The children gather at the long, walnut wooden table that is soft and burnished smooth on it’s satiny surface from years of near hourly wiping of crumbs and spilled milk. The room is toasty with the heat of a wood burning stove sending out waves of golden warmth and with the gas oven in the kitchen baking tray after tray of buttery cookies to eat and to gift. This table, like the adults in the room, was present for the first taste of a green and red sugarcoated Christmas cookie. It now bears witness to cheeks that are higher and not nearly so chubby but still bright from pleasure, to fingers that are more nimble and that have lost the dimples at each knuckle and to chins that rise taller and can now see over the edge of the table.
If kitchen tables could tell stories they might tell of a family holding hands every night with large and small heads bowed and eyes closed to give thanks for their day, each other and the food in front of them. They might tell of weighty decisions made after hours of discussion over days and weeks, of drawings and paintings created amidst the chopping of vegetables and simmering of soup for dinner, of homework struggled and triumphed over or of the rolling of sugar cookie dough once a year over it’s surface and then the decorating of the table with pastel frosting while seemly decorating the cookies.
When my husband and I began our own family, we choose to celebrate our holidays in our own home, rather than travel long miles to be with family. We looked around, searching for the wise ones who would then create the traditions that our children would later remember, talk about and perhaps even write about and realized that “they” were us. We panicked a little not knowing what we could do that would be meaningful and memory-rich for our children and now, a few short years later, we realize that it’s not the “what” so much as the everyday “doing.” It’s not about an elaborate, event-filled month, but about simple joys – like baking cookies with friends, reading Christmas stories every night for bedtime stories and snuffing the dinner candle at the end of a meal with the “Santa snuffer.” We don’t have many traditions, simple is good, (and I will repeat this to myself often over the next month.) But the ones we do have fill our house with warmth and laughter just as they are meant to.
I share with you a few of our Christmas cookie recipes. The most popular in our house of course are the butter cookies, which end up more laden with pastel frosting and silver balls than there is cookie to hold it all.
Annie’s Butter Cookies
This recipe is adapted from Susan’s Branch’s Christmas From the Heart of a Home. It is extremely versatile: you can roll it, press it, twist it and decorate it and it’s delicious every single way. It is possible to actually make one kind of dough and produce 5 to 10 different cookies from it. If you plan on this, double or triple the recipe accordingly. I'll post the variations tomorrow.
2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy. Sift the flour and salt over the butter mixture and mix until well combined. Chill for 10 minutes. Make your magic with the different options below or one of your own. Place onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes without browning. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on a cooling rack or waxed paper.
Makes 6-8 dozen
Hmm… the house is starting to smell wonderful!
© 2008 Baggywrinkle Publishing