The holidays have always been about cooking and baking for me. I plan far in advance what I will make. I stew over my ten or so Cook’s Illustrated annuals and crack open my old-timey Betty Crocker Cooky Book. (I don't need bookmarks because "favorite" pages are always marked with a glob of dough or stuck together with molasses.) I make my final selections, write out my shopping lists, and gather only the best ingredients – heavy cream, real butter and vanilla, Scharffenberger chocolate and cocoa, and new spices – especially new spices. I regularly restock spices this time of year. A good rule of thumb is six months for ground spices and twelve months for whole. (I grind most everything but cloves. My grinder doesn’t do them fine enough to suit me). This is another reason I love The Spice House. They sell herbs and spices in a variety of sizes from less than an ounce up to a pound. This permits me to purchase what I will need for about a year. Oh, and I always buy a fresh can of baking powder regardless of the expiration date. There is nothing more disappointing than having ones baking powder fail (unless you really like hockey puck biscuits).
Because we spent Christmas visiting family out of state, my efforts this year were slightly delayed. We will celebrate our Christmas on New Year’s Day. So, today I baked Cook’s Illustrated double chocolate cookies, pfferneuse and gingerbread men. All three involve flour and, even worse, copious amounts of powdered sugar. This is a bad thing, as I am messy beyond compare when I cook. I frequently use my hands and often wipe them on my clothes without thinking (and I'm usually wearing black). I routinely spill, slop, splatter, and splash – activities that are only truly appreciated by the little dog who stands at the ready to clean up after me. Today I even turned on the mixer a little too high while adding cocoa/flour mixture. Poof! A fine dusty layer still coats my kitchen. All of this ensures I have just as must powered sugar on me as on the pfferneuse.