Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ode to Christmas Cookies

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!


  1. We don't bake these, but on our family fun night(at Christmas time) we decorate a gingerbread house. This year D found a whole village to smother in candy and frosting.

    It's very cute and each of us got to have our own.

    Merry Christmas, Erin!

  2. That sounds wonderful, Marquita! I never did a gingerbread house in my life until two years ago, when my mom found a Snoopy one to do with my niece and nephew. My deep, dark secret is that I absolutely ADORE Snoopy, so I totally got in on that action :)
    Merry Christmas to you too, Sweetie!

  3. My mom and I would make Toll House Chocolate Chip cookies. Those are tough to mix by hand so I haven't carried that over to my kids. We make them together at Thanksgiving.

    For Christmas, I've adopted my Mother-in-Laws Spice cookie mix to use for cutouts. I'll make a batch with my mom and cut out cookies while the kids decorate.

    I've also tried making my grandmother's kiffles. But every Christmas when we visited my dad's family there were always there.

  4. My grandmother used to make the best shortbread cookies...pressed very thin (that was the key), so light and crispy and not overly sweet with a toasted maraschino cherry in the center that got just a tad bit chewy.

    Took me years of finessing the dough to get those stinking cookies right!

    I'd love to have one right now (sigh)

    Happy Holidays

  5. Ohh, spice cookie cutouts sound so delicious, Beth! I know what you mean about the chocolate chip cookie recipe, so it is awesome that you were able to find a one to do with the kids :) I've never had a kiffle - maybe I'll look up a recipe for that next!

  6. There are a couple of different recipes. If you want mine, I can copy it for you. I'm still working on perfecting it. The bottoms tend to overcook on me or I get too much milk in the filling and it cooks out.

  7. Heather, my mouth is watering just reading about those cookies! Shortbread cookies *and* a cherry? Sign me up!
    Thanks so much for sharing, and have a merry Christmas!

  8. Beth, I'm always up for new recipes - send it! It's especially fun when I can tinker with it :)

  9. I love baking cookies, and generally make at least 6 different kinds every Christmas. Some we eat (the ever present cookie dessert plate over the holidays), others we give away as gifts. When I lived at home with my mom, we always baked them all Thanksgiving weekend and then popped them into the freezer. I don't always get around to it Thanksgiving weekend, but not too long after, the bake-extravaganza begins. This year, my 2-year old helped. I am sooooo looking forward to the memories we will make together baking cookies!

  10. My favorite was these apricot filled jam bites my grandma makes. They are a huge pain to make, but they are DELICIOUS! We spread apricot jam on round cutouts of the cookie dough, and folded over two sides to make a little bow-tie. Bake and sprinkle powder sugar on top...delightful!

    Merry Christmas!

  11. BEST. COOKIES. EVER!!!! SO funny that I only get them at Christmas. I WANT ONE RIGHT NOW!!! I also remember being the only one of us kids that adored the mini-pecan tarts with the mistletoe wrappers:) Those apricot linzers with the powdered sugar make me think of Nana and old Aunt Sophie. And I would love to try the shortbread with the cherry mentioned above...that sounds right up my alley. But if I could only have one cookie ever for the rest of my life, it would be the chocolate shortbread christmas cookies Mom makes, hands down!

  12. Mmmm...I LOVE apricot, Jenn! Those sound so yummy :) Thanks for stopping by - and Merry Christmas back at you!

  13. I know, Kara, I *almost* made a batch (so I could have nice pictures - no really, I swear), but decided to wait until we could make them together :) And yes, I'll leave those pecan tarts to you ;)
    See you soon!

  14. I've been thinking about the cookies my mom used to make at Christmas, and how I thought you could ONLY make them then. LOL I'm going to dig through the recipe box and see if I can find some of the recipes since I haven't made them for a long time. I'm astounded at how many things she used to make--as if she was preparing for a cookie shortage. LOL

  15. That is too funny, Donna :) But you know, it might as well be true! I've never made our Christmas cookies any other time of year.
    hehehe - a cookie shortage :) Now go get those recipes and get to work!

  16. My mom made lots of Christmas cookies growing up, but I can't remember too much about those days for some reason. I was probably causing a mess or somehting.
    Now that I am older and "wiser" I started my own traditions, whihc include pizzelles, ricotta cookies, and some sort of PB & chocolate combo. I try a new one of those recipes every year. Your shortbread sound awesome. I'm hoping to bake next week, fingers crossed. Enjoy your weekend.

  17. Jenny - I don't know what a pizzelle is, but it sure *sounds* good :) Yay for making new traditions! You'll have to let me know if any of you PB & chocolate recipes are delish - I love new recipes!
    Thanks so much for stopping by - Merry Christmas!!