Extra sugar -- white and brown for baking, red and green for decorating, powdered for rolling -- rests on the counter. Brick after brick of butter hogs a shelf in the fridge. The empty space in the freezer is waiting for dough.
Christmas is seven weeks away, and if you're the baker in your family, you're already well aware of the deadline.
The annual holiday parties and school concerts need baked-good gifts for friends, neighbors and co-workers. Family members make stern demands and plaintive requests for "those little ones you make every year. You know, the ones I like. They have that stuff in them."
Sure, I know the ones.
Cookies: This year, The York Dispatch Food section will be sharing our favorites in the Christmas Cookie Countdown. Starting Wednesday, Nov. 13, we'll feature cookie recipes old and new every week until Christmas arrives.
We want to see your favorites, too. Are you a fan of classic roll-out sugar cookies shaped like trees and reindeer? Can't get through a holiday season without cornflake wreaths? Have you mastered pizelles or the cookie-press spritz? Have your recipes changed to accommodate nut or gluten allergies or vegans in the house?
Christmas cookie love is guided by gut instinct and nostalgia for the good times with loved ones. My mother, upon hearing the cookie countdown idea, squealed with glee: "Butterballs!"
So this season, you'll be getting my grandmother's recipe for butterballs -- also called snowballs, Russian tea cakes or Mexican wedding cookies -- and a little family history from me. Some of my York Dispatch co-workers will share their recipes, too.
Send me your favorite Christmas cookie recipe, and we'll spread the love across York County in the Food section and online in the Food for Thought blog.
What to send: Your name, the recipe, the origin of the recipe (mom, grandma, a beloved cookbook or magazine article clipped and yellowing with age) and why it's your favorite. Please also include the name of the township, borough or city where you live and your phone number (don't worry, we won't publish the number). If you've just made a batch of cookies and have a photo, send a picture along.
If the idea of sharing grandma's secret recipe with strangers horrifies you, drop me a note about that instead. We have people on both sides of the debate in the newsroom, and I'd love to hear from readers who guard their baking secrets, too.
Where to send: Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with "Christmas Cookie Countdown" in the subject line or send regular mail to Mel Barber, food editor, The York Dispatch, 1891 Loucks Road, York, PA 17408.
I hope you'll all join me in celebrating the season.
-- Reach Mel Barber at email@example.com.