Tag Archives: Christmas cookies

The most wintry Christmastime.

Last night, before the snow and piercing wind arrived, and after the children had gone to bed, the two men decided to take a walk, with the thermometer showing 3 degrees. They bundled up to the max, and set out with beers in hand, just for the fun of it. I turned in before they got back, but this morning they said it had been a fine outing.

I’ve arrived in Colorado at the home of my son “Soldier” and his family. Kate and her family are also here, which adds up to six grandchildren, four parents and one grandma. We knew it was going to get very cold, especially today, so we went on our outings the days before.

First a trip to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where before we took in a planetarium show, we looked at statues of historic airplanes, and one uncle set the older boys to racing.

In the evening yesterday we all went caroling in the neighborhood. The thermometer was dropping fast toward zero, so we started out at dusk and sang at several houses in the neighborhood, where at least two people came out and stood to listen to us, in spite of the frosty air. Joy had baked sugar cookies, springerle and gingerbread men, and we had an all-family session decorating the sugar cookies, which she added to boxes for certain neighbors.

Kate’s and Soldier’s families haven’t ever lived close enough to each other for the cousins to know each other. The four-, five- and six-year-olds have especially enjoyed each other. All the kids received matching pajamas at their first bedtime together, which provided a lot of fun. They were all happy!

This morning when I woke it was -16. I understand that the middle regions of the nation generally are experiencing similarly extreme weather; many of you have your own stories to tell. In the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains where we are, it’s fairly dry at 7,300 ft elevation, but more snow did fall and added to what was lingering.

It’s really fun to participate in all the lively activities that I didn’t have to plan or prepare for, and even just to watch the other groupings playing chess, making decorations, building with magnatiles, assembling a jigsaw puzzle or practicing their drawing skills together. Of course we have been doing a lot of reading aloud, and all the children watched “The Snowman” video with Grandma.

Decades ago I helped my children to do a “baby-Jesus-in-walnut-shell” craft, and this  week Joy had all the ingredients for a new and improved version, which all the children enjoyed immensely.

Soldier baked a new kind of cookie for Christmas this year, a flourless meringue with figs, orange zest and almond paste, which are fantastic. I’m planning to bake them myself and I will share the recipe.

Many more fun and Christmasy things are planned in the next few days, which I hope to tell about here, but I wanted to put up this post on the coldest day I’ve ever known.

We heard the hymn.

I haven’t baked much yet this Christmas. I may start in a few days, to prepare for a couple of events coming up. I made two of my traditional treats for the cookie platter: Ginger Spice Cookies in a gluten-free version and Cranberry Jellies.

The one new kind I tried so far is from Dorie Greenspan’s book: Double Chocolate Buckwheat Cookies. Here are the last of those, in the cookie tin, at right. They are buttery and chocolaty, but I don’t think I will make them again. I did buy five kinds of Christmas cookies from Trader Joe’s, so we didn’t suffer.

Here are a few scenes from the last busy days:

I also want to share this poem again,  a song from Canada called “The Huron Carol.” Here is a video version of it sung by Tom Jackson.

THE HURON CAROL

’Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled,
That Mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead.
Before their light the stars grew dim, and wand’ring hunters heard the hymn:
Jesus, your King, is born;
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria!

Within a lodge of broken bark the tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped His beauty round.
And as the hunter braves drew nigh, the angels’ song rang loud and high:
Jesus, your King, is born;
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria!

The earliest moon of winter is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
And chiefs from far before Him knelt with gifts of fox and beaver pelt:
Jesus, your King, is born;
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria!

O children of the forest free, O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heav’n is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant Boy, who brings you beauty, peace, and joy:
Jesus, your King, is born;
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria!

~ Jean de Brébeuf, S.J. (1593-1649)

My grandson Pat and his wife came on Christmas Eve to hike and feast and play games with us for most of the day. This morning Soldier and Joy’s family came to church with me and that was lovely; we came home and had a lovely festal brunch before opening gifts. Christmas Day always surprises me, as the last few days of Advent are like being on a train that speeds up just before getting to the station.

