Okay. Here is something we can all agree on: the awesomeness of “Mom’s Christmas Cookies.”
You know what I mean—it’s when your mom makes at least, oh, a half dozen different types of cookies, and makes them in abundance. She always makes the favorites, the traditional ones you “can’t have Christmas without.”
And then, because she loves baking so much, each year she usually tries out at least one new cookie recipe, or a variation of an old one, just for fun. Sometimes these receive such an enthusiastic response that they’re added to the list of “must-haves.”
So there’s a cookie platter available all winter long, replenished by the dozens of cookies in tins and plastic tubs out on the back sunporch.
Sue’s mom is one of these holiday bakers. Now, she doesn’t make many of the cookies I personally find necessary for the holidays—lebkuchen, billy goats, “animal cookies,” orange balls, springerle. Mostly German-ethnic stuff from my family.
But she makes her own set of “regulars” that are just as necessary to her family as leppies are to mine, and she shares abundantly with Sue and me. Over the years, naturally, most of her cookies have become “Christmas must-haves” for me, too. I guess that is one of the benefits of being in a marriage with someone: You not only gain a second family, you also gain a whole new set of Christmas cookie traditions!
Let me introduce you to some of her Christmas cookies!
First, her spice cookies! Yes, they look kind of like ginger snaps, but they’re not crunchy at all—no danger of chipping a tooth on these! They’re soft and chewy. The ingredients include brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger; you chill the dough, roll them into balls, then dip in white sugar before baking briefly. Mrs. F. always makes them to perfection!
Sue’s brother-in-law has always adored these, and Sue’s brother in South Carolina and one of his sons, I hear, raid the box of cookies Sue’s mom sends them, picking out the spice cookies, then squirreling them away like hoarded treasure. It’s Mark and Michael’s hands-down favorite. Good pick, guys!
These are incredibly tasty, though not cloyingly sweet. There’s something tangy, almost salty about them. Is it the molasses? The baking soda? Anyway, as Sue described them, they’re “a yearly absolute-can’t keep-them-on-the-plate favorite.”
Here are some “jubilee jumbles”—also chewy, but more cakelike and with crushed pecans inside. So good! Brown sugar, white sugar, evaporated milk, vanilla, and chopped pecans are the flavoring ingredients. And that’s a burnt butter glaze: browned butter plus powdered sugar plus evaporated milk. My mouth is watering just writing this.
Sue’s mom makes candy, too. She’s the queen of fudge, and she usually makes several types—Sue’s partial to the peanut butter fudge; but the black walnut is good, too. And of course, the straight-ahead chocolate. And there in Ohio, those chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls known as "buckeyes" are de rigueur, too.
Then, there’s the white-chocolate peppermint bark, the preparation of which calls for you to pound up candy canes! I really have to watch myself with this one, folks.
But here’s my real weakness: the peanut butter kisses. Also known as peanut blossoms. Uh-oh! I literally have to have people move the cookie platter away from me when there are peanut butter kisses on it. I know, that’s really bad. . . . But these cookies are really good!
The recipe was probably invented in the Hershey’s Corp. test kitchens, but man, whoever invented this recipe deserves a medal.
Other favorites are:
“Delectabites,” also known as “pecan puffs,” crescent-shaped nut cookies coated with powdered sugar;
Oatmeal cookies without the raisins. Mrs. F. has always hated raisins, so she makes raisinless oatmeal cookies. This year she used chocolate chips instead. There were no complaints about it!
“Honey bunches,” also called “haystacks,” an oats-coconut-flour-brown sugar-butter-and-honey concoction; and
“Date nut bars,” from a vintage Pillsbury cookie cookbook—chewy and nutty and dusted with powdered sugar. A beautiful celebration of The Date.