Every year, I host a cookie swap. It’s so much fun, and I love to see all the different cookies people bring. At the same time, every year, I hear from friends who just aren’t bakers that they feel like they can’t come because they don’t have anything to add. So I decided to add to my holiday entertaining schedule and have a cookie decorating party in addition to my annual cookie swap. This time around, I focused a little less on the holiday recipes and a little more on the having fun.
I prebaked all the cookies for the party, which made things much easier – especially since I baked them a couple days in advance and then froze them until the day of the party. This meant so much less stress for me the day of, and it ensured my friends had no stress to create or bring something ahead of time. Because the focus was on the decorating rather than the recipes this time around, I decided to save myself some time and pick up some refrigerated cookie dough to use instead of making it from scratch.
Lo and behold, when I stopped at Walmart, I discovered that the refrigerated cookie section is so much bigger and more diverse than I realized. Not only does NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® offer multiple flavors for their refrigerated cookie dough, but there are a bunch of cookie dough options that are prerolled sheets. I sent a little thank you up to the clouds and picked up a couple prerolled sheets (pumpkin? gingerbread? chocolate? so many options!) and then couldn’t resist also trying out the Dark Chocolate Peppermint cookie dough because this fudgy dark chocolate cookie dough made with cocoa and filled with peppermint chunks and Semi-Sweet Morsels was simply calling my name.
I knew that me being me, I was still going to make one homemade cookie, so I also made sure to grab some of the traditional NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels. Halfway to the checkout line, I smacked myself in the head. I didn’t want to spend my party hanging out in the kitchen or stressed out ahead of time that things weren’t going to be done on time. Instead, I detoured to the frozen foods aisle to pick up a STOUFFER’S® Lasagna with Meat & Sauce in the 90 ounce party size, knowing I could pop that in the oven before guests arrived and have plenty to feed everyone.
I have a variety of cookie cutters and decided to make different shapes from the rolled sheets for everyone to use. Of course, cutting out gingerbread men on a sheet of rolled dough leaves a lot of extra dough at the end. This dough was perfectly forgiving, however, and it rerolled nicely so that I could put the scraps together and cut out more cookies without much waste by the end. That made me happy. Even if they weren’t perfectly smooth, it didn’t matter because we planned to cover them with frosting and other decorations.
I also decided to be sneaky and “predecorate” some of the gingerbread men. Since I had the Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels on hand already, I used them to make buttons on some of my gingerbread men, as well as eyes. I simply inserted them point side down and baked them that way. They turned out really cute, and it was a little less decorating that I would have to do!
Mister Man, of course, saw me hard at work in the kitchen and wanted to come help. I love that my kids think hanging out in the kitchen is so cool. I put him to work breaking up the Dark Chocolate Peppermint cookie dough and placing it on the cookie sheet. He started out thinking that he had to place all 24 cookies on a single sheet (I love that the small package makes 24 perfectly sized cookies!), but I quickly corrected him – and it’s a good thing because those squares spread into perfect circles as they baked. A few still had the remnants of a square on top, but they were chewy and divine when I taste tested them.
I also used the Semi-Sweet Morsels to make cherry candy cane brookies to serve because I had extra and just had to use them in something fun! They tasted amazing, and the Semi-Sweet Morsels were the perfect addition to this brookie. I’ll share the recipe at the end of this because I just can’t wait to share more about my party with you!
Prepping for the party became really easy. My goal was to have everyone – kids especially – decorate cookies when they first arrived so that they would have a chance to harden a little, hopefully making slightly less mess when it was time to enjoy a few before sending plates of the cookies home with everyone at the end. Once they finished that, I would clear off the dining room table to serve dinner while they did a Christmas craft. Ensuring that everyone has something to do during the party means I can keep my eyes on them a little more before turning them loose on my house at the end to burn off some steam. That strategy has worked well for my over the years for party after party.
I also made sure to have a little sideboard set up that had some appetizers. I know my friends – and their children – and I know that no one is going to be able to resist sneaking a cookie (or two), so offering up some snacks keeps the sugar high from being too out of control. I love serving little oranges in a tall glass bowl because it looks pretty, and kids always surprise me by how much they’re drawn to that. A couple other dips I bought premade and some pretzel crisps, and I had the fixings for a party where I wouldn’t be stuck in the kitchen.
When our guests showed up, they could smell the lasanga baking and see the cookies all ready to decorate. They immediately descended on my dining room table and got to work. I’m glad I had the foresight to put out a piece of parchment paper in front of each seat and some cooling racks for them to place their creations on once they were finished. The parchment sheets helped to cut down on the mess I had to clean up afterwards, and the cooling racks meant that no one ran out of space or was tempted to eat too many cookies before dinner.
Once everyone had decorated all the cookies they wanted to (and seriously, how adorable is this “stained glass” gingerbread man Mister Man created?), it was time for the next project.
