Posts Tagged ‘Christmas Cookies’

Laurie Neely’s Holiday Cookies

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016
Laurie Neely in Her Kitchen (Courtesy of Laurie's husband Ray)

Laurie Neely in Her Kitchen (Courtesy of Laurie’s husband Ray)

Laurie Neely of Orange, Massachusetts, has been baking holiday cookies since the day after Thanksgiving. By Christmas Day, she will have turned out hundreds. “There will generally be in excess of a dozen kinds [of cookies] and many dozens of each,” she told me in a recent interview.

An artist, writer, and animal lover, Laurie started baking seriously in the 1960s as a stay-at-home mother. The Christmas-cookie tradition began with a family recipe from her first husband, who is still a good friend.

Laurie has added recipes from friends, relatives, newspapers, and the internet to her repertoire over the years, adapting them to her taste.

Many of these holiday treats—including her pfeffernüsse cookies and the German molded cookies called springerle—need to age in order to achieve optimal flavor and consistency. Her gingersnaps take about three weeks to mature.

Laurie carved her own springerle molds years ago and sees cookie baking as deeply creative. “I was a potter for some time,” she explained, “and for me baking and pottery are just parts of the same…. I think the idea of creating art with your hands that people then eat is perfect.”

I asked where all the cookies go. Laurie replied that she mails batches to relatives around the country. After that, the cookies go to “family and friends and neighbors and anybody who leaves their car window down.”

“And my husband Ray is, like, ‘Don’t give them all away!’” she added.

Her family celebrates the season on Christmas Eve with a festive brunch that includes many, many cookies, she said. Her adult son is Jewish so this year the feast will include latkes for Hanukkah; that holiday begins on Christmas Eve.

When we spoke Laurie was baking a new-to-her recipe, wine cookies flavored with anise. The recipe came from her friend Gail and before that from Gail’s mother Mary and grandmother Emilia.

“Mary was an outstanding cook, and I am honored to use not only many of her recipes, but her KitchenAid mixer and quite a few other kitchen items as well,” said Laurie.

“This recipe is one I photographed from a well used card after Mary passed and we were sorting out and sharing her recipe file among family members.”

The photograph of the recipe resides in a special plastic bag Laurie treasures. Each year after Thanksgiving she reaches into the bag for the tattered, food-stained recipes that constitute her evolving Christmas-cookie tradition.

“I really do need to sit down—not at this time of year—and put [the recipes] in a database so when these scraps of paper finally die I have them,” she confessed. “But….”

Her advice to novice bakers is to buy quality ingredients; to use good pans (she relies on silicone mats for her cookie baking and favors insulated cookie sheets); and above all to relax, have fun, and be flexible with recipes.

“You need to stay with the basics. Your ratios of flour, shortening, and liquid are going to be crucial. But then you sort of play. The creativity makes for some pretty good cookies,” she suggested.

Laurie Neely loves the Christmas season and doesn’t plan to stop baking anytime soon.

“Advent has many associations for people,” she mused. “In some homes there are calendars with little paper doors to open heralding the coming Christmas, and in our churches there are wreaths to mark the Sundays as they pass. But in my house Advent has a scent: it smells like cookies.”

Here are two cookie recipes from Laurie’s kitchen. I don’t have anise seeds in the house (and I’d have to order them specially) so I’m holding off on the wine cookies until next Christmas. The gingersnaps are aging in a tin as I write, however.

I got a late start on my baking so they won’t be ready to eat in time for Christmas—but a cookie might taste pretty good in the new year!

Happy/merry to all….

sbuse

Mama’s Cookies with White Wine

Laurie Neely decided, “I may add a drop of anise oil or extract in the next batch [of these cookies]….They are light, mildly anise flavored, sweet, and just a little biscuity, leading me to think they will age well.

“So many of the Italian cookies improve when they age and harden and become great coffee accompaniments.”

Ingredients:

3/4 cup sugar
1 heaping tablespoon shortening (Laurie used Earth Balance brand)
1 teaspoon anise seeds
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup semi-sweet white wine (Laurie used a Riesling)
3-1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
equal portions of cinnamon and sugar as needed, combined

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl combine the sugar and the shortening. Stir in the anise seeds, the oil, and the wine. In a separate bowl combine the flour, the baking powder, and the salt. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture a little at a time until the combination achieves the consistency of not-too-firm pie-crust dough.

Shape the cookies by forming heaping tablespoons of the dough into logs in the palm of your (mostly closed) hand. Dip the tops of the cookies in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar, and place the logs on greased cookie sheets.

Bake the cookies until they are a deep golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Makes about 3-1/2 dozen cookies.

Laurie took this photo of some wine cookies cooling.

Laurie took this photo of some wine cookies cooling.

