Doug and I have been baking Christmas cookies together for seven years now, although both of us had been doing it for many years on our own before we got married and began sharing a kitchen.
Over the years, we've added a few new recipes, dropped a couple that we didn't like so much, and changed up how we decorate and package everything.
But there are some cookies that have become treasured traditions, like these chocolate drops that Doug's mother used to make. They're a favorite of our friend Mike, who always gets a few extras in his cookie box. Doug's mom used to drop them from a spoon and ice them with a butter knife. Doug pipes the dough with a pastry bag and uses pastry bags to ice them as well, so they've gotten fancier, but they're still a happy memory for him:
My sugar cookie cutouts are a favorite from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, which I got as a wedding shower gift in the 1970s. I have to say that they never looked quite this good when I made them by myself (see the blue and yellow stars--those are my handiwork; the rest are courtesy of Doug and the pastry bag):
Two of our favorite recipes came from Emeril, whose TV show was one of the first ones we watched together when we first started spending time together almost 10 years ago.
The first one, the Guinness gingerbread, is amazing. The recipe calls for 8 ounces of Guinness. Hmm, that doesn't work so well, since it comes in 12-ounce bottles. BUT, if you triple the recipe, you can use two whole bottles. You also need nine eggs and two entire bottles of molasses.
It makes a lot of gingerbread--two large pans, or 18 smaller loaves, which is what we did this year to make it easier for gifting. Our small pans are assorted sizes, hence the inconsistent look here:
We also got our almond roca cookie recipe from Emeril's show--it was the winner in a contest he held one year for holiday cookies. These cookies are actually almost like candy, with all of the sugar and heath bits in them (we decided that there's just enough flour in the recipe to glue all the sugar together):
Peanut better cookies are always a hit, and the recipe we use comes from the same book as the sugar cookies. I discovered several years ago that my vintage child's potato masher is the best tool ever for making the criss-cross pattern on top:
We had a great jam turnover recipe that we somehow lost, but in one of our junking trips, we stumbled on this cookbook, which is where the original came from:
One of the best tips is "Get Your Ingredients Together!"
Well, we obviously didn't read this ahead of time, or Doug wouldn't have been running back to the store for butterscotch chips for the Special K bars, which his friend Jeb loves, and for the slivered almonds that the rocas get rolled in. Oh yeah, and how can you make Christmas cookies without red and green sanding sugar? Another trip to the store....
But even with the extra shopping runs, we still forgot jam for the turnovers. Not to worry--we found a jar of our friend Beth's homemade raspberry preserves on our kitchen shelf, and the jam turnovers were the best ever.
We have a lot of fancy but important cookie-making tools in our kitchen--a large Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, a Cuisinart food processor, assorted silicone spatulas, pastry tips, Sil-pat cookie sheet liners...
But sometimes the old-fashioned stuff is equally important--like this huge dough bowl that we use for the gingerbread. A dear friend who is now gone gave it to me after she saw my yellow ware bowl collection, and I will always treasure it:
We also have a low-tech floor cleaner:
Over the weekend, we went through 8 pounds of butter, several dozen eggs, many pounds of sugar and flour, four batches of icing, and several bags of chips and nuts. Not to mention the two bottles each of Guinness and molasses.
Everything was beautifully decorated, thanks to Doug.
And the kitchen was perfectly clean when we went to bed. That's the part where my skills come into play.