I decided on pfeffernuesse, chocolate crackle tops, pecan bars, almond balls, peanut butter kisses (with non-pareils instead of Hershey's kisses - superior!), and jam sandwiches. I usually make a gingerbread army, but I knew I wouldn't have time this year. Next year, I will make chai shortbread instead of pfeffernuesse.
This is the time of year when we (amateur, at-home) bakers learn - or relearn, in some cases - baking techniques and rules. For example, if the recipe says to let sugar and butter boil for two minutes without touching it, don't touch it. I know it looks like it really wants to be stirred. I know you wish that the cookbook would just say, because you will ruin it if you touch it, so that you know why you are not supposed to touch it. But don't experiment when you don't have another pound of butter waiting in the wings just in case.
Another thing is that, when grinding your own nuts, once you see that they are ground, stop. Just one more pulse spells the difference between ground nuts and nut butter.
I did this to my hazelnuts, which I was using for pfeffernuesse, which did not come out spicy and earthy like I wanted them to. I need another recipe. Preferably, one that does not use hazelnuts because ... this time of year, I also remember how much I hate hazelnuts. They are easy to over bake and hard to peel. You do all this work for bitter, nastiness that you throw out to the squirrels. Harrumph.
I do love baking cookies, though. A couple recipes got me really mad this year - and that is part of the fun. I forget how much work it is and how much my feet hurt and how ticked off I get when a dough sticks as I roll it, or doesn't look right, or what-have-you. But you forget all that stuff so that you bake again next year, of course. Because the best part about making cookies is handing them out.
I gave away seven or so plates, mostly to neighbors. I was invited in to three out of the five houses I visited. My husband dropped off one more plate, and I am sure I would have been invited in there as well. One house in particular - the gruff old man next door, who I absolutely love - did not invite me in, and barely opened the door wide enough. But his face when he saw that plate of cookies! 82 years old and he lit up like a toddler on Christmas morning. Then he thanked me and closed the door in my face. Ah, gruff old men.
I want to give people plates of Valentine's cookies this year. Wouldn't that be fun? Winter is lonely in Seattle, as we all hole up with our space heaters and humidifiers and fleece. I think people would be happy to get a little pink plate with heart-shaped cookies. Yes!