Christmas Cookie Recipes To Tweak Your Sweet Tooth
An American neurologist, Dr. Alan Hirsch, who specializes in the treatment of people who lose their sense of smell or taste, conducted research into the immediate recall of childhood memories by a particular smell, what he calls “olfactory-evoked recall.” Dr. Hirsch and his staff questioned 1,000 people in Chicago about what types of smells brought back the happiest memories of childhood, and he found that baked foods such as cakes and fresh bread made up the largest category of nostalgic smells.
Of course, any adult who has ever smelled Christmas cookies baking in the oven could have told Dr. Hirsch that. Listed below are some of the stories tied up with baking Christmas cookies and the recipes that evoked them:
Tracey Levea says, “Since I was a little girl, one of my fondest memories was making loads of Christmas goodies with my Mom… and then giving them all away. I’ve continued this tradition with my daughters and look forward to it every year, hoping to build on those wonderful memories I have with my Mom.”
Chewy Caramel Bars
1 cup butter, melted
1 1/3 cup flour
1 1/3 cup oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 tsp baking soda
Combine butter, flour, oatmeal, brown sugar and baking soda. Mix well. Put ¾ of mixture in ungreased 9×13 pan. Press evenly on bottom. Bake 10 minutes at 350°.
1 1/3 tbs butter
4 tbs milk
1 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped nuts
Combine caramels, butter and milk in saucepan. Stir until caramels are melted. Pour over baked crust and sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts. Top with remaining crust mixture. Bake 15 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Squares
1 ½ cups butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Melt 1 cup butter over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar, peanut butter and graham cracker crumbs. Spread into a jelly roll pan and pat down evenly.
Melt ½ cup butter and chocolate chips. Spread mixture over peanut butter mixture. Refrigerate 1 hour. Cut into squares.
The next recipe is from Christine Randle. Here’s how she got it: “My great grandmother, Caroline Campolio handed it down to my grandmother, Tillie Monto, and she handed it down to her daughter, my aunt Carol Barranca, who handed it down to me. “
Sei Uovi Biscotti (Six Eggs Cookies)
6 tsp. baking powder
4 ½ cups sifted flour
1 tsp. vanilla or anise flavoring
Break eggs in a bowl and beat with a spoon or mixer. Add oil, baking powder, vanilla and sugar. Mix well. Add sifted flour and mix thoroughly. Roll out in half-inch strips on a lightly floured board; tie each strip into a small knot. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake in a 350º oven for 15-20 minutes. Ice with a thin white glaze (recipe follows) when cool. Makes five dozen.
White Glaze Icing
Mix together enough confectioners sugar and water or milk in a small bowl to make a thin icing. Brush on the cookies.
The final recipe is from Heather Summerhayes Cariou, the author of Sixtyfive Roses: A Sister’s Memoir (McArthur & Company Publishing, Ltd. January 25, 2008), the story of her sister’s struggle with Cystic Fibrosis. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the disease, “65 Roses” is what young children call their condition because it is easier to pronounce than “Cystic Fibrosis”. Heather has graciously permitted TH to reprint this excerpt from the book depicting her Christmas cookie story.
“Growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s, Christmas in our house meant collecting pinecones from our yard, and frosting them with glitter to make a centerpiece. My younger sister Pam and I cut snowflakes out of white paper and taped them to the windows. With cotton balls, glue and more glitter, we fashioned quart-size milk bottles into snowmen to decorate the fireplace mantle.
We wrote letters to Santa Claus, care of Hengerer’s Department Store in Buffalo, hoping Forgetful the Elf would read them on channel 7 TV. We eagerly awaited the first snow, each morning standing on tiptoe on our beds, craning our faces up to the window, anxious for the frosty miracle to occur. At last we woke up to a yard that looked as if it had been sprinkled with icing sugar. We raced in our pajamas to the front door and flung it open, leaping as our bare feet burned on the frozen cement stoop.
“Snow! Snow! Snow!” Our breath hung in the cold air like frozen lace.
The best part of Christmas, though, was the shortbread my mother, sister and I baked into buttery gold stars that melted in our mouths. Every year, full of anticipation, we opened the old red Purity Flour Cookbook to the familiar dog-eared recipe page, smeared with our fingerprints from holidays past. We dug out the Christmas music and played it all day long while we chopped and mixed and measured. We sang carols and fueled ourselves with the raw cookie dough and tea. We licked our fingers, green and red from sugar sprinkles, sticky with icing, and we laughed.
We cherished this ritual, bittersweet though it was. You see, we never knew from year to year if that particular Christmas would be my sister’s last, as she had been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at the age of four.
Yet buoyed by a determination to never give up, and aided by treatments developed through continuing research, Pam was able to share our Christmas ritual well into our young adulthood.
When her last Christmas came, she was just shy of her 26th birthday. I remember how she sat at the end of the kitchen table, tethered to her now ever-present oxygen tank. The plastic oxygen mask covered her nose and mouth. Her shoulders rounded forward, rising and falling with the tide of her breath, riding an ocean of fatigue. She was so tired, tired of breathing, tired of hoping, but not yet tired of living, so she pulled hope along on the end of every labored breath. She creamed the butter in the big yellow mixing bowl, chopped the red and green maraschino cherries, and filled with delight, licked her sticky-sweet fingers, looked at me and laughed.
In that moment, as in so many others, Pam taught me both the necessity and power of creating joy in the midst of adversity. She believed that every day, and every relationship, could be a gift if we looked at it that way.
‘If we take the chance of seeking out beauty in the world about us, every moment of every day can be treasured,’ she once said. ‘I have learned that no matter what misfortunes or joys one may be faced with, life will surely go on…with love.’
I have honored my sister’s legacy by becoming a warrior on behalf of my own life; framing every experience I can with love, creating joy where I am able, and adopting her motto, ‘Never Give Up!’
This year as always, I will spend a day in December enjoying the ritual baking of shortbread cookies. Stars, holly and angels to melt in your mouth like buttered gold. I will put music on the stereo: the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Bing Crosby. I will fuel myself through the afternoon with strong tea and raw cookie dough. Pam will be there with me in my heart, sharing her love, courage, faith, and her sparkling, contagious laughter. Together, we’ll make Christmas come alive once more.”
Purity Flour Cookbook Christmas Shortbread Recipe
2 cups butter, softened
1 cup Icing sugar or Brown Sugar (I use ½ and ½)
¼ tsp. Vanilla
4 cups flour
Cream butter with vanilla and sugar. Mix in flour a cup at a time. Split dough into two batches. Roll one batch out onto floured surface and cut with cookie cutters. Repeat with second batch. Decorate with colored sprinkles and/or chopped maraschino cherries. Bake for ten to twelve minutes at 350 degrees.
Many treasured memories are made baking Christmas cookies. Why not bake some with your family, and make a few of your own.