Anise-Scented Sugar Cookies
• Royal Icing
• Rolled Gingerbread Cookies with Coriander Seed
• Chocolate-Peppermint Truffles
• Pignoli Cookies
• Rosemary-Almond Biscotti
• Lavender Shortbread
For most of us, the holidays are all about giving back — about sharing the things that we love to do or make with those who have supported us throughout the year. As a pastry chef and event designer, my favorite gifts to give are parties that put a high priority on delicious food.
Whether you are throwing an elaborate holiday get-together or simply baking up tins of cookies for friends and neighbors, I hope these recipes and images inspire you this season. For our little gathering, the centerpiece, my labor of love, was a completely edible composition of Anise-Scented Sugar Cookie trees — star-shaped cookies stacked tall on cut-glass candlesticks — surrounded by a frosty landscape of powdered sugar, rock candy and peppermint-infused truffles swathed in white chocolate. We threaded frosted gingerbread angels and stars with satin ribbon and hung them on the crystal chandelier for a hint of heaven above the forest. Pastry blenders outfitted with recipe cards and real gingerbread boxes filled with leftover cookies were the icing on this luscious treat.
If these party trappings seem too elaborate for the hostess in the usual holiday rush, here’s my advice: First, keep the guest list to a minimum. A tight-knit group always cultivates a feeling of intimacy, but it also frees the hostess to focus on personal touches that will leave each guest feeling special. Second, join forces when you can. I asked my friend Elizabeth Maxson, an interior designer and the owner of a home-furnishings boutique, to handle the decorating details at my party, thus allowing me to stay focused on what I know best. And talk about holiday cheer — there’s no better way to share the joy of the season than party planning with a good friend.
Julia M. Usher is a food writer, recipe developer and food stylist in St. Louis. Contact her by visiting www.HerbCompanion.com/contributors.aspx.