Butter, cream, eggs flour, sugar. Check.
Chocolate chips, Hershey Kisses, peppermint bits, pecans, toffee crumbles. Check.
Stand mixer polished and waiting? Check.
Let baking week begin.
By this time you read this column, I will have started my annual Christmas cookie baking tradition and I will be up to my elbows in flour, sugar butter and little dogs who are desperately hoping that something tasty will fall to the floor.
For more than a decade I have taken the first week of December to crank out cookies, then package and give them to friends and relatives. I also do my holiday shopping and decorating during rest periods between bouts of frantic culinary creating.
When the tradition first started, my beloved dachshund Clifford was still alive and a part of me believes that if every week was baking week he would still be stubbornly clinging to existence.
Clifford loved baking week with a white hot passion otherwise reserved for sleeping, barking and consuming bacon. That is a reason he was nicknamed “the Fat Man.”
Clifford used to sit in front of the oven waiting for cookies to emerge. Sometimes, when he felt they were not baking fast enough, he would bark at the oven door.
I had to step over him to retrieve the baked goodies, and more than once he tried to trip me up so a warm cookie would tumble into his waiting mouth. When such an occasion took place, he could chew and run away faster than any dog on earth.
My current canines, Ollie and Einstein, are not quite as aggressive but they, too, adore baking week.
For one thing, I am home almost all the time, which means they can demand to go in and out of our townhouse at regular intervals.
Einstein will sit by the back door and look at me expectantly while Ollie wanders between his brother and the kitchen. Since I will get no peace until their wishes are fulfilled, I let the boys out.
A few minutes later, they will be on their hind legs, looking through the door and demanding to come back in. No batch of cookies is coming out of the oven without them supervising.
When the scent of butter is in the air, Ollie is sure to be close by. And Einstein seems to crave baked cookies almost as much as Clifford once did. He has not mastered tripping me, but he will put his paw on my foot in an imploring way.
The truth is, I love baking week as much as the boys do. Besides the opportunity to stay close to the two cutest dogs in existence, it gives me an opportunity to think of my mother, who was a wonderful baker, and to swap recipes and tips with my sister Cathy, who is a great baker in her own right.
There is no happier place for me than the kitchen when my stand mixer is whirling, a batch of cookies is baking and another batch is being frosted.
Packing the holiday boxes is a labor of love and the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit. Sometimes I even make the boys wear their holiday sweaters while I put on some Christmas music.
But the best moment of all may be when I see the faces of the people who receive cookies. Baking week brings a bit of happiness to my family and friends, and that may be the greatest gift I can give — or receive.
So here’s to the butter, the sugar and all the other trappings of baking week.
May your holidays be delicious.