu...the SavoryGirl table! I call it this, because this is the table where I spend all of my time. If Christian is the cookie monster than I am easily the cheese & charcuterie monster! But you all knew that. The running joke at our party is that more often than not, I don't eat 1 single cookie during the entire party. Don't get me wrong, I like cookies but I like 1 after dinner just for a sweet bite. But when I have an opportunity to go buy a table full of pungent, yummy cheeses and meats that's where I'm spending my time. And the guests really appreciate it too, you need a savory break from all of those sweets if you're going to persevere and keep trying new cookies as they arrive!
Our delicious charcuterie platter with (right to left) Rosemary Prosciutto Cotto, La Quercia Prosciutto and Hot Soprasetta
The cheese platter, with (clockwise from top left) a French blue, Prima Donna Gouda, Truffled Pecorino & La Tur Triple Creme (which is a staple on any cheese platter in our household...so creamy and delicious!)
A fabulous Walnut Red Pepper Spread that I just found a recipe for...this was a huge hit! Especially paired with a bit of the La Tur cheese on a cracker. Yum.
I forgot to take a picture of the full SavoryGirl table last year, but here is the one from 2010. Olives, veggie platter & often nuts round everything out. This year I made my old-standby Union Square Cafe's Bar Nuts. A sugared string of cranberries & sugared rosemary sprigs add a bit of nice holiday decor to the SavoryGirl table as well...
Last, but certainly not least...the drinks! We of course have the requisite wine, beer and alcohol. But we also have two specialties that are always present at the Cookie Party:
Better known as mulled wine. It's a heavenly winter drink of wine that's been heated through with some added sugar, a mix of mulling spices (cinnamon, cloves, star anise, etc...), usually some orange rind and brandy. This is Christian's specialty and he makes it every year, but unfortunately he finds a new recipe each year so I don't have a "go-to" one to provide. I will tell you that there are many recipes out there that use alcohols other than (or in addition to) brandy but we like the ones that only have brandy as the hard alcohol the best. So when Googling for your recipe I would use that filter when making a decision.
Spiked Hot Apple Cider:
This is a super easy one, but so decadent and yummy. To be honest, I love Trader Joe's apple cider so I just buy that, throw it in the crock pot, add a cinnamon stick or two and let it heat up for about an hour before the party. If you decide to go the store-bought apple cider route as well, my tip is to make sure it looks cloudy in the bottle. If it's clear, it's really apple juice...I don't care what the label says! The key to making this drink special is two-fold: a bottle of Captain Morgan spiced rum for guests to spike as they see fit and homemade whipped cream with cinnamon. Trust me on this...the whipped cream makes all the difference. It's amazing! A fun trick so you can keep your whipped cream out and cold (once it goes in the fridge everyone forgets about it) is to make a festive ice ring and place the bowl of whipped cream on top of it. You'll look like Martha Stewart, but it's so easy!
Phew! Lots of details...but what can I say, it's one of my favorite parties of the year! Super low-key and easy to pull together, festive holiday decorations, yummy treats for the sweet and savory types and good friends. I hope I've inspired you to throw a cookie party of your own this year...Happy Holidays!