Tag Archives: Christmas cookies

Dashing Through The Snow

It’s December 31st and I’m pretty sure I won’t be awake when 2017 rolls in.

Which is just fine.

Vintage noisemakers from Caldwell's Miscellaneous Fancy Goods

My strategy this holiday season had been to do as much ahead of time as I could manage, though this strategy backfired somewhat. I was trying to address the Christmas shopping preemptively – finding the perfect thing, then hiding it away. One of the problems with this strategy was that when I started pulling out my various stashes of goodies I found I’d gone rather overboard. I guess I should have kept a list. Plus there were a few things I just know I safely put away but have yet to be found. Apparently my efforts to be organized meant that I had turned into the human equivalent of a squirrel.

Then there were the cookies. It felt like I’d gotten a nice jump-start on making Christmas cookies and baked plenty to last through the holidays. The thing is when you bake lots, and lots, and lots of cookies the question you should be asking yourself is,

“Are there ever enough Christmas cookies?”

Because the answer is no. You may see box upon box of buttery, sugary holiday cheer and think there is a glut, but trust me there isn’t. Nineteen-year-olds, the friends you want to give “a little something” to, the cookie tithe you pay to your sister for borrowing her Kitchen Aide mixer yet another year, and to be perfectly honest your own sassy self – all those factors add up fast. The perceived hoards of cookies disappear quicker than you can say Jack Brownie.

So enough with doing things ahead of time! It’s New Year’s eve and I’m going to live in the moment (or at least try to). Which means I’ll only think about what can get done today. Snow shoveling, a quick trip to the post office and transfer station, then baking up Rick’s Turkey Meatloaf.

Turkey meatloaf dinner

Continue reading


Filed under 50 Recipes

Backgammon and the Twelve Days of Christmas

This year one of my Christmas presents came with a warning written on the tag –

“Please insert ear plugs now!!!”

Immediately my son, daughter, and husband stuck their fingers in their ears as I opened the package. And yes, as anticipated by the man I’ve been married to for nearly twenty-two years, I let out a very loud, very high-pitched SQUEEEEEEEE of joy. He’d gotten me a little red squirrel by Elizabeth Radysh, a local artisan who repurposes old sweaters into small Waldorf style animals and dolls. I have been collecting her bunnies, kittens, and chicks for several years now and Shawn had found the tiny squirrel at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival last fall. He was positive I had seen him buy it, but I hadn’t. I’d been too busy watching the flying feet of the Irish dancers, standing not-too-close to the raw egg toss, and marvelling at the winner of the raw garlic eating contest who chomped down 19 cloves of garlic in less than ten minutes, all while wandering around nibbling various garlic-flavored foods. Clearly I was in too much of a garlic haze to notice Shawn doing any secret Christmas shopping. What struck me was how well he knew what I’d love – even down to how I would react when I opened it up. Decades of living together can do that.

Elisabeth Radysh's little red squirrel

Pink bunny by Elisabeth Radysh

That much time together can also give a couple funny little habits. Our most recent couple quirk has been nearly nightly games of backgammon during dinner. We’ve played various board and card games over the years, but our new the-kids-are-away-at-college tradition is to eat dinner while we simultaneously play two to four games of backgammon. Not so much because it matters who wins (it doesn’t), rather just for the fun of playing. Though I will note for those of you who do play the game there have been several gammons this fall and even one backgammon. With the kids home from college for their winter breaks these dinner & game nights have been mostly curtailed since to be frank, as much fun as it can be to play backgammon, it is not a spectator sport.


With backgammon somewhat on the back burner what I’ve enjoyed most this holiday season (aside from the kids being home and my red squirrel) have been the twelve days of Christmas. Continue reading


Filed under 50 Recipes

Best Christmas Present Ever

Two weeks ago I gave my sister the best homemade Christmas present ever. It smelled good, tasted good, and I knew she’d love it. Here’s what it consisted of:

1  1/4 pounds of sugar

2  3/4 cups sugar

1  1/2 cups brown sugar

half a dozen eggs

10  1/3 cups flour







1 cup pecans

Non parelis and colored sugars

Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Salt

What I made and gave her was raw cookie dough for Molasses Cookies, Snickerdoodles, Scandinavians, Sugar Cookies, and Shawn’s favorite Pecan Butterscotch cookies.