Laurie Neely’s Gingersnaps

Laurie has adapted this recipe over the years, adding more and more ginger to achieve just the right flavor.

Ingredients:

2-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 heaping tablespoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon white pepper (generous)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup molasses

Instructions:

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. In a large saucepan, melt the butter in the molasses. Bring this mixture to a boil; then let it cool. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Chill the resulting dough for a couple of hours; then preheat the oven to 375 degrees and roll the dough out on a floured board until it is 1/8-inch thick. Cut out shapes with a floured biscuit cutter or floured seasonal cookie cutters.

Bake the cookies for 8 minutes. The yield depends on the shapes you use to cut them out; Laurie Neely usually gets 3 to 4 dozen cookies from this recipe. Store the cookies in a tin for at least three weeks before serving them.

Gingersnaps at our house, waiting to mature. Can you tell that I'm not the world's greatest cookie cutter?

Gingersnaps at our house, waiting to mature. Can you tell that I’m not the world’s greatest cookie cutter?

The Twelfth Cookie of Christmas

Friday, December 24th, 2010

 
I’m sorry to say that the cookies I’m sharing with you (metaphorically, at any rate) today are not my finest work.
 
There’s nothing wrong with the recipe, I assure you. But some cookie batches—and days—don’t turn out QUITE the way we hope they will.
 
Yesterday was my birthday. We weren’t planning a family celebration until tonight due to the Washington Capitals’ nefarious habit of scheduling hockey games on my birthday every year. 
 
My brother, sister-in-law, and nephew love me, but they are die-hard Caps fans, and I don’t want to ask them to choose between hockey and me. I don’t think I’d be happy with their choice.
 
I had only two simple goals for the day. I wanted to buy some peppermint-stick ice cream, my annual birthday treat. And I wanted to post my last cookie recipe for this year.
 
The day started out nicely with phone calls, emails, and Facebook messages wishing me a happy birthday. At about 10:30 in the morning it went downhill.
 
It wasn’t an awful day by any means.
 
I wasn’t hit by a truck.
 
I didn’t start a fire in the new apartment–unless you count the little melt down on one of the stove burners. (I really HATE electric stoves.)
 
My near and dear remained reasonably hale and hearty.
 
I did spend an awful lot of the day cleaning up after a slightly sick mother, however. I won’t go into details, but the clean up involved back-to-back laundry that lasted well into the night and a lot of on-my-knees scrubbing.
 
When she wasn’t being sick, the mother was longing to go for long walks in the open air—until she actually felt the wind blowing on her face.
 
I popped her into the car to search for the ice cream. She enjoyed the ride, but the frozen treat didn’t materialize. We found egg-nog ice cream and gingerbread ice cream. For some reason, peppermint stick was impossible to come by.
 
Luckily, my brother showed up in the middle of the afternoon to visit with the mother so I could work on the cookies.
 
Nevertheless, the baking process got a bit muddled. First I put too much milk in the dough (the recipe below gives the correct, not the Tinky, amount of milk).
 
Then I sprinkled sugar everywhere and spilled dough on the kitchen floor.
 
I couldn’t find my cutting board so I tried rolling the cookies out on a plate. They were a bit misshapen.
 
Finally, I tried to answer the phone while measuring vanilla and ended up with very pungent icing.
 
After all this I just plain didn’t have the energy to color and pipe the icing. I simply slathered icing onto the cookies, took advantage of the wonderful holiday sprinkles Wilton recently sent to me (really, I think sprinkles could save the world), and threw the things onto a plate.
 
As you can see from the photo above, I let the setting sun do its thing and dapple the cookies; I figured the light was nature’s decoration. And who am I to mess with nature?
 
Luckily, the cookies still tasted amazingly good—and brightened the day considerably. My mother also brightened up after a dose of sugar and sprinkles. She tried to feed one to the dog, but I explained that Truffle wouldn’t be able to fit into her Santa suit if she ate cookies.
 
My birthday wasn’t a perfect day, but it ended with laughter and good flavors. And I consoled myself with the thought that I will get a redo next year when I turn 39 yet again.
 
Merry Christmas to all. And remember, a loving family, sprinkles, and a cute dog can get you through just about any minor disaster.
 
Marge’s Star Sugar Cookies
 
This cookie recipe was given to me years ago by my friend and fellow thespian Marge Matthews. It’s simple and tasty. What more does one need in a Christmas cookie?
 
Ingredients:
 
3/4 cup butter (1-1/2 sticks)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
4 teaspoons milk
2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
 
Instructions:
 
Cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add the egg and milk, and beat until light and fluffy. Blend the dry ingredients and stir them into the creamed mixture.
 

Divide the dough into manageable pieces (2 or 3; it depends on how comfortable you are rolling out dough). Cover the dough, and chill it for at least one hour.
 
