Half the family thinks she puts crack in them.The other half, a wide-eyed, innocent, ‘Happily ever after’ bunch if there ever was one, thinks it’s probably fairy dust.
I’m talking about my mother’s Christmas cookies. They’re a simple sugar cookie, generously slathered with the frosting she learned to make when she took a cake decorating class in Puerto Rico, back in the 1970’s.
Each year she makes 8-10 dozen. Then one day, a week or so before Christmas, she invites/conscripts a confectionary army to frost them. After icing, each cookie is sprinkled with holiday-hued sugar, or jimmies, or nonpareils from her vast collection. As each cookie is festively decked out it’s laid on the dining room table for the frosting to set.But the thing is; these are stealth cookies.
On the surface, they are the same boring sugar cookie everybody on the planet has eaten.
But take just one bite, and you get it. Forget Helen, this cookie is so good it could launch ten thousand ships. Both flavor and texture are perfectly balanced. They are insanely delicious.
One of my favorite things is to watch a neophyte take their very first bite. I’ll explain how awesome they are, and the newbie will smile politely, all the while thinking I need to get out more and taste a cookie or two.Then, they sink their teeth in and taste it. Their eyes get real big and their faces light up. “Oh my Gosh! I get it. What’s in these things? They’re the best cookie I’ve ever eaten. What the heck?”
Mom’s Christmas Cookies
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Ingredients: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.
A few notes about the recipes:
You might want to fanci-fy the ingredients or procedure. Don’t do it! The recipe is some kind of alchemy that only works if made as written. I’ve tried, and was rewarded with mediocre cookies and regret. If you have to change things, just make a different cookie.The frosting is really good, and works on anything that needs frosting, and stuff that doesn’t. My dad and I have been known to eat a bowl of it, on nothing more than a spoon.
And about the disagreement of what she puts in the cookies?
I’m pretty sure it’s not crack because mom herself is firmly in the wide-eyed camp. She’s so sheltered she thinks crack is the thing you see when the plumber bends over too far.
So, it must be fairy dust.Thanks for your time.