Thank you for your Christmas greetings to me! If you are kneeling before the radiant Boy just now, I’m right there with you. Christ is born!

Dorie and I calmly brainstorm.

“For years, I wanted to make a cookie that would go with beer. From the start, I knew I wanted it to have pretzels and some cheese. I worked on the cookie on and off and never really got what I wanted. Then one day, when I was making a shellfish recipe that called for Old Bay Seasoning, I had that eureka moment: Old Bay was what was missing. A couple of spoonfuls of that blend, which relies heavily on celery salt, and the cookie came together. Is it good with beer? Yes. But here’s the bonus: The Old Bay makes the cookies a winner with Bloody Marys too.” -Dorie Greenspan, in Dorie’s Cookies.

Frontispiece of Dorie’s Cookies

This fall, I am revisiting my old self of, say, twenty years ago, that woman who would start many weeks in advance to stock the freezer with cookie tins, the contents of which would be revealed in all their corporate glory beginning on Christmas Eve. The first visible sign of the revisit was me taking Dorie’s Cookies off the shelf this morning and perusing a few recipes. I think it is the only book here that is devoted solely to cookies, and when I read the stories of Dorie’s creations I feel that I have a friend in my kitchen. She’s always telling me to “play around.” Yes!

Two pots of ginger broth were simmering on the stove and the aroma lent its warmth to visions of Christmas feasting. That would be the culinary sort of feasting, but its purpose, we must remember, is to celebrate The Feast of the Incarnation; if not for the real presence of the Son of Man among us, we have slight reasons for bothering.

Neapolitans

I don’t drink beer or Bloody Marys, but I hope to make Dorie’s Old Bay Pretzel and Cheese Cookies. I do drink wine occasionally, so some of her other recipes are worth considering, if I were to start up a wine-and-cookie snack tradition. She claims her Garam Grahams are good with beer or red wine, and tells us to bake the Triscuity Bites “with a sprinkle of salt, and start mixing the cocktails or pulling the cork on some sparkling wine.”

Both of those are in the “Cocktail Cookies” section of the book, but also in chapters such as “The Beurre and Sel Collection” or cookies for “Every Day, Any Day,” drinks other than my own traditional milk or tea are suggested as an accompaniment; for example, the Italian Torta Sbrisolona, which Dorie thinks go well with strong drink and a hunk of cheese.

I noticed years ago that reading recipes is for me incredibly relaxing and calming (and it doesn’t make me sleepy the way wine does). It might be that this is partly because it is the first step in that creative process of cooking, and specifically right now, Christmas cookie-baking, that I find so satisfying. I’m brainstorming about this year’s cookie platter, and in this stage of the project there is little effort required, no timers buzzing and no mixing bowls in the sink. No real commitment, only a vast palette to dream over.

Pippin gave me the book several years ago. At least sixteen pages have post-it notes stuck on by me, suggestions to myself, and there is a note about Kit having made the apple bars when she lived here. Dorie’s Cookies has provided hours of fodder for musing and researching — but I don’t think I have used one recipe! 2021 just might be the year to begin.

Our Glad people eat cookies at Christmas.

This Christmas I may not bake anything, though when I look over this post I start to think that if Trader Joe’s has their cranberry relish in stock, I might make the cranberry jellies… maybe just half a batch….

I do love cookies and cookie-baking, and am loving the memories of them in this new era when there are other things I want to do instead. It’s likely I’ll get excited about baking again some Christmastime in the future, but for now, I want to share this post that I hope I haven’t republished too recently. If you like special cookies at Christmas, you might check out the recipes I’ve shared on my Recipes page, because over the last nearly 50 years ! I’ve collected some great ones. Last week my son-in-law mentioned a Lemon Poppyseed Sandwich Cookie that I served only one Christmas, which he said remains his favorite years later.

