For a 20th time, let Dobbses' Holiday Cookie Party begin

NEIGHBORS

December 14, 2007|By JANENE HOLZBERG

Neighbors

Janene Holzberg

When they arrive home from work this evening, Dave and Peggy Dobbs plan to set their oven at 350 degrees and leave it at that temperature for about 10 hours.

The couple have purchased about 10 pounds each of flour and granulated sugar, 8 pounds of butter, several boxes of confectioner's and brown sugars, 6 dozen eggs and a large bottle of vanilla. They also will have on hand a wide assortment of spices and flavorings, chopped walnuts and pecans, semisweet chocolate chips, peanut butter, corn flakes and a lengthy list of other ingredients.

Oh, and table space - lots and lots of table space.

Tonight begins a two-day cookie-baking marathon for the Ellicott City couple and their children, Peter, 22, and Maggie, 21, as they prepare for their 20th Holiday Cookie Party from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

"It's sort of like Santa's workshop, only the elves are baking instead of making toys," said Peggy Dobbs.

Family members have hours and hours of mixing, rolling and dropping by the teaspoonful ahead of them until they have more than 100 dozen cookies in 20 or more varieties. That means staying up until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., then rising about 8 a.m. tomorrow and putting in another 12 hours or so.

"It's just amazing, especially through the eyes of a child, to go to this party and see all these trays and trays of cookies," said next-door neighbor Cindy Nicodemus, who has lived in Montgomery Meadows with her husband, Mike, and their children for seven years. "It's such a neat environment that our three kids even brought their friends to the party last year. It's just something you have to see to believe."

Bill Chalfant, who has lived across the street from the Dobbses with his wife, Eileen, since both families moved into their homes 14 years ago, said he especially likes that it is a family event.

"Peggy and Dave are very kind and invite everyone in our neighborhood and want them to bring their kids," Chalfant said. "[Their party] is a nice way to meet new people and catch up with friends."

Dave Dobbs, a former Navy helicopter pilot who works for Northrop Grumman as a program director, said: "Neighborhood unity is the main reason for the party, though we also invite our co-workers and families. We like to bring people into our home and see the joy on the children's faces when they see our dining room table just chock-a-block with cookies."

Peggy and Dave Dobbs attribute their fondness for baking cookies to growing up with mothers and grandmothers who were wonderful cooks.

"My dad was in the Navy, and we moved every two or three years," he recalled. "So having people over during the holidays for home-baked cookies was my mother's way of giving us a sense of neighborhood."

When Dobbs' mother died many years ago, he and his siblings divided her cookie cutters among themselves, he said.

"Peggy and I started our own cookie party several years after we got married and have had one everywhere we've lived, from Annapolis to Virginia Beach, Va., to Newport, R.I.," he said.

Peggy Dobbs' mother, who still comes to the event, is the inspiration behind the pinwheel and spritz cookies, said Peggy, a Howard County teacher.

"A lot of the varieties we make were cookies we grew up with," and they are sentimental favorites, she said. "But we try to add new cookies each year, too."

Though it has been more than six years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the patriotic "peace-and-love cookies" born of that day remain one of the Dobbs family's favorites. The recipe appeared in the food section of The Sun in a December 2001 edition.

"It's a mild citrus-flavored sugar cookie with sweet icing, and it tastes really good," said Dave Dobbs. "But what makes it really special is that it's heart-shaped and decorated with the stars and stripes of the American flag. It's one of everyone's favorites not only to eat, but to remember 9/11 and to count our blessings as Americans."

The cookie also is the most labor-intensive of all their recipes, he said. It is a rolled cookie, meaning the dough must be rolled out and then cut with a cookie cutter.

Maggie Dobbs learned from Peggy's mother to roll the sugar cookie dough so thin "you can almost see through it," said Dave.

After baking, each Dobbs family member grabs a tube of colored icing and applies the same portion of the American flag design, assembly line-style.

"Their family is really unique and so close-knit," said Nicodemus. "The kids are super-polite and very involved in the whole event."

To mainstream the preparations, Maggie and Peter Dobbs gave their parents a surprise gift about this time last year, their father said.

"They handed Peggy and I this box with a tag that read, `Open on Dec. 12,' and when we did we discovered a terrific KitchenAid mixer," he said. "All I could say was `cool.'"

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