The Cookie Countdown

I am, and always have been, a cookie person.  I'm happiest when there's a nearly-full cookie box or jar somewhere in the kitchen, just waiting for me to have an excuse: a story filed, a disagreeable chore completed, or just plain "lunch dessert".  A cookie doesn't make you feel as guilty as a big juicy slab of pie, or a dense wedge of cake.  It's just a cookie - sweet, perfect, and of short duration.

The difficulty at this time of year is deciding which of my many, many favorite cookies will get my attention.  Last year, it was all star cookies, of which my perennial favorite (and the one I always make time to make) is La Befana, the sprinkle star from Gina dePalma's Dolce Italiano, which has never once let me down.

If I've really got my ducks in a row, I might have time to make stroopwafels, which require a bit of careful timing and keeping your wits about you so you don't burn yourself on the waffle iron. You also have to eat them while they're warm and still pliant, but that's the least of our problems.

My husband's favorite cookie - and one I'm also crazy about - is the double dark chocolate cherry cookie from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.  He makes giant double batches with jumbo bags of chips and cherries from Costco, and he gives them out to his students.  But there's always some left over for the rest of us.

This year around Thanksgiving, I discovered another favorite cookie - The "Ischler" - from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Baking Bible.  It's a sandwich cookie filled with apricot preserves and ganache, and I think it will be my Death Row request cookie if I ever find myself in that situation.  

While I've been dreaming about cookies, my cousin Barbara and my aunt Mimi have been making them. We got an incredible package this week in the mail, overflowing with little meringues and wrapped truffles and, best of all, crisp pecan sand tarts.  Barbara says these are the Joy of Cooking sand tarts, which means now I have another cookie to add to my Try list.  My plan is to use them for this year's reindeer cookies - oh, I forgot - that's another favorite, but mostly because we get to practice our royal icing technique on them.

My long-term ambition is to someday get all these cookies done early enough to mail them to friends and family, the way Barbara does.  But for now, it's just one more thing I'll be dreaming about.  What's your cookie of choice? 

9 Comments

  • hillsboroks  on  12/16/2014 at 10:01 PM

    My family does not consider it Christmas until I make Starlight Sugar Crisps or as we fondly call them "Twists". I got the recipe from my mother-in-law in the 1970s and my old photocopied page from what I think was a Better Homes and Garden cookbook from the 1950s is tattered and smudged but still yields some of the best and most unusual cookies I make. First there is no sugar in the basic dough but it does call for yeast. The dough is then rolled in vanilla sugar and folded and rolled again several times before you slice it into strips, twist it 2-3 times and bake. I have never run into anyone else who makes these and they are always a hit on a cookie platter and the first ones to disappear.

  • hillsboroks  on  12/16/2014 at 11:32 PM

    I just got done doing a little online searching to find out more about where Starlight Sugar Crisps originated. Well they came from the 1956 Pillsbury Bake-Off. They won Senior First Prize for Mrs. Leland E. Ross of Roscommon, Michigan and later the recipe was published in various Pillsbury cookie books.

  • tsusan  on  12/17/2014 at 5:10 AM

    How unusual! Are they called "starlight" because of the sugar sprinkled on them? Not starlight mints or something!?

  • hillsboroks  on  12/17/2014 at 9:56 AM

    I have no idea why they are called "Starlight", maybe it just sounded like a great name to Mrs. Ross for her Bake-Off entry? What is great is that the recipe is readily available online along with lots of stories about how it has been passed down through families as their special Christmas cookie just like my story. I checked the EYB library but it is not there. When I get a chance today I will find it and add it with the bookmarklet. This is absolutely one recipe that we need in the EYB library. Based on your favorite cookies listed in your post above I know you will love this cookie too and want to add it to your annual must bake list.

  • Jane  on  12/17/2014 at 11:38 AM

    My "must-have" at Christmas is my Grandmother's Scottish shortbread. Anything else I make is to take to friends' parties. I made a great brown-butter shortbread with toffee-almond topping last week for a friend's Swedish glogg party. I also made reindeer antlers (from WaPo, on EYB) which were delicious and Hazelnut drops from Swedish Cakes & Cookies, which were good. The brownie I've made successfully for parties at this time of year are Grasshopper brownies from Smitten Kitchen.

  • hillsboroks  on  12/17/2014 at 1:33 PM

    I forgot to mention a new cookie I discovered this year at The Luna Cafe blog. It has a base of lemon shortbread and a topping of gingerbread flavored toffee with nuts. I served this cookie to a group of ladies at a party in November along with several other cookies but this was the one everyone wanted the recipe for and the one folks were slipping into baggies to take home to share. I'm making another batch this weekend for a Christmas party.

  • Jane  on  12/18/2014 at 12:28 AM

    hillsboroks - by coincidence, the brown-butter and almond toffee shortbread that I mentioned was also from Luna Cafe. I'll add the recipe tomorrow with the bookmarklet.

  • hillsboroks  on  12/18/2014 at 9:49 AM

    I discovered her blog in October and quickly fell in love with the 12 Days of Christmas cookies section. I also made her Coconut Lime Shortbread cookies and have them on my list of cookies to make this weekend. I would love to try all of them!

  • TrishaCP  on  12/20/2014 at 5:37 AM

    I love those reindeer antlers from the Washington Post. I have made them every year since they first published that recipe...just wish I could think of a way to make them prettier! My family has always made bourbon balls- they are super easy, no bake, and they actually taste better made far in advance. Christmas wouldn't be the same without them.

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