Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Cookie Recipes

Spending Christmas with my new family has definitely been a challenge to the psyche-- and it's only the 14th of December. It throws attention on the "traditions" one has developed for oneself, and how they may or may not match with others' traditions. I've spent many Christmas seasons by myself, and developed a low-key approach to the holiday season that is nonetheless about comfort, restoring the self, celebrating in a very "inside" way. I think I most like to retreat during this holiday season. I definitely don't like to go out into Christmasland and celebrate with lots of festivities. I've been hankering for a good sing-along Messiah lately, but that's unusual. I like to lie on the couch with only the Christmas lights on and watch my absolute favorite Christmas movie, Remember the Night, a screwball comedy from 1940 with that all-star pairing of Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck. It was this movie that made me really want to learn how to make pop-overs.

I have two great cookie recipes to offer. The first is a very great cookie from the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts. Unless you really don't like walnuts, you'll love these cookies. The nut taste is very subtle, and as with all cookies, it's mostly about the butter and sugar.

110th Street Walnut Crescents
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed finely ground walnuts
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

Cream together the butter and walnuts. Beat in vanilla. On low speed add the confectioners' sugar, salt, and flour and beat until well blended. Form dough into a ball, flatten, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm (3 hours).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll the dough and use a butter knife to cut the dough into a rectangle and then triangles. Shape each triangle into a crescent and put it on a pan (I don't grease it, but the recipe says lightly buttered). Bake 12 minutes until edges are golden brown. Cool and then dust them liberally (or I roll them) in confectioners' sugar.

The second cookie has long been my personal favorite. These cookies are not for the faint-hearted. They are unbelievably sweet, and light as air. In this way, they are the perfect once-a-year cookie. For me, they are the counterpart to Baskin Robbins' mint chocolate chip ice cream as a summer treat. After softball games we'd go to Baskin Robbins and 31-flavors-or-not, we'd always get mint chip on a sugar cone. These are my favorite Christmas cookies, though my tastes have matured some! If you like mint and chocolate, you'll love these cookies. I don't know where this recipe came from. I think these cookies showed up in the 1970s or 1980s on a cookie exchange tray my mother got, and she got the recipe from there. I got it from her...

Forgotten Kisses
Preheat oven to 375 degrees (turn off when you put the tray in the oven)
Grease cookie sheet
Beat 2 egg whites until stiff (use glass or metal bowl)
Add 2/3 cup of sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, and a few drops of green food coloring and a little peppermint extract slowly, while beating egg whites. Continue beating until peaks form. You want to beat in as much air as possible.
Stir in an 8 oz package of chocolate chips.
Drop by teaspoon onto greased cookie sheet and put in the oven. Turn off oven and let kisses sit undisturbed overnight.
These used to be even better when Nestle's made semi-sweet mint chocolate chips. But the "Andes" versions are not a good substitute, so the peppermint extract is necessary.

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