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut into shapes and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes (if you roll them out clumsily you may have to wait 10 minutes), or until the cookies begin to turn golden around the edges. 

Decorate with icing and/or sprinkles. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.


If you enjoyed this post, please consider taking out an email subscription to my blog. Just click on the link below!

Subscribe to In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens by Email.

Sue’s Swedish Brown Cookies

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010
Sue Haas in the Kitchen

Sue Haas in the Kitchen

 
Here is the fourth installment in my Twelve Cookies of Christmas series. These brown cookies (they derive their color from caramelization of the sugar) will banish your March blahs.
 
The recipe comes from Sue Haas in Seattle, Washington, a regular reader of this blog and the dear sister of my dear minister, Cara Hochhalter. Sue writes children’s books when she isn’t working on art sales and appraisals. She says the recipe originated with her friend Marilynn Pray.
 
Sue and her daughter Alysa are busy planting a garden together. (I AM SO JEALOUS! We still have snow in the northeast!) Alysa writes about gardening and cooking on her own blog, Grass-Fed Goat.
 
The photos on this post come courtesy of Sue and Alysa, although I did test the recipe. (I felt it was my sacred duty.) The cookies taste of butter and honey: what could be better? Next time I may try them with maple syrup instead of the honey. After all, March is Maple Month!
 
Sue uses C&H Baker’s Sugar for the “fine baking sugar” (a.k.a. superfine sugar) called for in the recipe. I was in a hurry and didn’t have time to go to the store for superfine sugar so I put regular sugar in my blender and pulsed. It needed a little sorting through (the pulsing left a few clumps), but after the sorting it was an acceptable substitute.
 
Enjoy the cookies. I hope you’re thinking about your own garden….
 
Cookies_tableweb
 
The Cookies
 
Ingredients:
 
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
1/2 cup fine baking sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup flour
3 teaspoons honey (plus a small amount more if needed)
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Cream together the butter and sugar; then beat in the baking soda. (Sue actually whisks the soda into the flour, but I added it by itself.) Add the flour and continue to mix lightly until combined.
 
Drizzle the honey into the flour and sugar/butter mixture and stir. The dough will stick together a bit better with the honey added. You may need to add a little more honey to make the dough hold together. Form the dough into a large “softball” shape with your hands. Divide it into two pieces.
 
Roll and pat one of the pieces of dough onto the parchment on one long side of the pan into a long, flattened 12-inch “snake,” smushing the dough with your fingers so that it forms an even flat piece, about 2 to 3 inches wide and about 12 inches long.
 
Do the same with the second piece of dough placed several inches apart on the same sheet from the first piece. You will have two long, flat shapes of dough on one cookie sheet.
 
2 Flattened snakesweb
 
Bake the snakes until the dough is golden brown. (Sue estimated this at 15 to 20 minutes; it took a little longer in my oven.)
 
Check the dough after about 12 minutes. Take the cookies out earlier, or when they are only light brown, if you want a softer cookie. (I liked them crisp.)
 
Remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Let it cool for only 2 to 3 minutes. While the dough is still warm cut a long line down the center of each snake-shaped piece. Then cut each “snake” diagonally at about one-inch intervals to make 3-inch long cookie strips.
 
diagweb
 
If you’d rather make really long diagonal strips (about 5- to 6-inch-long cookie strips), omit making the vertical cut down the center of each snake. That would reduce the total number of finished cookies by half. OR cut each 3-inch cookie strip in half to make tiny 1-1/2-inch-long bite-size pieces to feed a big crowd.
 
“Light, buttery, and delicious,” says Sue of her cookies.  Makes 20 to 40 cookies, depending on how you cut them.
Alysa and Sue

Alysa and Sue

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, please consider taking out an email subscription to my blog. Just click on the link below!

Subscribe to In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens by Email.

Jody’s Homely Oatmeal Cookies

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Jody's cookiesweb

 
Last month I announced the beginning of my monthly “Twelve Cookies of Christmas” series and asked for cookie submissions from readers.
 
Jody Cothey of Hawley, Massachusetts (my hometown!), sent in this month’s “Two Turtle Doves” recipe, which she calls Havrekaker (I have also seen it spelled “Havrekakor.”)
 
The recipe is Norwegian. Jody first found it in a small book from the 1940s called A Grandmother for Christmas. She has been making the cookies since she was about 13.
 
Jody describes these oatmeal clumps as “homely but yummy.” They are indeed yummy, and they’re homely in both senses of the world: they’re a little plain, and they speak of home.
 
Jody’s home is Tregellys Fiber Farm. It’s on the other side of town from the Casa Tinky and looks as though it’s in a different country.
 
