Christmas, Christmas time is near, time for laughter, time for… cookies!!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is filled with delights of all kinds, from family, to decorations, to sappy specials on The Hallmark Channel, but I have to admit (and I know this won’t come as a surprise to anyone), I absolutely love all the baking. Cupcakes and cookies and cheesecakes abound as even the most infrequent bakers pull out their mixers and get to work on that one special recipe that they do so well.
In my earliest Christmas memories, magic sparkled in the air like fireflies, filling my world with excitement and wonder. The air itself seemed to hum with a sort of vibrancy, an indefinable feeling of goodwill and generosity. Each year, as the Christmas tree glittered in its multi-hued glory and the air smelled of pine needles and happiness, my mom would round us kids up for the one-day Christmas cookie baking extravaganza.
In my memories, the avocado green stove warmed the kitchen as bowls and measuring spoons and bags of flour and sugar cluttered the counter. Lined up on the table were the carefully hand-printed recipes that had been penned years before I was even born. Aprons were donned and hair pulled back and soon we were combining ingredients and making memories. My mother would hold the bowl as my young hands clutched to mixer. My sister would carefully measure the next ingredient while my brother waited to taste test the batch.
Over the course of the day, familiar cookies were pulled from the oven and laid across racks to cool. Stained glass ones, and plaited red and white cane ones, and peanut butter and chocolate kissed ones. Sugar cookies and powered cookies and cookies topped with gaily colored sprinkles.
At the end of the day, there would be only one batch left to make: the world famous chocolate-covered shortbread cookies. They were simple enough, with the shortbread base pressed into a cookie sheet, topped with melted chocolate, and sprinkled with chopped nuts, but something about them signaled to us that Christmas was here.
By then, darkness had fallen, and the house glowed with warmth and contentment. My brother would have given up on the baking long ago, but my mother, my sister and I remained, laughing and chattering about all the things that will be muted by time. The words and the topics are indistinct, but the joy, the sisterhood, and the taste of chocolate will linger on our tongues for a lifetime, called to mind every time the first hints of carols carry on the air and magic fills our hearts once more.
What are your Christmas baking traditions? Do you still follow the traditions of your youth, or have your started your own?
Note: I will be taking the next two weeks off for the holidays. I'll see you all in the New Year!!
Chocolate Shortbread Christmas Cookies
2 cups flour
1 cup butter – melted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg yolk
1 package chocolate chips
1 package chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix flour, butter, sugar, vanilla, and yolk until thoroughly combined. Pat into cookie sheet. Bake for 20 min or until golden. Remove from oven and set aside.
Melt chocolate according to directions on package (either in microwave or using a double broiler). Spread evenly over prepared crust. Sprinkle desired amount of chopped pecans over top. Allow to set up.
Once firm, my family always cut up the cookies and placed in gallon size freezer bags to store in the freezer. I love these cookies ‘fresh’ out of the freezer!