Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Filling the Cookie Jar

-- Take 14 sticks of butter, dozens of eggs, bags of sugar and flour, the occasional coconut flake, chocolate chip, dried cranberry or pistachio…

-- Combine with a free afternoon in a kitchen full of heated ovens, Christmas carols, and three generations of women from the same family

-- Mix, shake, stir, whip, blend, toss

-- Serve with plenty of belly laughs and glasses of chardonnay

Last weekend this recipe was put into full effect, and the results deemed itself worthy of a place in our ultimate recipe archives. Inspired by an article in the Boston Sunday Globe on the Joy of baking holiday cookies, my Gramma, Aunt Robin, cousin Julia, sister Sandra, and I set out on our own mission to find the Joy of Baking using both recipes from the article as well as our own family favorites.

Multiple hours, sugar over-doses, and sheets of parchment paper later, over 300 Christmas cookies were staring back at us from the kitchen table. We were left with tired feet, a hankering for something salty, shoeboxes of sweets, and most importantly, a great memory and plenty of reasons to make this an annual Butler women holiday event. Although not as tasty or satisfying, here are a few pictures of our creations. But just in case, you may need to grab a glass of milk.

A woman who knows the importance of quality control of ingredients.

Thumbprint Jam cookies. We started with raspberry jam, then thought to add a few with orange marmalade. Then, heck, why not make some with both! A classic buttery cookie with a satisfyingly sweet and fruity center.

Buon Natale! These italian inspired cookies (biscotti) were studded with pistachios, dried cranberries, and fresh orange zest. Not only festive looking, but with a heavenly sent scent! Shown in the pre-slice stage.

Nothing says the holidays like a nice block of peppermint bark. Chop it up and it's the perfect chocolate chip substitute. Pair it with the perfectly chocolatey cookie, and it is the perfect minty decadence!

Would you not know where to turn if you had to choose between an oatmeal cookie and a slice of carrot cake? Look no further! These oatmeal cookies are studded with raisins and shredded carrots that add great moisture and texture, and still obtains all of the warm spices of both treats. Phew! Crisis avoided.

A Gramma staple: There have been many a dessert platter with these goodies on them, and they never last long enough to become acquainted with any other accompanying treats. I was lucky enough to snag a picture of these Toffee Bars; crunchy, buttery crust, smooth chocolate topping, with a nutty walnut finish. The woman works wonders!

Simplicity is what makes these Date Balls so appealing. That, and the sweet dates, crunchy rice crispies, and tropical coconut...And maybe there's some butter in there too. Once you pop one you can't stop!

The smell wafting from your oven while baking these chocolate macaroons will have your knees buckling. The melted bittersweet chocolate added to the batter gives them that deep, rich, real chocolatey flavor you crave, all in a light macaroon cookie flighted with shredded coconut.

These almond florentines tested our limits and worked our brains. Dangerously thin but oh-so-satisfyingly crisp. The secret combination of almond and orange flavors cuts through the sweetness beautifully and the cookies with deeper caramelized edges quickly become coveted treasures.

Best served with ones you love.

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