Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Cookie Baking Tradition

Brown Sugar Christmas Tree

My friend Billie has been part of a trio of women that gather once a year in December to bake and share cookies.  This month they celebrated the 25th year of this tradition!  
Last year the local paper wrote a story about their gathering.  This year, Billie created a self-pubished book with selected photos and their recipes.  Here is an excerpt from the book:
"As the years rolled on there was marriage, divorce, careers, children, adult children, grandchildren, parents, siblings and friends. But on cookie day, time was still as we baked, laughed and at times, felt sad for the challenges that life brings. Through snowstorms, fires, spiders and tipsy work colleagues, we produced every year.  As the day would end, we sorted by three's and began to take our share. At that moment, it seemed like those thousands of cookies we had baked all day had somehow diminished... but home they went to eager families."

"Oh, how we tried to watch over our cookies and save them for ourselves; but, alas, the joy of the Christmas Cookie was shared by all ..."

On the last page is a photo that says… May your cookies last until Christmas!  

I asked her to share their favorite recipes, and she generously offered the following selections.
She notes, "We also use the Joy of Cooking “Rich Roll Cookies” – using freshly grated lemon is our secret!"

Brown Sugar Cookies

1 1-pound package brown sugar
2 cups (4 sticks) butter, softened
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
4 ½ cups unsifted flour
(pinch of salt)

1.     Cream sugar and butter together until fluffy; add vanilla.  Mix in flour.
(Or place all ingredients in bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade
and process until dough forms a ball.)  Shape into a smooth ball, cover
and chill.  (May be stored up to a week.)
2.     Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
3.     Pinch off about 1/6 of dough at a time; flatten and roll out on a floured
surface to 1/8-inch thickness.  Cut with cookie-cutters of desired shapes.  
4.     Place on ungreased baking sheet or use parchment baking paper.  Bake approximately 12 to 15 minutes.  
5.     Remove to wire rack and cool.
Makes 6 dozen

Gingerbread Cookies (Ladies Home Journal 1972)

One cup butter or margarine (1/2 c. each best)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons dark corn syrup
3 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
(1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg) recent addition
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg; beat till light and fluffy. Add corn
syrup, mixing well. Sift remaining ingredients together; stir into creamed mixture.  Chill dough well..  Roll dough to 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured surface (pastry cloths advised) Cut shapes.; place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees, for 8-10 minutes, cool 1 minute before removing to cooling racks.

Last, but not least:  their favorite cookie-baking song (sung to the tune of "Winter Wonderland")
Cookie Press Holiday Song (Winter Wonderland)

Doorbells ring, are you listenin'?
In the kitchen, sugar's glistenin',

The dough is well chilled,
The coffee pot's filled.
Cookie baking day is almost here.

For today, we'll be cheery,
As we bake, 'till we're weary.
So cookies we'll make,
With joy decorate.
Cookie baking day is almost here.

In the kitchen we will bake our dozens,
Decorate them with some colors bright.
They'll say, "Are you finished?" we'll say, "Never!"
And please don't eat a one 'till Christmas night.

As we bake, we'll swap stories,
Of the year's pain and glories.
The laughter we'll share,
The friendship is there.
Cookie baking day is almost here!

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