Trader Joe's Sugar Iced LebkuchenOn the platter below are a few of Trader Joe’s Pfeffernusse which they didn’t carry last year. They were very different from my own peppernuts but awfully nice. I did think of buying a few cookies at Trader Joe’s to eat when the actual feast of Nativity arrives. Pippin had their Lebkuchen at our early Christmas when I was up there, and I’d eaten them last year as well; they remind me of honeykuchen that Mr. Glad’s German grandmother and aunts used to bake at Christmas. While looking for a picture of them to show you I found this site with reviews of Trader Joe’s products.

But now, here is the post from the archives; I hope it might be useful to you in some way:

The new favorite cookie this year was Salted Toffee. This was a happy accident sort of thing. We had come by a bag of mini Heath Bars, not something we normally would buy, and I didn’t want to end up eating them one-by-one, so after we ate a few I thought I would make cookies with the rest.

 

 

I’d seen recipes online for Heath Bar cookies, and I used one of them that didn’t have nuts. My version had a little less Heath ingredient, since we had snacked it down. The specialness I added was to combine some large-crystal sugar (Demerara) and coarse sea salt and roll the tops of the cookie-dough balls in that before baking.

Everyone loved these cookies. If that bird were real, he would have eaten the whole cookie by now. But he is painted on a pretty tray that May gave me for Christmas.

Soldier’s Joy brought the darlingest delicious thumbprint cookies that were filled with strawberry and rhubarb, and some chocolate-dipped dried apricots that combined to add to the visual appeal of the cookie platters.

Those bright-white round cookies are our only store-bought item, Pffernusse from Trader Joe’s that Mr. Glad wanted to try in memory of the cookies his German grandmother used to make.

The coconut-y balls are Date Delights, for which I’ll give you the recipe here. They are another chewy toffee-ish experience we have been creating ever since my grandma gave our family a tin full of them one Christmas past.

Date Delights

1 cube butter
1 cup cut-up pitted dates
1 beaten egg
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups Rice Crispies
sweetened coconut flakes, about 7 oz.

In a 9×12 baking pan mix the walnuts and Rice Crispies. Set aside. In another bowl put the coconut flakes. 

In a saucepan melt the butter, and add the dates, egg and sugar. Stir all together in the saucepan and boil over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and beat in the vanilla, and immediately pour the candy mixture over the walnuts and cereal. Stir well. As soon as the mixture is cool enough to handle, form into balls and roll them in the coconut flakes. Cool.

The red squares in the foreground are Cranberry Jellies. I adapted a recipe from a past Sunset Magazine to make a treat that Pippin and I especially like. It’s refreshingly lacking in any fat except for walnuts, and is a nice chewy way to get your cranberry fix and add color to the display.

Cranberry Jellies

3 cups Trader Joe’s Cranberry-Orange Relish (2-16 oz. tubs)

2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
13 envelopes plain gelatin
3 cups chopped walnuts

Combine the first three ingredients in a bowl (I used a stand mixer) and while the paddle is turning, gradually add the gelatin. When thoroughly mixed transfer to a saucepan and heat just until the gelatin is dissolved. Stir in the walnuts and pour the mixture into a 9×12 pan. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into small pieces and dust lightly with cornstarch. I don’t refrigerate them after this point.

Many times I’ve told myself that I must make fewer cookies at Christmas, but this year I realized that it’s one of my favorite things to do. I have so much fun thinking of the collage of different flavors and forms of the little sweets that I don’t even feel the need to eat them. It was long after Christmas Day that I even tried one of the new Peppermint Cream Cheese cookies I made this year.

But now by what is the Seventh Day of Christmas, as I finish up this post, and also New Year’s Eve, I’ve expanded the festive feelings by eating lots of cookies, too! They all taste as good as they look, or better. The last red plateful will go out of here this evening — I wish I could bring one to your house when I say Happy New Year!