December 12, 2005

Food Porn: The Great Cookie Marathon

Every year we make the same cookies. Occasionally we try a new one, and if it's successful we sometimes keep using that new recipe for a couple years, just to see if it becomes part of the tradition.

But so far it never has; a couple years is the better-than-average lifespan in our kitchen, as far as Christmas Cookies are concerned. We've lost a few traditional ones along the way, as well - I'm not entirely certain why the mint brownies fell by the wayside, as I was the only one in our family who didn't love them unstintingly. But they've been missing for a few years now, and nobody has commented on the loss.

Having tasted numerous Christmas Cookies made by other people, I know exactly the difference between our traditional family cookies and Everything Else. For some reason we've managed to find cookie recipes that are less sweet than normal.

We put a premium on the flavor of the cookie - the nuts, the mincemeat, the anice, the vanilla - and somehow too much sweetness seems to interfere with flavor, covers it up somehow. Overwhelms the flavor, perhaps? In any case, most of our lost Probationary Cookies never made the cut primarily on the basis of being too sweet for our peculiar tastes.


In the last decade my mother worked a lot of overtime, which probably prompted the death of the brownies and also inspired me to inflict new cookie recipes on the family. None of them quite took, although one came close (the anice cut-outs, which everyone liked very much but which turned out to be A Lot of Work).

So this year we stuck to the traditionals, and through my stubborn insistance we included the mincemeat cookies/tartlets that had been missing for the last few years. They are very fussy and time consuming to make, but they are my favorites. Mom had no choice but to submit, since she's currently too infirm to fight me one-on-one.

Actually, she admitted that it was a lot more fun to do them together than it had been for her to do them alone. Aha! One positive side effect to shattering one's ankle!

So in the last two days we've made: two batches of Russian Teacakes (nut-filled and only lightly dusted with powdered sugar); one-and-a-half batches of
artistically decorated Spritz cookies (light almond flavor); one too-small batch of mincemeat cookies/tartlets (cut outs of cream-cheese pastry carefully and decoratively sealed around a carefully measured bit of mincemeat and watched carefully during the baking process to avoid easy scorching).

A batch or so of chocolate chip cookies, if we're lucky, and we should be done for this year - unless I decide to do the anise cut-outs after all.

Nah, I've got two more felted oven mitts to knit, a houseguest coming, a furnace to nurse, and Yuletide shopping to do. And I have to figure out what to bring (other than our famous Cranberry Etc. compote) to the Christmas Eve Extended Family Blowout.

The anise cut-outs will have to wait in the wings, hoping for their Big Break...

3 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

I have the strangest craving for Christmas cookies right now... :D

Actually, it's been a few years since I've had any Christmas cookies - I'm gluten intolerant, so a lot of those old favorites require quite a bit of tweaking. But maybe I'll make a batch of "candy cane" cookies for the family celebration this year...

5:56 AM  
Blogger mE said...

I can't find it at the moment, I think I left it at my folks', but the Mystic Seaport Christmas cookbook has a sweet but very decent cookie made entirely of nuts and brown sugar and egg... no flour. The only thing somewhat tricky about it is that if you let it burn at all (which is not hard to do) the cookies will perma-weld themselves to the pan. I suggest parchment paper or waxed paper as a lining to your pan. I will check tomorrow (the Vampire has a performance then, and I can easily swing past the folks' house) and get that recipe for you.

The other suggestion I have is that last year's Low Carb Craze spawned a whole lot of low-carb cookbooks and blogs, and they often have cookies and sweets made out of nut flour - no gluten.

Dana Carpender has a lot of such cookbooks out, and also hosts Hold The Toast, a website and web newsletter for low carbers, and the archives have quite a few recipes in them... check out November and December issues, which usually have a lot of dessert recipes. http://www.holdthetoast.com/index.html These have the disadvantage (for non-sugar avoiders) or advantage (for sugar avoiders) of using artificial rather than natural sweeteners.

There are some good Specific Carb Diet sites with recipes for the non-sugar avoiders. The Specific Carb Diet was designed for folks with Crohns and other similar issues, so their recipes have no grains/gluten. At http://www.pecanbread.com/recipes/christmas.html you can find recipes for Christmas sweets made without grains. Elsewhere on the site are other holiday and non-holiday recipes.

I don't believe that Food Porn should only be available to the Perfectly Healthy, do you? :)

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you might try those little mint meringues that you bake for a long time on a really low temperature - no gluten...

4:08 PM  

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