I started baking Christmas cookies yesterday as I have to bring an assortment to our Czech Exchange student party Friday evening. I decided to make three kinds on Tuesday, three more on Wednesday and maybe one other on Friday to have a nice variety for the party with some left over for our freezer.
As I assembled ingredients, pulled out cookie sheets, bowls and cooling racks, I thought about a friend of mine who baked dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies with another woman every December. Mary Helen and her friend, Ellen, spent an entire day creating delectable cookies. All Mary Helen's friends knew not to bother her on that busy day. Just once, I stopped by to drop something off and I have never forgotten the fantastic aroma that greeted me as I walked in. Butter, cinnamon, vanilla and chocolate all mingled into one glorious cloud that met my nose. Every counter, every tabletop held baked cookies, ready to be put into tins. Ellen took hers home and Mary Helen stacked hers in a place that was known to her family but off-limits until she gave the OK to open the tins and eat the cookies. Had she not enforced her rule, there would have been no cookies left by Christmas week with four children and a hungry husband dipping into the stash. That annual cookie making extravaganza was a part of my friend's personality. The baking and decorating of special treats for people she loved showed the world how much she cared about others. My dear friend has been gone for many years, but I think her youngest daughter carries on the Christmas cookie tradition. Maybe not quite like her mom did, because Amy is a teacher and mother of two whose time is more limited. Still, I'm sure she spends some December Saturdays baking cookies for her family and friends.
Every family probably has a story about special cookies their mother or grandmother always made for Christmas. My mother made Crescent Cookies every December. Today, the same recipe is called Mexican Wedding Cakes, but they're made into round balls instead of the crescent shape. Filled with finely chopped nuts and dusted with layers of powdered sugar, these small cookies melted in your mouth. One of my brothers loved them so much, he asked his wife to make them for him. And I believe she still does. My daughter loves them, too. Maybe I need to make some this year for her, and I'll snatch a few myself.
Toffee Bars always showed up on my mother's Christmas cookie plate. An easy bar cookie made in two three steps, these are still a favorite of mine. The brown sugar based cookie layer is baked in a 9 x 13 pan, then a bag of chocolate chips are put on top and, after melting, are spread over the baked layer. Step three is to scatter finely chopped walnuts over the soft chocolate, then cut into bars. Every time I eat them, I am transported back to our gray formica kitchen table in our small third floor apartment where I often sat with one of these satisfying cookies and a glass of milk after school.
No doubt you all have cookie stories that you can write about. Maybe there is a favorite that is made every year, carrying on a tradition. Or maybe you have a story about a disaster in the kitchen when making Christmas cookies. Perhaps, your family made the cookies to give to those who had none. Whatever your story is, write it down and share it this Christmas with others.