Season’s eatings: Tidings of comfort, joy

Flour. Check. Sugar, brown, granulated and colored crystals. Check. Vanilla. Check. With all this baking going on, it can only mean one thing: It must be December.

For nearly as long as I can remember, December’s arrival ushers in the holiday baking season for me. I can live without decorating the house but, no matter how hard I try to resist the sweet call of Nestle or the Pillsbury doughboy, I have to bake.

It’s not that I have a terrible sweet tooth (although my family is known to have dessert after breakfast). I generally can resist sampling the assorted cookies, pumpkin and banana breads, peanut butter balls and white chocolate eggnog fudge that are staples in my holiday repertoire. I just feel compelled to bake.

Fortunately, I have friends and family who don’t mind too much. In fact, they look forward to it. I have even had a few tell me I should package my treats and sell them. After all, I have won blue ribbons at the Monterey County Fair for my creations.

I think that, however, would take away part of what makes my treats so special. And that’s not why I bake.

It’s the smiles on people’s faces when they bite into something I created that makes all the late nights and long weekends worth it.

Deep down though, aside from all the love I add to my sweets, I think holiday baking is a way for me to escape the hustle and bustle of the season. I find comfort in flour-dusted countertops and errant chocolate chips scattered across my kitchen. Taking time to precisely measure each cup and teaspoon that goes into whatever I’m making sends me further from the craziness that usually fills my calendar the last month of the year.

Simply put, baking makes me happy. There’s great satisfaction in seeing bread rising in the oven or cookies turning golden brown.

It also gives me the opportunity to experiment. Every once in a while, I’ll add a new recipe to my repertoire. I just take out one of the cookbooks that fill my floor-to-ceiling bookcase and see what strikes my fancy. Usually, though, I end up consulting one of two favorite books devoted strictly to cookies.

This year, my daughter put in a request for sugar cookies. I had no idea how many different recipes were out there for something so basic.

After much searching, I finally settled on a recipe that looked good and that I could easily accessorize with goodies such as dried cherries or cranberries, chocolate chips and sliced almonds. My daughter, however, is insisting upon plain, no frills cookies rolled in sugar.

Since baking is supposed to be my way of reducing stress instead of causing more, I have decided the simple solution is to make several batches, some with frills and some without. I have no doubt that she will try a cookie or two from each batch and in the end we will all be happy — and so will my friends.

Before I head back home, tie on my apron and begin baking, I want to wish everyone in Boulder City a very sweet and happy holiday and joyous new year.

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