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The reluctant baker: solving a holiday dilemma

Every December, I do the same calculation: 1 classroom teacher + 2 classroom aides + 1 principal + 1 behaviorist + 1 speech therapist + 1 counselor + 1 occupational therapist + 1 bus driver = $1 million in holiday gifts for my son's teachers, aides and service providers. Students in special education don't just have teachers, they have teams. These educators are dedicated, heroic, hard-working and often under-appreciated. Unlike general education teachers and staff, many of these providers do not receive holiday gifts because they work in specialized settings or their classrooms don't have room parents.

My assignment is to gift each person with a variety of cookies in a holiday tin. And let's not forget gifts for my daughters' teachers, too!

And so I bake. But I am a reluctant baker; it does not come naturally. I like cooking, but baking requires a type of precision that feels picky and rigid. Inevitably I skip a step, forget something or misread a direction. Baking soda, baking powder - what's the difference? Why do the sugars sometimes go with the dry ingredients and sometimes with the wet? Do I really have to pull out that huge mixer that requires two people to lift onto the counter?

To share the experience, I've annotated a few of my favorite recipes complete with solutions to the challenges I've encountered:

"Oh heck no" Dulce de Leche Gingersnap Sandwich Cookies

Problem: I'm not going to make dulce de leche AND cookies from scratch. Solution: Bought a jar of fancy caramel sauce for the filling.

Misshapen Jammy Pinwheels

Problem: Instead of looking like circular wheels, my cookies looked like squished oblongs. Solution: Close your eyes when you eat them.

"Forgiving" Outrageous Chocolate Cookies

Problem: I accidentally melted all of the chocolate instead of reserving some to mix in later. Solution: Chocolate is very forgiving.

Sticky Cranberry "Never Again" Gingerbread

Problem: This loaf got rave reviews and so I've made it over and over. Solution: You cannot pay me to bake this again.

"Sandy" Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies

Problem: Seriously, it's not me, I followed all the directions and the dough felt like sand. Solution: Added another egg.

Enjoy and happy holidays!

- Courtney Bennett

Courtney Bennett enjoys finding the humor in parenting three children, one with special needs. She works in higher education for a private college.

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