This time of year is about a bunch of things--lights, love, charity, goodwill--but let's get real here, it is also about the food. No seasonal celebration would be complete without its arsenal of tasty treats and at our house, that means cookie jars and tins full of cookies!
In the home I grew up in, Christmas cookies meant dry sugar cookies with or without frosting, cut out in festive holiday shapes. Period. We might go to parties or potlucks where there were trays of choices and that is where my youngster self started to realize there was a great big world of colors, tastes and textures out there and they all came off someone's cookie sheet.
As an adult, I've built and developed my own pantry of favorites--greatly influenced by kids, friends and loved ones--and this is the time of year, the oven is working overtime producing everyone's favorites. I generally bake a few batches of 3 or 4 different kinds each weekend throughout the season to keep the cookie crocks filled.
Some appear every year: thumbprint cookies, Russian teacakes, chocolate crinkles, gingerbread cookies, peanut butter cookies, and some sort of molasses cookie. Others have been trendy or made by the request of a household member: chocolate chip, peanut butter chocolate chip, and various bar cookies (bar cookies don't fit so well in a cookie jar so I generally avoid them, but if a request is made, heck ya!) So much butter, chocolate and brown sugar...
I still generally do some sort of a cut-out cookie--sometimes a buttery sugar cookie and other times, I use this vintage recipe for cut-out cookies made with honey (I like the honey recipe better.) I confess, this was a much more pleasant process when all the kids were home and they could help with all the cutting and frosting--it can be a big job for one person!
Lately, Teri and I have been on a quest for a cookie press. She has fond memories of her mother's butter or "spritz" cookies and those are part of her memories of Christmas past. Now days, most of the cookie presses are made of plastic parts and we are searching for one that it is not. And one that is not super expensive! We found one at Hardwick's, but it was in the too expensive category, so the quest continues. We are about to start searching thrift stores to see if we can't find a trusty old simple one! Until then, those little buttery shapes are missing from our cookie tray.
I don't know how cookies became a key player in the Christmas tradition. I reckon I'll credit the Germans--my memories of visiting Germany are dusted in the sugar and spices of some of the most amazing bakeries (die bäckerie or Konditori) I've ever experienced. Windows and windows piled full of yum! My limited German being just enough to get me into trouble in those very bakeries.
Before I indulge my tendency to wander off topic into all the bakeries I've visited around the globe, back to our own kitchen--where I think I'm due to bake up another batch of Christmas cookies!