Posted by wendiwendy
When I was a kid, I was fascinated by Christmas and how it was celebrated in other countries. I used to check out library books on the subject. It was hard to imagine following some of the traditions I read about – I distinctly remember being amazed that some people didn’t put up a Christmas tree until Christmas Eve, and then Santa was the one who decorated it. (Looking back as an adult, I can only imagine how tiring that must be for the parents. There it is, 11 pm or whenever they managed to get the kids soundly to sleep, and now they have to quietly drag out boxes of ornaments and decorate the tree without being caught … not to mention actually setting out the Santa gifts and filling stockings.)
Obviously we weren’t going to be changing our family traditions just because I thought it was cool how people in Denmark celebrated Christmas or whatever, but one thing I could do was bake some of the traditional cookies made in various countries. I remember dog-earing pages of a book called Christmas Cookies of the World (or something similar), just certain that I was going to make ALL of these cookies and try them out.
My eyes were bigger than my ambition, and I only actually tried a few of the recipes. Still, though, it was fun to read about and dream. As an adult, I still have a bit of a problem where Christmas cookies are concerned. Now it’s not so much about trying Christmas cookies from around the world as it is about trying Christmas cookies that just look so gorgeous and sound so delicious.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I tend to go overboard when I plan my baking days. When I was in my early 20s, I failed to take into consideration which recipes were the type that needed to be made and then refrigerated for hours before I could bake them. I’d get the dough made up and then get to the line that said ‘refrigerate for three hours or more’ and just sigh. Now what?!
Other times I’d be more organized; I’d make the ‘refrigerate for freaking ever’ cookie dough first, and while it was chilling I’d move on to something I could bake right away. But I’d plan to make a whole list of cookies in one day, an endeavor that would take me hours and leave me with a sore back and aching feet.
I also learned that I have no patience for cookies that have to be rolled out and decorated. Those were the types that they always pushed on young mothers as a great way to involve your children in cookie baking. Neither of my kids had any interest in this, even though they both liked to cook and Paige, especially, was into crafts. By the time we made the dough and rolled it out and started using the cookie cutters, they were getting bored. They’d wander off while the cookies were baking; usually I could coax them back to decorate a few once they cooled off, but I always felt like I was forcing the kids to join me in an activity they really didn’t care about. Decorated sugar cookies got taken off the list after a couple years of listless participation.
Really it was like this for any kind of cookie. “Want to make cookies?” I’d ask. They would shout, “Yes!” and by the time we were scooping out the dough, they’d be leaning on their elbows, sighing, looking around the room. “If you want to stop, you can,” I’d say, then watch them happily skip off to read or build Legos or whatever while I scooped and baked.
So here I am, 50 years old, and I’d like to think I’ve reached the ‘wiser’ part of ‘older and wiser.’ Okay, yes, I do have at least ten types of cookies I’d like to make this year – I have my tried and true recipes, like chocolate chips and Russian Tea Balls (also known as Snowballs, Mexican Wedding Cookies, etc. etc. – basically they should be called Round White Balls of Buttery Deliciousness Covered in Powdered Sugar). I have a couple of new recipes, because I always like to try a few new ones each year. (Congo Bars, how have I not made you before now?!) And I usually try to make at least one traditional Italian cookie – sometimes it’s pizzelles, sometimes biscotti; this year it’s frosted anise cookies. But I don’t try to make them all in one day. Now I spread the cookie-making joy over a few days, sometimes a week.
I’ll leave you with a recipe that has just three ingredients – butter, brown sugar, flour – and tastes absolutely amazing. This is one of my new recipes for this year because I’d never made shortbread before and wanted to see how they would turn out. Mine looked nothing like the photo accompanying the recipe; they would fit better in a ‘Pinterest Fail’ meme. But how they look doesn’t matter. They are simply amazing – buttery, not too sweet, and very addictive: Scottish Shortbread