Cookies and Christmas go together like Santa and reindeer. It's hard to imagine the holidays without the sugary scent of cookies baking or kids leaving cookies out for Santa. With traditional shapes like gingerbread men, Christmas trees and stars, cookies are tradition for many, and family baking adds to the appeal. In kitchens across the county cookies are being baked, keeping tradition alive.
Cookies at the senior center
Members of the South Carroll Senior and Community Center will bake cookies Wednesday, Dec. 10, starting at 12:15 p.m., filling the center with a sweet aroma.
"We're going to bake cookies here, then share them to go home," said the center's new manager, Melissa Cougnet, who said this is the first year the center has had a cookie day.
Cougnet said she believes members of the center will have fun baking together.
"This is a good way to get to know each other, by baking cookies," she said. "A lot of [the participants] won't make cookies at home. This will give them the opportunity to do that."
Shawn Roper, assistant manager of the center's kitchen said she plans to have them bake three varieties: chocolate chip, sugar cookie and peanut butter.
"It's about us getting to know them and them getting to know us and enjoying something at the holidays," she said. "We'll divide up the cookies afterward to take home.
"Cookies are a token of pleasure during the holidays," she said. "Sometimes when you are living by yourself you don't want a whole bag. Cookies are simple, quick, and easy to take on the go, perfect little treats."
Cookies on Main Street
On Friday, Dec. 12, Main Street Sykesville will hold their Cookies on Main Street event from 6 to 8 p.m., for their second year.
"Each participating business on Main Street will offer a homemade cookie to try and those who come out can take the recipe home with them, too," Town Treasurer Linda Quinn said.
Debbie Scheller, owner of A Likely Story book store in Sykesville said the event was extremely successful last year.
"Each merchant bakes their favorite holiday cookie or a specialty cookie. We [each] bake between 100 and 200 cookies. Then everyone who stops by gets a cookie. With it, we give out the recipe," Scheller said.
"Each store does it their own way," Scheller said. "One of the stores had egg nog last year and Beck's and Baldwin's [Station] usually offer a specialty drink at a discount that night."
E.W. Beck's Restaurant and Pub will have a sugar cookie martini and Baldwin's Station will offer a cinnasugar vodka hot apple cider at a discount.
"It's a community thing," Scheller said. "People pick up a cookie, talk to friends and neighbors and meet new friends. This year we are making Macaroon Kiss cookies."
Jennifer Truby, who owns Salazon Chocolate Company and Market said they will serve an Otterbein brand cookie dipped in their own chocolate and topped with sea salt. They'll also sell the holiday collection of Flying Dog beers, designed to pair with four kinds of Otterbein Cookies they are selling in the store.
Across the street from Salazon's, E.W. Becks Restaurant and Pub will offer a discount on those four Flying Dog beers.
Cookies at Church
The First Presbyterian Church in Westminster has held an annual cookie walk for many years. This year it will take place Sunday, Dec.14 after the second service ends at noon, in the fellowship hall.
"Everyone bakes and brings their goodies to church," said church member Karen Scott. "After services, folks line up. We have plastic serving gloves and plastic boxes to fill. We charge by the pound, put the box on a scale, and pay."
Scott said about 100 people play a part in the cookie walk.
"We fill about seven big round tables with trays and trays of cookies," she said. "We have fudge and chocolate dipped pretzels and other items like that, too.
"One woman is relatively famous for her peanut butter fudge," Scott said. "And she brings a lot."
Scott said she'll bring a sugar cookie rolled in green sugar with a candy cane Hershey Kiss in the center.
"It's a tradition" Scott said of baking cookies. "My girls and their friends have always decorated cookies together, too. I bake a bunch of gingerbread or sugar cookies every year for them to decorate. It's like a fun and creative art project."
Members of St. Benjamin's Lutheran Church in Westminster will meet at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13 for a Cookie Exchange followed by caroling at Carroll Lutheran Village.
According to parish secretary, Gail Nowicki, the church has been holding the cookie exchange for three or four years now.
"Each person brings several batches of their favorite kind of cookie. We set them up in stations so each person can go down the row and take five cookies of each variety. Afterward we meet in the main building at Carroll Lutheran Village, near the Bistro for caroling. Our people gather around the piano to sing and the residents come and gather around to sing along.'
Nowicki is of Swedish descent and she said her favorite cookie is the Swedish crescent cookie.
"Cookies make us feel warm and cozy and they bring back good memories," said Nowicki. "It's the idea of sharing with friends old and new."
Cookies with friends and family
Friends and families plan their own cookie exchanges, sometimes baking together, other times simply bringing cookies to share.
Manchester resident Julie Cuomo said when she was growing up in Florida, she and her mom always joined in the neighborhood cookie exchange.
"I loved it as a kid and I am starting it for my daughter because it is a nice Christmas tradition for her too," she said.
Cuomo said she's been a part of many cookie exchanges with family, coworkers or friends. For the past three years she's held one of her own.
"In the other years we have all baked together but this year we have too many coming, so we are going to have a Christmas party where everyone brings their cookies to share," she said.
Cuomo sent a blank recipe card in her invitation to the 40 people she anticipates will attend her Dec. 13 cookie exchange. When they arrive their cookies will be displayed on trays with recipe cards that can be copied.
"I'll have little prizes for best looking cookie, most festive, most unique, best tasting, and others," she said. "Everyone will vote on them. I ask people to bring enough for each family to take home a couple of each type and also to try one of each at the party. I provide a little bag or tin as a party favor so they can take home the cookies," Cuomo said.
Cuomo said her favorite is a family recipe she calls chocolate peanut butter sandwich cookies. They are made with Ritz Crackers and chocolate bark.
"I also do an oatmeal cookie recipe but I add Raisinettes instead of chocolate chips or raisins," she said.
"It's a great tradition," Cuomo said of why friends come together for cookies. "Mothers and daughters do it together and it's so much fun for kids. I want to make sure I start the tradition here with my family," she said.
Tara West of Taneytown said this is the first year in a while that she is not hosting a cookie party, but she is still attending one.
"If 10 people come, everyone makes a dozen cookies," West said. "They have to be homemade. We try to email each other ahead of time to make sure they are all different kinds. That evening we have food and drinks and share the cookies," she said.
West said her cookie exchange party started with family but grew each year as friends tagged along.
"Every single year I get to try a different kind of cookie, one I've never had," she said. "It's a good excuse to get together and it gets you in the Christmas spirit."