The Annual Christmas Cookie Piece

This column was posted on this site three years ago.  But these Christmas cookies are so amazing I feel it my sacred holiday duty to offer the recipe each year.

If you’d like to take a look, here is the link.I highly recommend giving this recipe a go.  I’ve never met a fellow human who did not love these cookies like hairspray at a beauty pageant. 

Thanks for your time. 

 

A Christmas Miracle

Half the family thinks she puts crack in them.cookie-dustThe 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:moms-cookies1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup sugar

½ cup butter flavored Crisco

1 egg

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.

Mom’s Frostingmoms-frosting

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.frosting-faceThe 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.

Those Darn Christmas Cookies

I have a highly embarrassing holiday story to share.

A few years ago on Christmas Eve, Petey was freshly home from a long hospital stay so we didn’t make the trip to Greensboro.  The Kid went alone to visit Gramma and Grampa and would bring home presents, plates of dinner, and boxes of homemade cookies, including my mother’s very special and extremely well-loved frosted sugar cookies.

Petey was upstairs in bed, while I sat, watching the clock, waiting for The Kid to pull up with dinner.Finally, I heard my child arrive, and ran outside to help haul in the booty.

It happened when I pulled out the final load.  The lid on the box of Mom’s sugar cookies was not completely closed, and when it tilted, many of those heavily anticipated confections spilled out and landed in the gutter.I almost cried (actually, I think I did).

I almost cried (actually, I think I did).I ran in for a flash light and came back to take an illuminated look at the crime scene.

I ran in for a flashlight and came back to take an illuminated look at the crime scene.

I’d lost about a third of those brave, sugary soldiers.  So, I did what any cookie-loving, former girl scout would do in these circumstances—I rescued some of those treats from the street.

I was pretty sad, but not that cute.

 

Luckily, it had been dry so they hadn’t floated down the street, or turned into cookie soup.  The ones that hit the concrete first had shattered; they were a total loss.  A few had landed upon their cookie brethren—they were good as new, and went back into the box.

That left the middle layer.

I performed a cookie assessment.  There was some errant pine straw mixed in—I removed it.  Once I picked out the vegetation, quite a few were seemingly untouched by the plunge.  They went back to the box.The cookies that remained were imperfect, but a portion was still salvageable.  The very small fragments were abandoned.  The bigger shards were inspected using two criteria.

Did they look soiled?  The sullied sweets were likewise abandoned.  I checked out the final population of clean acceptably-sized pieces with one question in my mind.

Did they have an obscene amount of frosting?

If so, in they went.  If not, they were voted off the island.

Picture me, Gentle Reader; 10 o’clock at night, in bare feet and pajamas, feverishly grubbing about in the gutter, snatching up cookies and secreting them away.

I resembled nothing so much as JRR Tolkien’s Gollum, desperately trying to possess his “Precious”.I recently asked The Kid what thoughts were present that night, witnessing my demented performance.

This was my child’s response:

“I was thinking, here’s where we’ve ended up after this hellish year.  We can’t even have a simple cookie without disaster and disappointment.”

Were my actions extreme?  You bet.  But it’s a great example of how good those cookies are.  I would do worse than gutter diving to hold onto those things.

In the end, I didn’t lose too many holiday treats.  And when we took our dog out, he made a beeline for the cookie carnage.

For my pup, those amazing cookies became his very own Christmas miracle.Thanks for your time.

*For the cookie and frosting recipe, see the next post, “A Christmas Miracle”.

General Delivery, North Pole

Dear Santa Claus,

I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve written to you.  I think the last thing I asked you for was a Donny Osmond cassette and a Malibu Skipper doll.

Skipper and Donny-it's Sophie's choice to pick only one.

Skipper and Donny-it’s Sophie’s choice to pick only one.

I decided to send you a letter this year because you’re magic.  And to happen, most of my list needs a healthy dose of magic.

Last year when Petey was in the hospital, I would often stop at Panera Bread for dinner.

The order always consisted of the same two items; broccoli cheddar soup, and their spinach power salad.  The super-delicious salad was baby spinach, marinated mushrooms, crispy onion rings, and hard-boiled egg.  It came with a Vidalia onion dressing, and an entire large salad was only about fourteen calories (I may be exaggerating a touch here).

But for some reason, this spring, they dropped it from the menu.

Santa, please make them bring it back.  I’ve written a few emails to the company, but they haven’t worked. So I’m turning to a higher authority; you, to make this happen.

Tanya, Konrad, and the folks at Daisy Cakes (401 Foster St, Durham) make the best whoopee pies I’ve ever eaten.  The first time I tried one, it was so good, I almost cried.  But, they don’t have them very often.  So I would like for the chocolate/salted caramel version to be waiting for me every time I visit.

After hoping and wishing for many years, Durham is getting a Krispy Kreme.  Thank you very much.  In addition to this cathedral of crullers, Durham desperately needs a Sonic drive-in.  And they should put their steak sandwich back on the menu.

I would really like it if you could make clementines available year-round and take all the calories out of brie.  Put a Nana Taco much closer to my house, and give Locopops an ice cream truck that comes to my neighborhood every day fully stocked with blueberry/buttermilk pops.

Vaguely Reminiscent (728 9th St, Durham) is one of my favorite stores.  Owner Carol Anderson stocks the perfect merchandise for our funky little Bull City, including lots of distinctive, uncommon kitchen gadgets.  And the clothes, shoes, and accessories are just my style.  So, I’d like a $10,000.00 gift certificate, and a social life befitting all the fashionable raiment I will them own.

When you visit my house you’ll notice I’ve left you saltines.  I’d like to give you some of my mom’s improbably scrumptious frosted sugar cookies, but I only have a very limited amount, so can’t (won’t) share.  But I will give you the recipe, because, as they say, “If you teach an enchanted, immortal holiday figure to fish…”

Mom’s Christmas cookies

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup sugar

½ cup butter flavored Crisco

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

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.

Mom’s Frosting

1 box powdered sugar (equal to 3 ¾ cups unsifted)

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. Dye it festive colors, and very heavily frost each cookie, then sprinkle with colored sugar or jimmies.

One last thing.  I’d love to win the lottery, but Petey says I can’t win it, if I’m not in it.  The whole thing is very confusing to me, and because of that, I don’t play.

So, I’d appreciate it if you could slip a winning ticket into my stocking.

Thanks for your time, Santa,

Love Debbie.