“Think about what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock in the afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for nap.” ~ Robert Fulgham
It’s holiday cookie time. This tradition is deeply rooted in history as it originated in the Medieval period, when cooks baked sweet foods to mark special occasions. When ingredients and spices like dried fruits, black pepper, cinnamon and ginger were introduced in the Middle Ages, these items became incorporated into the baked goods and thus, the Christmas cookie was born. Many of the recipes and ingredients that comprised the holiday traditions during those times have remained unchanged today.
The traditional Christmas cookie “swap” that many people participate in originated in the 1960s when it was suggested in a Betty Crocker cookbook that women hold a cookie exchange party.
“A Party Idea: A popular once-a-year party is the Christmas cooky swap party. Friends and neighbors gather, each bringing one dozen of her holiday specialty for each woman at the party. Cookies are set out to sample and admire and coffee is served. Afterward each one takes home a wonderful variety of festive cookies.”
—Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, facsimile reprint of 1963 edition [Hungry Minds:New York] 2002 (p. 37)
Personally, I have never participated in a cookie swap and find making cookies a daunting and dreadful task. There are so many things that could go wrong, and they usually do if I am the one that is baking. You have to be mindful of so many details when baking and take great care when deviating from any ingredient or measurement. This year I made it a goal to make some of my favorite cookies to prove to myself that I was capable of baking.
Here are some recipes that I have tried and perfected. They’re pretty easy and drama free. The first recipe is for my mom’s chocolate chip cookies. Since I was a little girl, this has been my family’s favorite and traditional Christmas cookie. My mom, who also lacks a love of baking, makes these cookies every year and we devour them. When I asked her for the secret recipe, she replied, “Oh, I just follow the recipe on the back of the bag of Nestle Semisweet Morsels.” She left out one important detail: USE CRISCO INSTEAD OF REAL BUTTER FOR THESE CHOCOLATE CHIPS. If you don’t have crisco or shortening, my aunt’s advice for perfect chocolate chips is to follow the Nestle’s recipe but add an additional 1/4 cup of flour and chill the batter for at least 30 minutes before rolling and baking in the oven. Otherwise, you will end up with chocolate chips that look like this:
when you really want chocolate chips that look like this:
My Mother’s Fairytale Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of Crisco shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.)
1 cup chopped nuts
PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Fairytale Raspberry Pecan Thumbprints
(Yields around 24)
This recipe is a slightly altered version of Martha Stewart’s Iced Thumbprint Cookies, which can be found here on her website. These thumbprints are buttery, nutty and extremely rich. I love them for that!