Neither an adventure in ratio baking nor a recipe this week. Instead, since it’s December, I wanted to write about a Christmas tradition my mom started when I was very young.
For as long as I can remember, my mom would spend an entire day baking cookies. The funniest thing about them was that all the recipes came from cook books, but everyone raved about how good they were and would ask for the recipe. My mom always refused to give them away, but they were in printed cook books and could have been found by anyone. Haha, just one of our many family secrets!
But it was really a tradition of a woman who enjoyed baking wanting to make cookies for her husband’s coworkers for the holiday season. I remember spending countless Decembers carefully packing away delicate cookies into oversize paper cupcake liners and just as carefully tucking them into decorative tins. Filling the platters was always the easiest part. We piled cookies on until they started to slide off. That’s how we knew there were enough cookies on it.
What started as a few cookies given to a few people somehow mushroomed into about half a dozen different cookies being handed out to not just my dad’s coworkers, but neighbors, friends, and family, and even the postman. My dad even had the crazy idea to ship them overseas one year.
It became a family affair to bake several batches of each cookie over an entire weekend. For a whole weekend, we piled plates of cookies on a table until we could no longer see the table. We had our meals surrounded by cookies and, at some point, it sometimes felt like we would never escape the cloying scent of sugar. You’d think it would be delightful sampling them and indulging in the mistakes, but it was always the one weekend, and ensuing couple of weeks, were none of us cared to touch anything sweet. Except for the cookies my best friend and her family made. We readily indulged in those.
Over the years, my mom refined her process. We played around with sizes and varying methods of trying to speed up the process. One year we overdid it and made too many cookies. We spent the next week or so inviting people over just so they could eat all of them. It was a good year when we rid ourselves of every morsel.
When I was in high school and college, I remember thinking my mom would be making Christmas cookies for the rest of her life. Everyone looked forward to them every holiday season. People would start asking after them around Halloween. During that time, my mom was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called Myasthenia Gravis. It made her extremely tired for days at a time, and sometimes just out of the blue on what had been a good day. But my siblings and I were older and could do more, so the cookies were still made.
My husband and I met about half a year before our first Christmas together, so he got to partake in cookie baking weekend. I tried to warn him… I really did. We told him to go easy on the cookies, to not sample too many. We also told him there was going to be a lot of ball rolling. Oh, the jokes that weekend… Not to mention I had to put him to bed because he was so sugared up, and somehow manage to not giggle my way through it.
And then it happened. My mom went gluten-free since gluten exacerbates her condition. Every cookie we made used copious amounts of flour. We bought pounds and pounds of flour every year just to make the Christmas cookies. The first year she was gluten-free, she still made the cookies, but it was agonizing because she couldn’t sample any, couldn’t indulge in her annual piece of her favorite cookie. She decided that was it. She couldn’t handle the temptation.
The tradition passed to me. She photocopied her folder containing the recipes, notes, and shopping lists and handed them to me. It was also around the time my husband and I moved to the East Coast. I spent my first Christmas away from my family making cookies. That weekend saw me loading our small dining table with plates of cookies while my husband brought home a 6 foot tall Christmas tree. It was supposed to be small.
I have not kept up with the tradition well. I was busy with school and then I was busy raising small children. I felt some pressure to keep it up, but my mom would shrug and tell me not to. It was up to me if I wanted to make the cookies or not. I always figured that if my husband wanted to take cookies in to his colleagues, he would let me know and I would start baking them again. Well, the time has come. After too many years, I’ll be back to spending a weekend making cookies.
But that’s not why I’m writing this now. No, my best friend who moved an ocean away is in town and I’ll be making a couple of them for her since it’s also been years since she’s been able to eat them. They’re a fond memory for both of us as we’ve known each other for the vast majority of our lives.
As this posts, the eggs will be coming to room temperature and the butter will be softening.