Just like the ornaments bring back memories, so do the cookies. Every year, when I immerse myself into the activities of Christmas preparation, I suggest to myself that I do less so I can more thoroughly enjoy the season. Every year I dimly miss that memo.
I do love the season. Everything from the Reason for the Season to Santa and Frosty and 8 tiny reindeer. The tree is always big, the decorations thorough and the baked goods voluminous. One year the husband and I are going to go to Kauai for Christmas and sit on a beach on Christmas Day. When we first considered that I wondered if I would be able to set aside a traditional Christmas for a beach Christmas. I’ve had a few years to think about it and the answer is an emphatic, “Yes!” And, here’s the thing: I can make Christmas feel like Christmas anywhere. It may not be a traditional Christmas, but I’m a homey girl (that’s homey…not homely). I’ve got a good dose of Susy Homemaker and Betty Crocker in me. I could make a very simple Christmas for us in Kauai and it would be fantastic.
We really should get that on the calendar.
When I was a kid we always baked Christmas cookies. Though, now that I think about it, the only Christmas cookie I remember making were sugar cookies. I’m sure there were others. I do remember Christmas candy, though. I didn’t help with the candy, probably because hot sugar and exact measurements were involved. Fudge. Toffee. Divinity.
Isn’t divinity divine? Seems that people either love it or hate it. I love it. But, I have never. ever. ever. gotten divinity to turn out. I blame it on our very wet climate. However, others make divinity with no problem. It’s the bane of my cooking existence. Divinity.
We also made gingerbread houses every year. Yes, like real gingerbread houses. Not from a kit. Mom would make the gingerbread, melt the sugar used to put them together (I still have a scar from where she asked me to stir one year, cautioning me not to get the hot sugar on me. What did I promptly do? Blurp it on my thumb), and make the royal icing for decorating. Skittles, necco wafers, spiced gumdrops, m&ms…we put everything on those houses. Now that I appreciate how much work they are to make I am amazed that Mom did it for us every year. And understand some of the muttering that she did while making those houses.
We would start picking the candy off and eating it right around or shortly after Christmas. Nothing like a skittle with royal icing on it. Chewy candy..icing like cement. Good memories. I seem to recall Dad hitting the houses pretty hard.
And then there were the sugar cookies. A simple sugar cookie recipe, it’s the buttercream frosting that ties it altogether and makes it a hit. One of my friends told me last night that she had been looking forward to my party just for the sugar cookies.
The frosting is a simple recipe, too, picked up after Mom took a cake decorating class when I was a kid. Just shortening, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. But, somehow that combination makes a really good frosting, in my opinion.
I don’t know how many sugar cookies Mom would pump out, but it was a lot. Then she would make the frosting, divide it, color it, and set it in front of us with sprinkles. Red sugar, green sugar, colored balls. Those silver balls that are impossible to bite down on without losing a filling.
As I got older I took over much of the sugar cookie baking duties. That has continued to this day. Well, for my household. Mom has to make her own because frosted sugar cookies don’t ship well.
A few cookies have been added to the annual repertoire: cran-cherry pinwheels are an absolute must and a favorite of Mom’s. I discovered this recipe some years ago and they do ship well, so Mom received over two dozen of them a couple of days ago. There may or may not be any left by Christmas and I know she doesn’t share with the relatives. I’m not sure if she shares with Dad.
This year I made coconut macaroons. Not in the traditional sense. The dough is an almond flavored, coconut filled delight that is shaped in a ball, rolled in additional coconut and baked. This cookie came to us via my Sister-in-Law and has become a staple. When I don’t go to OR for Christmas I make myself a batch, using her recipe.
I also usually have a revolving flavor; something new I try each year. Last year I made an eggnog cookie that was really good. This year I made a peppermint cookie with a peppermint icing. In my opinion it’s not a dazzler, but I got good reviews at the party on Saturday night.
And, finally, I have two candies that have become regulars: eggnog fudge (can you say dreamy) and turtles, both of which are easy to make. That’s the key with me and candy: easy to make.
It’s a lot of work. And, interestingly enough, I don’t tend to eat a lot of what I make. Well, the sugar cookies may be an exception. It’s the tradition that compels me into the kitchen for hours over multiple days every year. And the joy of sharing the goodies.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without cookies and the memories they bring with them. Well, unless that Christmas was spent on Kauai.