We sent the kids into the family room to work on the craft I’d set up. It was simple and easy – just creating a Christmas tree from pieces of sticky foam and other little geegaws – but it kept them busy while we cleared the cookie decorating station.
In shockingly perfect timing, the lasagna finished baking just as we completed clearing off the table. I put out my kale salad to accompany the lasagna, as well as a chickpea salad. With all the sugar we were ingesting, we needed to have some veggies to round out our meal! The lasagna was a huge hit, and I loved that is topped with fresh cheese and Parmesan. I could smell the fresh cheeses as I put it into the oven, and the ooey gooeyness of the lasagna went over well with my party guests. Best of all, at the end of the night, I simply folded up the tin I’d baked it in and tossed it rather than having to soak and then scrub my usual lasagna pan.
By the time we’d all eaten – and enjoyed a few cookies – it was time to go. I had plates designated for each party guest to take home cookies, which meant that as a bonus I don’t have 10 dozen cookies sitting in my house just waiting to be eaten! They loved taking home their creations, even some of the moms. I was impressed with their decorating skills, aren’t you?
This prebake cookie decorating party was so much fun for us all. It’s definitely one I’m adding to my regular holiday entertaining schedule for next year. It was easy, especially since I used premade dips, the refrigerated cookie dough, and a frozen lasagna. My husband and I finished the party cleanup in a half hour. The hardest part was shaking out the dining room tablecloth and vacuuming. Given the smiles we had all night long, that’s a tiny price to pay. Yes, that is a cookie stuffed in one child’s mouth and chocolate evidence around the other’s mouth. But happy, happy children.
Oh, and the brookies I promised you. I can’t forget those. Brookies are a combination brownie and cookie. They have the taste and texture of a brownie but in cookie form, the best of both worlds, really. We used gently crushed cherry candy canes, and that was such a fun flavor to include in these. I will warn you that candy canes melt when you bake them. Do not eat these cookies hot. Let them cool so that you don’t burn yourself with molten sugar.
Little Miss was in charge of the candy canes. She placed 5 candy canes into a small plastic bag and used the bottom of a measuring cup to gently crush them until they were chunky. We didn’t want to pulverize them, as we wanted to have the visual and texture of the candy cane and not just the flavor in our brookies.
I melted together the butter, Semi-Sweet Morsels, and cocoa powder before placing that into a bowl where we added the sugar and espresso. Then we whipped in the eggs – see just like making brownies. Salt and baking powder come next, stirring until fully incorporated before the flour gets added. The last of the Semi-Sweet Morsels go in, along with the candy cane bits, and then it’s time to scoop them out.
They bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 15-17 minutes before cooling completely because – remember? – we don’t want to burn our mouths on these chewy delicious bites of yum.
The perfect dessert - a cross between a cookie and a brownie. These brookies are a perfect holiday cookie with crushed candy canes inside. They are soft and chewy and fudgy and delicious!
- 1/2 c butter
- 1 c Nestle Semi-Sweet Morsels, divided
- 1/2 c cocoa powder
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 1 T espresso (or 1 t java extract)
- 1 c sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 t salt
- 3/4 t baking powder
- 1 1/2 c flour
- 5 candy canes, crushed
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the candy canes into a small bag. Using the bottom of a measuring cup or something with a flat and solid bottom, gently crush the candy canes until they are in bite size pieces. They break easily, so little pressure is needed. Be sure to not pulverize them, as you want pieces and not powder.
- Over low heat, melt the butter in a heavy pan or double boiler. Once it’s melted, add 1/2 cup of the Semi-Sweet Morsels and cocoa powder, stirring until it’s melted. Add the butter/chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl and add sugar and espresso. Beat until well mixed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition so that it is light and fluffy.
- Add the salt and baking powder, and mix again until it’s incorporated. Add the flour and stir until mostly combined but a few white streaks remain. Add the remaining 1/2 cup Semi-Sweet Morsels and the candy canes and stir until just combined.
- Scoop the cookies onto a baking sheet covered with a sil pat or parchment paper. I used my medium cookie scoop, and this was the perfect size for the cookies.
- Bake in your 350 degree preheated oven for 15-17 minutes, until they are lightly cracked and dry on top but still soft and chewy. Let them cool for five minutes on the baking sheet before moving them to a cookie rack to cool the rest of the way.
- Do not eat these cookies hot. These cookie will keep three to five days in a sealed container on your counter.
Do not eat these hot. The candy canes melt and you can burn your mouth badly with the molten sugar. We used cherry flavored candy canes, but either those or traditional peppermint candy canes would be a perfect complement for the fudgy brookies.
What’s your secret to successful holiday entertaining?
Oh, and if all that Nestle fun got you craving more, there’s also a Nestle giveaway for gift baskets. There are 8 worth $100 each and 2 worth $400 each. Think you could make these brookies with the items in the basket?