The hills outside my door are small and cozy; the ones outside Jody and her husband Ed’s home are dramatic—more like the Andes or the Himalayas than our humble Berkshires.
 
The Cotheys raise exotic (mostly) fiber-producing animals and have an abiding interest in India, Nepal, and Tibet. Ed weaves lovely rugs and blankets from the fleece. The pair sell his handiwork as well as fair-trade international handicrafts in a shop called Tregellys World in nearby Shelburne Falls.
 
When Jody isn’t taking care of yaks, Icelandic sheep, or Bactrian camels she writes poetry under her maiden name, Pamela Stewart. Her new book of poems, Ghost Farm, is due out later this year from Pleasure Boat Studio.
 
I don’t know how she finds time to bake, but I’m glad she does. It helps that these cookies are very, very easy. They hold together beautifully.
 
Jody says, “This is a fairly stiff mixture so have a strong wooden spoon and an adequate bowl, especially if doubling the recipe.” Ed, who is a big fan of the cookies, adds that they freeze well. (We didn’t have any left over to freeze!)
A Bactrian Camel (Courtesy of Tregellys Fiber Farm)

A Bactrian Camel on a Hawley Hill (Courtesy of Tregellys Fiber Farm)

  
Havrekaker
 
Ingredients:
 
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 pinch salt
2 cups raw oatmeal
2 cups flour
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg, followed by the vanilla, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the oatmeal and flour; combine thoroughly.
 
Drop or scoop cookies of the desired size onto greased cookie sheets. Ideally, you will have about 2 dozen cookies, but if you want them bigger or smaller, go right ahead.
 
Just remember that bigger cookies will take a little longer to bake, and smaller ones may take a little less time. Jody says, “Mine are small…. usually cookie size is personal, like bra size.”
 
Bake the cookies until they are firm and begin to get brown around the edges, about 15 minutes. Makes about 24 cookies.
 
oatmealweb

If you enjoyed this post, please consider taking out an email subscription to my blog. Just click on the link below!

Subscribe to In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens by Email.

Introducing: The Twelve Cookies of Christmas

Friday, December 18th, 2009
I'm getting ready to fill my cookie tin!

I'm getting ready to fill my cookie tin!

 
Welcome to a new monthly feature of In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens.
 
Nothing says “Christmas” like a plate of cookies, preferably accompanied by a glass of crisp cold milk or a mug of steaming hot cocoa.
 
After all, we wouldn’t give Santa anything less than our best.
 
A few days ago I came up with the idea of doing a series called “The Twelve Cookies of Christmas.”
 
Unfortunately, I don’t have the energy or the waistline necessary to make (and perhaps consume) twelve different kinds of cookies between now and December 25, 2009.
 
So I’m aiming for Christmas 2010.
 
Once a month from now until next December I plan to post a Christmas cookie recipe. When December rolls along the twelve cookies will all be in place. (You’ll have to supply the milk and cocoa yourselves.)
 
I hope readers and friends will submit their favorite cookies as the months roll by.
 
My “Partridge in a Pear Tree” cookie comes from Marcia Powell of Norwalk, Connecticut.
 
Marcia’s cranberry lemon cookies are unusual because their base is a cake mix. She writes that she and her grandchildren Allison and Cooper adapted the recipe from one in The Cake Mix Bible.
 
The cookies’ yellow-and-red color is striking. Their flavor is sophisticated enough for adults but sweet enough for kids. My nephew Michael and his friend Carson loved them.
 
I have a feeling I’m going to try them with orange cake mix and peel next………. Yum!
 
 
cranlemcookiesweb
  
Marcia Powell’s Cranberry Lemon Cookies
 
Ingredients:
 
1 package lemon cake mix (According to Marcia, The Cake Mix Bible calls for for Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Lemon Cake Mix. She has also used a Shop Rite mix)
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, melted (Marcia uses vegetable oil, but I used butter for flavor)
2 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1-1/2 cups (half of a 12-ounce bag) cranberries
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with silicone or parchment. (Marcia actually uses an ungreased cookie sheet, but my cookie sheets are old, and I tend to be paranoid about sticking.)
 
In a large bowl combine the cake mix and melted butter. Stir in the eggs, followed by the lemon peel and the cranberries.
 
Drop the cookies by rounded teaspoons onto the baking sheets. You may also make them larger—up to a tablespoon. Mine were about 2 teaspoons.
 
Bake for 9 to 12 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies turn light golden brown.
 
Cool the cookies for 1 minute on their baking sheets; then remove them to wire racks to cool completely.
 
Makes 20 to 48 cookies, depending on how large yours are.
 
 
Carson was happy to help test the cookies.

Carson was happy to help test the cookies.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider taking out an email subscription to my blog. Just click on the link below!

Subscribe to In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens by Email.