Cookie dough for Christmas

Why is this the best homemade Christmas present ever? Because it makes her house smell divine plus it gave her way more cookie booty than the I would have had time to bake and decorate. The bonus was after everything was baked and eaten that was it, no worries about if what I gave her fit her decor or if she had shelf space for it. Though since she’s my sister I can say with confidence that if I did give her something it would be to her taste. She is my sister after all.

Try it, there’s still time for you to make this present yourself and give it to someone near and dear. If you’d like use the recipes on my blog, or if you have favorite holiday cookie recipes whip up a batch of those. Make sure to include all the bits and bobs they’ll need to finish the cookies such as cinnamon sugar for the Snickerdoodles, red and green colored sugar as well as some red seedless jam for the Scandinavians (whoops, sorry I forgot the jam Heather!), along with baking times and temperatures. I should have added a roll of parchment paper but my sister was creative and made do without, cause I forgot that too.

Don't forget all the bits and bobs for decorating cookies

When you’re thinking of which cookies to give make sure they can be formed into a log, then sliced and baked. Snickerdoodles, molasses crinkles, and pecan butterscotch cookies all work well and can be cut from refrigerated or frozen logs. For anything that needs to be sugared before baking simply dip the slices in sugar and make sure both sides get coated well. Scandinavians need to be smooshed into thumbprints so those work too but let the recipient know they have to come to room temperature first. Since sugar cookie dough needs to be rolled out before being cut into shapes I make a flat disc of that dough so it’s easier to roll out.

 You could also make a Christmas CD to get everyone in the cookie baking–tree decorating (in case they don’t have their tree up)–present wrapping mood. I mentioned some of my favorites in this blog post. This year I’ve been listening a lot to Straight No Chaser’s Christmas Cheer , who have cheeky remixes of some of my old favorites. I’ve also been cranking this and this, both of which have been flying around the internet this holiday season.

Another reason I gave this gift to my sister is because she’s pretty busy with their newest family member – Edgar Allen Pug. They all have their hands and laps full of this adorable new puppy. He is the softest, most scrumptious black pug ever!

Edgar Allen Pug

Edgar the pug


Filed under 50 Recipes, In between

Christmas Cookie Recipes

I felt a huge sigh of relief a few years ago when a friend at church pointed out that Christmas lasts for twelve days. Count them – twelve. With stores hanging lights in October, advertisers bombarding everyone with “holiday specials” pre-Halloween, black Friday shopping starting before I had fully digested my turkey dinner and three pieces of pie I feel that by the time Christmas actually rolls around it’s already over. But it isn’t, it is just beginning. I can breathe. If everything is not done by midnight on December 24th the world does not shudder and come to a stand still (or worse still blow up). With that extra 11 day buffer it doesn’t matter if I only have four batches of cookies done or all seven – Christmas will happen either way. There is much comfort in knowing this. I offer it to you, this gift of knowledge, Christmas lasts for twelve days. Do not feel the burden of trying to cram everything into one day because you have time.

"christmas tree with duct tape wrapped presents"

Pre-December 25th I managed to bake a bunch of cookies from my classic Christmas cookie list. Most of them I made using the cookie log trick. Here are two of the recipes I haven’t previously shared.

Shawn’s Pecan Butterscotch Cookies

"shawn's pecan butterscotch cookies"

My copy of Jasper White’s Cooking from New England falls open to the recipe for Mark’s Butterscotch Icebox Cookies. After years of making and tweaking them I’ve renamed my version after my husband who loves them. I’ve amplified the recipe by quadrupling the amount of pecans and doubling the vanilla. Interestingly this recipe calls for them to be made into cookie logs and refrigerated before slicing and baking.

Shawn’s Pecan Butterscotch Cookies

1 cup pecans

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (1  1/2 sticks)

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups sifted flour (sift then measure)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Either in the oven or on the stove top in a cast iron pan toast the almonds until lightly brown and fragrant. Cool, then chop into small pieces. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla creaming to incorporate. Sift in the flour, soda and salt and throw in the nuts. Stir until well combined. Make the dough into cookie logs, for directions on how to do that click here. Pop logs into fridge for a few hours or a few days.

When ready to bake preheat the oven to 350º F. Slice cookie logs roughly 1/4″ and place on parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes turning the sheet 180º  half way through baking. Cool and store in air-tight tins.


"Gertrude's cookies"

This recipe comes from my Grammy Caldwell’s friend Gertrude and has been a classic Christmas cookie in our family for more than half a century. Lovely butter-y shortbread dough rolled into balls which a small spoonful of jam cooked into the spot where you press your thumb. I have yet to meet someone who can eat just one of these.


