My Mama was a Christmas cookie-making machine! That woman would start baking the day after Thanksgiving, and didn't stop until Christmas Eve. Of course, Daddy and I benefited from her prodigious cookery, but mostly, she gave them away. All year, she would save and collect fruitcake tins to package them in. Anybody from Texas will know of the Collins Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, the home of the World-Famous Corsicana fruitcake. We always got at least 3 of them every year, and though nobody ever ate the nasty fruitcake, Mama loved the tins they came in...
I still have a few of them. They'd probably fetch about $10 each on EBay.
Anyway, Mama baked and froze and baked and froze and baked. On Christmas Eve, Daddy and my job was to drive all over town delivering these tins of cookies. I always loved it, because everywhere we went, the folks we were delivering to would invite me in for a little eggnog or Coca-Cola and a few cookies of their making.
But Mama's Christmas cookies were unlike those of any of our friends. Because Mama was raised in South Dakota by a gaggle of Norweigian women who were amazing bakers of Scandinavian delicacies. Mmmm. Fattigman, Berliner Kransers, Sandbakkelse, Krumkaker, Rosettes and my most favorite of all, Lilli Kake. Just thinking about them makes me weak in the knees. Mama would go through pounds and pounds of butter and flour and sugar. The kitchen would be a disaster for a month. It was heaven.
I would love to be able to say that I have kept up the lovely cookie tradition set by Mama and the Hansen sisters, but alas, I have not. I do bake Christmas cookies every year, but it's usually just a couple or three kinds that I like to give out to neighbors and the postman, folks like that. One thing that I make every few years is the rosettes, which are basically a sweet batter, flavored with a little cardamom, deep-fried using a special rosette iron, and dusted with powdered sugar. Very impressive. I'd give you the recipe, but it's not going to do you any good unless you just happen to have a rosette iron lying around.
But here are a few of my favorites. You should try them!
Aunt Eda's Lilli Kake
Aunt Eda Krueger's recipe tended to be a little cryptic, so I have clarified it a bit.
5 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup unblanched almonds, chopped fine
2 cups butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 tsp. vanilla
egg whites, beaten
colored sugar for decorating
Mix together flour, baking powder and almonds. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla.
Add dry ingredients to butter mixture. Form dough into small balls. Dip each ball first into beaten egg whites, then into red or green colored sugar. Place on cookie sheets, colored sugar side up, and flatten each ball with a fork (don't flatten too much, they should be about 1/4 inch thick) in a criss-cross pattern. Bake in 350 degree oven. Best if they are firm, bu not really browned.
NOTE: This makes a ton of cookies! You will be glad it did.
Mama's Pecan Tassies
This was one of Mama's favorites ( she LOVED her pecans). They're like mini-pecan pies, but the cream cheese crust makes them extra special.
1 (3-oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup flour
Blend together cream cheese and butter, then mix in the flour. Chill dough for about 1 hour. Shap into 1-inch balls. Place in ungreased mini-muffin tins. Press dough into cups.
Pecan Filling -
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. butter, softened
1 tbsp. vanilla
2/3 cup chopped pecans
Beat together first 5 ingredients. Add the pecans. Pour into the little cups. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes.
Chicago Crunchy Cookies
I discovered these many years ago. They are brilliant cookies because they manage to combine everything anybody could possibly want in a cookie - they're both chew AND crunchy, have chocolate chips and even oatmeal so they lower your cholesterol!
3 1/2 cups flour
3 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup oil
1 cup oatmeal (not instant)
1 cup Rice Krispies
1 pkg. (12 oz.) chocolate chips
1 cup nuts (optional)
Mix dry ingredients and set aside. Beat the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, egg, milk and vanilla until creamy. Stir in the flour, alternating with the oil until smooth. Stir in Rice Krispies, chocolate chips, oatmeal and nuts until thick. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto foil-lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
NOTE: This also makes about a bazillion cookies. But don't worry, they won't be around for long.
Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
This is a straight-from-Martha-Stewart recipe that I discovered a couple of years ago. It is so staggeringly good that you won't believe it. Big chunks of the good chocolate! Fresh ginger! It doesn't get any better than this.
7 oz. best-quality semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp. flour
1 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Chop chocolate into 1/4 inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cocoa. In large bowl, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 tsp. boiling water. Beat half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Beat in the baking soda mixture, then the remaining half of the flour mixture. Mix in chocolate and turn the dough out on a piece of plastic wrap. Pat the dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough into 2-inch balls; place 2 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll dough balls in granulated sugar and return to baking sheets. Bake until surfaces crack slightly, about 18 minutes.
NOTE: This only makes a piddly 2 dozen. Which will make you sad. Or happy if you're trying to watch your weight.
Okay, I'm pretty hungry now. I'd better get to baking. Maybe I'll go fire up the rosette iron!
Don't forget to check out the other participants in our Cookie Exchange! Good recipes there!
Next week on The Spin Cycle...
Letter to Santa
Have you written your letter to Santa yet? No?! Well you'd better get on it. It's only 25 days until Christmas!!
What's on your Christmas list? Are you dying for some new clothes? New jewelry? Or maybe you're the practical type and want a new appliance or something for the house? Or maybe you're more of a "Peace on Earth" kind of person?
Have you been naughty or nice? Either way, you might as well ask the big man.
Write it up, post it, let me know, I'll link it here!
Share your spin!
Highlight the code.
Copy to your HTML.
Et voila! Linked!