Isn’t it remarkable how the holidays seem to creep up on us? In spite of all the hustle and bustle of holiday preparation, Christmas is a season that evokes sentiment and memories. It’s a time for making special favorites to share with family and friends.
For me, these Christmas cookie recipes are memorable because of special people in my life. Christmas cookie recipes usually involve extra work or specialized ingredients but I think it’s for those exact reasons and the care and love that goes into preparing the cookies that make them Christmas traditions.
At this special time of year, it’s expressive to take the extra time and use unique ingredients and techniques for creating family favorites.
Peanut candy tidbits — my earliest Christmas cookie tradition: This recipe has no quantities. This recipe dates back to my high school years. During those years on occasion, I had the good fortune to be part of another loving family. I’m not sure who in the family started the recipe but since I had lost my grandmother and adopted their grandmother as mine, I always assumed the recipe came from her. I remember being enchanted by this cookie, because it has a crunchy exterior of peanuts, a sweet coating of frosting and a soft center of cake. The result is a delicious tidbit that tastes reminiscent of candy. It is a delight.
Begin with a sponge cake. A sponge cake, like an angel food cake, is leavened with air beaten into the eggs. Yet a sponge cake also includes the egg yolks. Check a basic cookbook for a recipe; it should be there. If not, let me know and I can feature a recipe for sponge cake in a future column. Cut the sponge cake into small squares about 1 inch. Coat the squares with butter cream frosting. It’s the basic butter, confectioners’ sugar, add a little milk frosting you’ve used for frosting cakes. Then, roll the frosted squares into chopped peanuts. After you have frosted the one-inch cake squares and rolled them in the peanuts, the cookies end up round.
Italian sesame seed cookie comes from a wonderful Sacramento Italian woman who gave me her heart when I was beginning my young adult life. For many years, she was my second mom and shared with me many of her Italian recipes. She would remark that these cookies were healthy, since the recipe contains many eggs. I think it was important to her that in this seasonal time of eating, she could provide her family with a nutritious cookie. There is work involved in rolling the cookies out into long ropes, as you would roll out breadsticks. It’s worth the labor, because the cookies are extremely tasty. The original recipe makes a large quantity. I usually cut the recipe down to one-fourth of the quantity. If you make the full recipe, you’ll have cookies to give to neighbors and friends and won’t need cookies for several weeks. You can make these cookies year round. To make them a Christmas delight, roll them in Christmas colored sprinkles instead of the sesame seeds.
This is the full recipe: sift 12 cups flour with 12 tablespoons baking powder and 2 teaspoons salt. Add 2 cups shortening, 1 cup of that should be butter and blend as in making a pie crust. Add 12 beaten eggs and 2 tablespoons vanilla. Knead and roll into logs about ¾ inch in diameter. Spread sesame seeds on board and roll logs into sesame seeds/sprinkles. Cut into 1 ½-2 inch lengths. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degree for 15 minutes.