Holiday Party Recap, Part I: A Lovely Lemon Treat

Tom and I both love to entertain. Yesterday, we hosted a holiday bash attended by about 70 people, something we could never have done before in our respective one-bedroom apartments. I (of course) did all of the baking, starting on Thursday afternoon, working all day Friday, and putting on finishing touches (cutting, frosting, and filling) on Saturday. Tom did all of the savory food, preparing his amazing meat dishes on the grill and finishing them up in the oven throughout the night during the party.

When we were planning the party, I suggested to Tom that we have a labeled "Take Home Station" with ziploc bags, plates, and plastic wrap where guests could take home a doggie bag. I proposed this because I usually find guests wrapping baked goods into napkins and stuffing them into their purses and coat pockets on the way out the door anyway. I figured you might as well formalize and encourage the practice, which both increases guest satisfaction and reduces leftovers. (I really do not like dealing with leftovers after a party.) While we didn't end up setting up the station, guests did take home plenty of food and I am pleased as punch to report that there were only half a dozen cookies and bars and a single piece of cake left at the end of the evening.

The menu included a couple of obvious holiday choices, Caramel Pecan Cookies and Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread. I made the gingerbread into individual heart cakelets since I like to have a variety of interesting baked goods shapes and sizes to look at when I'm putting on a big spread.

I also decided to make Lemon-Poppy Seed Sandwich Cookies, a cookie I haven't made in over three years. At a friend's birthday party a few weeks ago, someone I haven't seen in years mentioned how much she liked the cookie, and it reminded me how long it's been since I've baked them. The cookie dough includes lemon zest, lemon extract, and poppy seeds, and the recipe directs you to refrigerate the dough for at least two hours before rolling it out. I refrigerated the dough overnight, and when I tried to roll out the dough the next day, I all of sudden remembered why it's been so long since I last made this cookie. The dough was extremely difficult to handle and it was impossible for me to roll and cut. (Then again, I am also pretty incompetent when it comes to rolling and cutting cookie dough -- I almost never make roll cookies for this reason.) To salvage the situation, I shaped the dough into logs, put it in the freezer, and then sliced it into rounds. This worked perfectly and I will definitely do this whenever I made the cookies in the future. The cookie baked up dense, very crisp, and buttery, like a lemon-flavored shortbread. I filled the cookies on Saturday morning and stored them in the refrigerator during the day, so that the cookies were a bit softer and easier to eat during the party. I have to say, though, the cookie itself is so delicious that it would be just lovely served without the filling.

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