My mom’s cookies look like normal, boring, everybody’s-had-one frosted sugar cookies.
Then you take a bite.
And fall off your chair.
The Kid and I discuss them each time we’re lucky enough to get our mitts on some. We can’t figure them out. How is it that this little, regulation baked good can pack such an extraordinary punch? We joke that maybe she puts crack in them, or fairy dust.
When Kid was in college, Gramma baked a batch freshman year, and shipped them up to our little scholar in Vermont.
Those NECI people had no idea what they were in for.
There were probably four dozen cookies in the box. The Kid ate some, and then decided to share with a few lucky souls.
Nobody was very enthused to be offered boring baked goods from some random grandmother in North Carolina. My child didn’t try to talk anyone into a sample. If they didn’t want one, it was just more for The Kid.
Then one person took one. Eyes lit up, and word got around. People came out of the woodwork wanting these miraculous confections. Chef-instructors approached The Kid to ask when Gramma would send more.
Mom’s Christmas Cookies
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup sugar
½ cup butter flavored Crisco
2 tablespoons milk (whole or 2%)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sift dry ingredients into bowl. With mixer, cut in shortening until it resembles coarse meal. Blend in egg, milk, and vanilla.
Roll out to 1/8 inch, and cut into shapes.
Bake on parchment lined cookie sheet for 6-8 minutes or until golden. Remove to cooling rack.
Frost cookies when they are completely cooled. Makes about 1 ½ dozen.
1 pound box powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 scant teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup butter-flavored Crisco
1 egg white
1/4 cup of water (or less)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
For decorating: colored sugars and jimmies
Dump all ingredients, except water, into mixer. Beat ingredients at low until it starts to come together. Put the water in at this point, so you can judge just how much to use. Beat until it is creamy and fluffy. We usually dye it festive colors.
I’ve tried to gentrify the ingredients.
Don’t do it.
Something about the synthesis of these particular components are the secret of the amazing results. Don’t substitute butter, or cake flour, or speak with a French accent while making them (unless you legitimately speak with a French accent).
When icing the cookies; the more the better. A fifty/fifty ratio of frosting to cookie is just about right. Sprinkle right after frosting each one, so it sticks.
About two weeks before Christmas, Mom has a frosting party. Everyone shows up and decorates hundreds of cookies. We have lunch, and then negotiate how many cookies we can take home.
There is one rule: you break it, you eat it.
You’d think, awesome! You’d think we break as many as we can, and gorge on frosting cloaked shards.
Yeah, not so much.
Mom’s no dummy, and she can tell when a cookie is broken on purpose. And that woman has a mom-eye glare that can chill you to your very soul.
So, we usually only scarf about two per session.
When Petey and I were dating, we had a giant, bear-like, man-child of a friend named Pig. He frosted with us each year. He adored my mother, her cookies, and her spaghetti lunch. Mom loved him right back.
When he learned the broken cookie rule, he lit up like a neon sign. The first year, he broke almost every cookie he touched.
We watched this dance with sideways glances and shallow breath. It was only a matter of time before mom turned her furry eyeball on him, and he would dissolve into a puddle of contrition.
It never occurred.
Every year after that mom made a batch just for her buddy to frost, break, and eat. It was, and remains, her sole exception.
She never makes a batch like that for me.
I guess I’m not as charming as the Pig.
Thanks for your time.