Monday, December 17, 2012

All About Cookies

Cookies and Christmas go hand in hand. Growing up I have memories of my mom baking copious amounts (and varieties) of cookies in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  Every night, long after the rest of the house was asleep, she'd toil away in the kitchen cranking out sheet after sheet of these sweet, buttery treats.  From tree shaped sugar cookies sprinkled with green colored crystals to uniformly sized Mexican wedding cookies, buttery shortbread, and chocolate and vanilla pinwheels whose twirling stripes seemed to go on forever, these are my Christmas memories.  Christmas week involved a flurry of delivering cookies as co-workers, friends, neighbors, the mailman, and even the mechanic at the local garage were all recipients of platters of home baked treats.  Even with all the cookies that were given away, there were always more than enough left at home for us to eat.  Well into January there would still be a few cookies tucked away in tins in the pantry that made for perfect after school treats.

As an adult I still love my cookies and every year I find myself trying to replicate this holiday tradition. Try is the operative word here since making dozens and dozens of cookies of multiple varieties is very time consuming.  I am not blessed with my mother's patience so rolling out perfect quarter inch sheets of buttery dough is always feat.  Regardless of how I try my dough alternates between being too cold and crumbly and so soft that it just sticks to everything.  This is not how I remember my mom's cookies turning out.  My tiny, European sized oven is not conducive to cranking out pan after pan of cookies.  A single batch can take the better part of an afternoon to make.  By the time the real "fun" of decorating is supposed to start I'm worn out.  Each year is a repeat of the previous year's frustrations but I am determined to carry on this family tradition.

Gingerbread Cakelettes ready for their debut
I approached this year with a new strategy.  I paced myself and planned ahead.  Cookies such as Frangelico Crinkles freeze beautifully so I made these ahead of time and stored them until needed.  Coconut-Bourbon Balls are another make ahead cookies whose taste only intensifies with age.  Other cookies, such as orange butter cookies can be made ahead of time then frosted at the last minute.  I quickly gave up visions of Martha Stewart style icings and went simple.  They looked nice and tasted even better which is what really matters.  Good old Meringues are probably the easiest cookie to make but must be made at the last minute. With proper planning--which I some how managed to achieve this year-- these were a quick and stress-free last minute treat.  Not feeling up to rolling out more temperamental cookie dough, I eschewed traditional gingerbread men for Gingerbread Cakelettes.  Yes, when you can only bake them in multiples of six it makes for a time consuming project but to me, the payoff of not having to roll dough is worth it. Plus they are just so darn cute. 

Unlike my mom, I don't give out platters of cookies to everyone I know.  Instead, we host a huge holiday party (or two, as was the case this year), and I serve up the cookies as the desserts.  The verdict?  The cookies were a hit.  By the end of the night my hours and days of baking was reduced to a few crumbs on the empty platters. 

1 comment:

  1. That is awesome!! I love baking and eating Christmas cookies and have tried to maintain the tradition of baking with my kids each and every holiday season. Not sure I will get to it this year, but I will try.