3/4 pound unsalted butter, softened (three sticks)

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

pinch salt

3  1/2 – 3  3/4 cups flour

Seedless raspberry jam

Preheat the oven to 325º F. Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until well blended. Stir in the vanilla and salt then add half the flour. You will most likely need to stir in the other half of the flour by hand, rather than with the mixer. If you need to work on your biceps cream the whole thing by hand.

When I went to write up this recipe I realized I have four different versions – all calling for various amounts of flour. Looking at the four different recipe cards spread across my counter was a moment where I wished I could wave a magic wand and be back in Grammy Caldwell’s kitchen. I could stand at her side one more time and take notes while she was cooking, and I would weigh the flour before she added it to the butter and sugar so I would know precisely how much she used. After all a cup of flour can vary hugely depending on if it has been sifted or not. Of course if I could wind back the clock I would also be able to giver her one more hug and tell her how much I love her and learned from her. I think she knew, but it would be pretty great to be able to tell her one more time.

Shortbread is simple, just a few ingredients, so each one needs to be in proper relationship with the others. Use the best butter you can afford. If you like your cookies a bit “shorter” use the lesser amount of flour. If you like them more cookie-like use the larger amount. Both variations are yummy.

Once you’ve mixed the dough roll it into small balls the size of shooter marbles. Place them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and poke a depression in each cookie with a finger. Fill the the finger holes with a tiny spoonful (we’re talking the tip of a baby spoon) of seedless raspberry jam. The important part is no seeds. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned, and the jam is nice and bubbly. I give the baking sheet a 180º turn half way through. You do not want to brown the upper part of the cookie.

Full disclosure: I have over-browned these cookies on more than one occasion, including twice in the past week as I was trying to write this post. Family and friends have selflessly come to my rescue and eaten all the overcooked ones. Not a crumb of evidence is left.

1 Comment

Filed under 50 Recipes

Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies

I love making Christmas cookies. To me they signal Christmas is coming as much as lighting each week’s Advent candle, a yard full of snow, listening to Christmas CDs on repeat, or enjoying a glass of eggnog with rum and freshly ground nutmeg.

"Picking out a Christmas Tree"

Many years ago my friend Marisa Gorgoni and I  tried to cash in on this mutual love we both shared for baking Christmas cookies. Our money making scheme was to sell homemade cookies to people who were too busy to bake. Good idea right? Our basic math skills were sharp enough, though we clearly didn’t understand how to estimate in our time (or for that matter the cost of electricity) when we came up with our prices. Here, in Marisa’s very neat handwriting, were the costs of our cookie ingredients:

"Prices of cookie ingredients"

We sold them to a captive audience – our teachers at F-M High School (I’m guessing our parents probably bought some as well, but that is another story). Here is what we charged:

"Cookie prices"

All I can say is our underpaid teachers got a great deal that year, and they all probably knew it.* Especially our math teacher. When all the dishes were done and the cookies distributed I think we each had made about 5 cents/hour. Lesson learned, ever since I have only “sold” cookies when I was getting well paid for my time (either as a pastry chef or as a food stylist). It doesn’t mean that I haven’t made cookies out of love, as a thank-you, or for a get well present. I do it all the time. I just don’t try to make a career out of it.

With roughly twelve days to go ’til Christmas I am embarking on my annual cookie baking marathon. B.K. (before kids) I would go nuts. Nowadays I’ve settled into a somewhat predictable and slightly shorter cookie roster which consists of Grammy Caldwell’s snickerdoodles, Arlene Sullivan’s Molasses Snaps, Grammy Thompson’s Scandinavian CookiesSugar Cookies, Butterscotch Icebox Cookies, Gertrude’s, and Snowballs. There are plenty of other cookies that I love, I just stay with these since I associate each one with Christmas, especially those of my childhood.

To get the recipes of the first four cookies mentioned above click on the name of the cookie and it will link you to the original blog where I wrote about it. The others I will post as I bake my way through them.

Happy baking to all my readers! I’d love to know what you’re planning on making this holiday season –

"staring to fill up the cookie tin"

*I may not be being fair to my high school teachers when I say they got a real bargin, since you could buy a whole box of girl scout cookies for a little over a dollar in 1978. With that in mind a dollar for a mere dozen cookies may have seemed expensive to them. Of course today I’ve seen a single cookie (and grant you it’s a large cookie) sell for anywhere from $1-2.50 depending on where you’re buying it. Sheesh, I sound like an old curmudgeon so I’ll stop now.


Filed under 50 Recipes, In between