We take three, basic dough flavours – gingerbread, chocolate and vanilla – cut them into little shapes, layer them on bigger shapes and before long, we’ve got tri-coloured cookies made into stars, Christmas trees and circles. Some have silver balls. Others have squiggles of royal icing.
The sugary conclusion is brilliant. These cookies are beyond adorable. And nothing shocks us two cookie makers more because, well, David and I are not always compatible in the kitchen.
“You forced me,” he whines after half an hour of bumping elbows at the crowded kitchen counter.
I ignore him.
So he retaliates, forcing the dough, bearing down on the chilled chocolate mass until it melts and crumbles under his strength, sticking to the rolling pin in big, gluey patches. With the edges cracking and splitting, he rolls out (gasp) an uneven slope, one end of the dough half a centimetre thicker than the other.
“A little thick?” he asks, cutting out a cookie the size of a Crispy Crunch bar.
He’s holding a rolling pin and I’m not.
Besides, Kitchen Boss would rather stamp out stars at her end of the counter in peace. My perfect creations are no thicker than a cotton napkin and I’m thoroughly pleased with myself as I balance freshly cut dough on the side of a chef’s knife and gingerly transport them to the parchment-lined baking sheets.
Then a point from my gingerbread star breaks off and flutters to the ground.
Two grumps forging cookies like miners blasting granite. Gone is the sweet softness of baking alongside my easy-going best friend or happy-to-please-me niece, this project is like pushing a massive rock up against a wall until suddenly, ever so magically we fall into a graceful rhythm and rows of cookies line the parchment paper, looking like Nutcracker toys and fairies and edible elves. The sight of them gives me goose bumps and I can feel the tap of kitchen gods alighting upon my shoulders.
Miraculously, a smile creeps over David’s face.
I keep up with the simple job of cutting shapes, be it Christmas trees, snowflakes or plain old circles keeping my distance from David who is working on design, across the way. He’s got his space and I’ve got mine. It frees him to dive in and find all the right angles and lines. He centers a star inside a star or lets a circle surround a snowflake. His touch is deft. His eyes are intent. Each cookie is a tiny, layered story and they are cute beyond cute.
We revel in some 20 minutes of creative bliss until I wreck it with two simple words.
I’m looking at David. It’s got to be his job. Only he has the dexterity and patience to pinch a single sparkling orb between his thumb and forefinger and find the perfect venue for it. It can be the light at the top of a tree… or the belly button of a circle… or, hey, he can put a silver ball on every tip (there’s only five!) of a star.
After ten applications, he’s groaning. After 30 he’s moaning. After 60 he’s delirious and screams out “I’ve got no more balls.”
Cookie baking, some might say, is not a manly affair. David wants to tear his hair out but his hands and butt are covered in flour, the second an easy observation of his formerly black jeans.
We are two hours into this project before the first couple of trays slide into a 350 oven. A tattered array of both chocolate and gingerbread dough remains are still scrambled across the counter’s surface. I collect these leftovers, scrunch them into a warm ball and re-roll for the fourth, fifth and sixth time. The last star is stamped out of a small square that barely reaches beyond the cookie cutter’s edges. Unable to waste, I layer the last matchbox-size sheets of vanilla, chocolate and gingerbread on top of each other to create a reversible cookie with a stripe along its edge. Such is my ingenuity.
We fall asleep that night in each others arms, sugar floating through the air and the voluptuous aroma of baked cookies – some seven dozen fashioned from a ridiculous 18 – filtering through our dreams.
Dawn arrives and a thought nags. The cookies have not been iced.
I lumber, pre-caffeinated, down two flights of stairs to the kitchen robotically filling the kettle with water, searching through the clutter for my coffee filters, spooning the fine grounds into the cone religiously. It’s all a blur until the first, jolting sip.
Something in my kitchen is different. Our Christmas cookies are adorned in white! Each one is the benefactor of a line, a branch, a dot, or a squiggle. Each cookie has a final finish, like little masterpieces all framed. David has risen before me and decorated the flock.
I find the used piping bag and decorating tip all scrunched up in a corner of the kitchen counter, the bag one-quarter full of royal icing, a tray nearby covered with creamy droplets and splashes.
A single tiny tree stands out in this sea of decoration. It is smudged with a thick coat of icing crowded with six silver balls.
I knew it. David really does have balls.