Monday, December 18, 2006

I Am Missing Me Some Christmas Cookies

I can't hone in on why I'm so nostalgic for Christmas Cookies this year, but whoa sister, I am. Truth be told, I'm betting it has a lot to do with my Mom's passing this year.

I have to laugh at myself. There's been several times in this blog's short life that I represented dear Mama Gladys' kitchen skills as marginal. And I still wouldn't hedge my bet ... Except for desserts. Skillfully made pies and cookies were miles closer to godliness than the lack of dust bunnies for Gladys.

So it should come as no surprise that Christmas cookies are a cherished part of Big Mary's sugarplum dreams. There were two standards... the early years and the later years. The constant core were Mexican Wedding Cookies and Thumbprint Cookies with Red Currant Jelly. In addition, my early childhood savored Mincemeat Bars with Royal Icing Glaze and Date Bars. I still wince at the many years those incredibly delicious date bars went by underappreciated by this prematurely jaded, and then, less than Big... Mary. By the time I was 16, these last two had been supplanted by a significantly less inspired Chocolate Graham Cracker Toffee Bar.

On the plus side, the appearance of these Chocolate Graham Cracker Toffee Bars coincided with my appreciation of marijuana as a recreational drug. This was a divinely inspired syncronicratic moment. Gladys marveled at the way the graham crackers fit so perfectly in the cookie sheet. I marveled at how the intense sweetness of the brown sugar filling and the milk chocolate glaze could provide such pot fueled "munchy" comfort. Truly there was no place like home for the holidays.

Definitely "not" the Christmas spirit my Mom hoped to inspire, but the real charm of homemade cookie exchanges and pleasure in filling cookie tins for neighbors took root early on. Rarely were anyone else's Mom's cookies as good as Gladys'... but then there was neighbor Harry Steele's peanut butter fudge.

And so it was a smooth transition, once I was out of college, to carrying on the tradition of making and gifting Christmas cookies to my adopted family of loving souls. I'm really missing those years when I made the time to bake Christmas cookies for this inner circle. Hopefully it won't be too many more years before I can return to the spice warmed air of a home kitchen, covered in confectioners sugar, chocolate glaze and caramel.

Here's a great cookie dough for cutting into Christmas shapes and decorating. It's a little fussy and needs to be kept very cold, but worth the hassle

Walnut Spice Holiday Cookies
1/2 cup finely ground walnuts
1 1/4 cup AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg

Combine ground walnuts, flour, baking powder, salt and spices in a bowl. Mix well and set aside.
In an electric mixer, beat butter until lightened, add sugars and continue beating until fluffy. Add egg. Reduce speed and gradually add in dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Divide dough into four sections, wrap in plastic and chill well for several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 325*. Place parchment paper on baking sheets. On a well floured board, roll out dough to 1/8" thickness and cut into desired shapes. Place on prepared baking sheets and place in preheated oven for 7 minutes. Rotate pan and bake for 7 minutes more.
Cool slightly, remove form baking pan and decorate cookies as desired.

Apologies to any and all of my reader's for the lack of postings lately. Hopfully the Holiday demands will lessen, and I can get another posted soon.
Enjoy the Season and Contented Cookie Eating...
Big Mary

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