Happy-making baking.

Cookies! That is to say, baking cookies is happy-making for me. Really, the only time I do it is at Christmastime. It’s a creative project that I can do alone and without any pressure or expectations from anyone else. If I’m successful my cookie platter will have a balance of colors, flavors and textures, and include something for everyone’s taste.

This year Pearl and Maggie got me started – they came for several hours on a Saturday and we made six kinds of what we think of as Christmas cookies. Some were traditional for me, and a couple were new.





One of Maggie’s ideas was to make meringues, and she did that beautifully. I wanted to make some Peppermint Cookies that we have done several years. But we were so busy I forgot to take many pictures.



Yesterday I finished up what we started of the Ginger Spice and Chocolate Macaroons…


And I baked a new kind of cookie — Christmas is the only time of year when I take the time to try new cookie recipes — that I found in Fine Cooking magazine: Winter Stöllen Cookies. They were a good bit of work, requiring the chopping of candied and dried fruit, and two kinds of dough that are layered and rolled up jelly-roll fashion. Then you freeze the dough and slice it to bake.



You are supposed to brush the rounds with butter before and after baking, and dust with powdered sugar afterward. I skipped the afterward parts for most of the cookies I made, because I didn’t want them to be too sweet. I also didn’t want to hide the swirl in the middle that was faint to begin with. I don’t know what the purpose was of that layering of dough.

I probably won’t make these again; they are too soft and cake-y for my taste, though I did like the burst of tart cherry flavor. (I see now that the description calls them “tender.”) We’ll see how they rate with the rest of the family.


So much kitchen momentum developed yesterday, I began imagine two or three more recipes I could revive, or try for the first time — but then bedtime arrived. Today tasks like housecleaning are calling me, and late tonight the first of my children will be arriving. But maybe, just maybe, I can squeeze in one more batch….

If I manage to take a picture of my cookie platter this year, I will post it here, and also share another recipe, after we come back from celebrating. If you bake special cookies for Christmas, I’d love to hear about them.

10 thoughts on “Happy-making baking.

  1. Your cookies sound and look delicious! I’ve made two batches already, and one batch of dough is chilling, another has butter softening to be mixed into dough. Plus, I’ve made, or I should say, my bread machine has made, one loaf of Parmesan-black pepper bread, and it’s about to make a loaf of oatmeal bread. The little house has been smelling yummy.

    Have a wonderful time with your family ~ FlowerLady

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gretchen:
    You are very ambitious and creative! I made some cookies, but simple, chocolate chip cake cookies, which are popular. I will be making some muffins as well as brownies and carrot cake for Christmas Day. Enjoy your children and grandchildren this Christmas! God Bless you!

    Love Sherry

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I make three Swedish cookies from my grandmother: a pecan shortbread, Sprits (traditional cookie-press cookies) and a brown sugar/black walnut cookies that’s very crisp and good for dunking. The last is an icebox cookie that’s mixed, formed into a loaf and then sliced and baked the next day. It was their family’s version of the traditional gingersnap, which none of them really liked, even though they were “supposed to,” being Swedish and all.

    Two other favorites are great alternatives to the horrid fruitcakes that abound. The cookie, called a Lizzie, starts by soaking a pound of raisins in bourbon or rum. Then, red and green cherries, citron, and pecan halves are added, and the whole thing is held together with a highly spiced batter: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and allspice. They’re great.

    The other thing we like is called “California Fruitcake.” It’s nothing more than dates, apricots, and pecans, with a little batter to hold it together. It’s baked in a loaf pan, and is the best thing in the world. I’ve not made one this year, but maybe I should.

    If you’re interested in any of the recipes, I’ll send them along, happily. Merry Christmas!


    1. Linda, I made California Fruitcake faithfully for about 40 years! – only since my husband died have I ceased. One of my daughters-in-law makes it now, too. I wrote about how we got started with that as a Christmas tradition here: https://gretchenjoanna.com/2013/12/14/nativity-cake/

      The brown sugar/black walnut cookies sound dreamy, but where do you get the walnuts? I know that they are very hard to crack, so I assume you buy them already shelled? Do you find them grown commercially? I’ve never seen them for sale, probably because of the superabundance of English walnuts we have in California.


  4. Delish! I haven’t done any cookie baking this year, but normal fare generally includes ginger molasses cookies and shortbread. In other baking, cinnamon rolls are a tradition, and thanks to The Great British Baking show I really really want to try making babka. My aunt sent me two last year from Trader Joe’s (which we don’t have here), and OH my, yum.

    Liked by 1 person

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