Christmas Wrap-Up

Well, Christmas is pretty much a wrap (HA!). Here are some remaining odds and ends about the holiday.

Since our first Christmas at our current house, I look forward to one card above all others. Unfortunately it’s not addressed to us, but whatever. Each year, this lovely family of strangers takes a photo for their Christmas card that includes their absolutely adorable Bernese Mountain Dog, which is my favorite breed. I was thinking about scanning the card and photoshopping out the people so you could see how adorable this dog is, but it seems too risky. I don’t want these people to figure out that their friends (well, whatever you call people who are close enough to be on your Christmas card list but not close enough for you to realize they’ve moved even after five years) don’t live at our address anymore, because I love seeing their dog every year!

I made five kinds of cookies this year (plus the buckeyes). Each year I try to make something new and each year I try (and fail) to make soft and chewy gingersnaps (I realize that I shouldn’t insist on calling them snaps if I want them chewy, but that’s my way).

This year, I ended up making three of the five from Carole Walter’s Great Cookies. This year’s new cookie was chocolate chocolate chip. I thought my nephew in college would like them, so I made a double batch and sent half to him for his finals, and froze our half so they’d last until Christmas. They were OK, but they were more of a pain than drop cookies should be and they were not as good as my usual chocolate Christmas cookie (chocolate cracked cookies from a small paperback Crisco cookie cookbook I’ve had since high school). Carole Walter says to chill the dough for an hour, but before I could even transfer the dough into a smaller bowl for the fridge, it had stiffened up like a…well, never mind. Scooping the dough out to drop the cookies onto the sheets turned out to be more like hacking at it with a pick axe. Thumbs down on these…never again.

Her pecan tassie recipe is excellent though. This is the second year I made these, and I love them. And I think I finally have a gingersnap winner. Her molasses spice cookie stayed soft and chewy (although I replaced all of the white sugar she called for with brown, not sure what they would’ve been like as specified in the recipe). My sister-in-law loved them and asked for the recipe so I guess that one’s a keeper too.

One other thing I’ll say about the Carole Walter cookbook is that she’s either smoking crack or my oven runs cold. She insists that her recipes are tested for lighter bakeware and that if you use darker, non-stick bakeware you need to reduce oven temperature and baking times. However, I found that her temperatures and times were about what were necessary for the batches I baked on my darker non-stick and not nearly enough for my lighter bakeware. I had to leave all of my cookies in for several more minutes on my light bakeware and the tassies I did in my lighter mini muffin tins never browned, even after an additional 10 minutes. 

Rounding out this year’s cookie selections are two rolled and cut out cookies. I’ve been making raspberry linzer rounds (also from the Crisco book, although I always use butter) for at least 18 years, maybe longer. I took a break from making them for a couple of years, because the dough is kind of hard to work with, and the fact that they are sandwiched together means the yield from your hard work gets cut in half. But the raspberry jam thumbprints I made instead just weren’t as good. Having a marble table top to roll out the ridiculously soft and sticky (even after chilling overnight) dough and getting specialized linzer cookie cutters has made these cookies a lot easier. Much better than the year my tiny apartment kitchen got all hot from baking and the cut cookies kept completely losing their shape between the counter and the cookie sheet and I threw the cookie cutter at Dave in a huff and told him to make them (yes, somehow it was his fault). I am nothing if not mature.

The last cookie was my second, and maybe final, attempt at my sister-in-law’s (of buckeye recipe and molasses spice cookie-liking fame) almond butter cutouts. I usually don’t like iced or frosted cutouts, but hers were so good I asked for the recipe a few years ago. Her frosting was so sweet and fluffy, almost like buttercream, but following her recipe the following year yielded a thin icing rather than a spreadable frosting. I think she’s been making them so long she doesn’t use a recipe anymore, like my Gram, who could never tell you how she made something, she just knew how to do it (and now no one else does!). This year, I did some frosting research and ended up with something a lot closer to what I wanted. But my cookies still weren’t as good as what I remembered. I was hoping to do a side-by-side tasting at the in-laws’ get together, but hers were gone by the time we arrived. I think I give up. If I cull any cookies from my list next year, I think these will get the axe. Next year I’ll just have to make sure I get some at the in-laws’. 

I had planned on taking pictures of the cookie-baking as it happened, but I was lucky to get the baking done at all this year. I took these pictures once we got to my Mom’s. Her kitchen lighting is rough and I had a hard time trying to find a decent wall to bounce my flash off of and an even harder time not getting my own shadow into the picture. I ended up standing on a chair to get some of the photos and I could’ve fallen and cracked my head open, so there’s blog commitment for you. 

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