Hi all! Angel Martinez here with Stuff We Like. I'm hijacking Toni's week because she just moved and the whole boxes and internet connection thing? We decided it was cruel to make her do a blog post.
So what did I want to talk about today? Christmas cookies. "Really?" you say. "That's the best you could do?" Fair enough, but stay with me...
I'm not a big fan of Christmas. There's too much expectation, too much rushing around involved. See, we're the kids who never moved away. Both sets of parents are still with us, in three separate households, so instead of having a nice relaxing Christmas at home with my little family, we start on the afternoon of Christmas Eve with the rounds of visiting and dealing with relatives, some years more than others. Don't get me wrong. I love my family. But this is hard on an introvert and some years I haven't done well with it. There's also all the shopping and the wrapping, the cards, the decorations and so on. It's more tradition than anything else, a celebration of midwinter and sun-return for us, though pieces of both of our families are more Christian-inclined. But it works. We can all celebrate together.
But it takes so much time, and so much of it I don't enjoy. At all. Shopping is evil. Even online. The one thing I truly love doing? Baking cookies.
I'm a mediocre cook. Never really had a knack for it. Oh, I can manage, but I don't have the flare that hubby has. Cooking, you see, is an art. You need the talent. Baking, on the other hand, is a science. There are experiments that must be undertaken and variables to take into account. There are exacting measurements and controlled conditions. You need the proper equipment and the patience to let certain reactions take place. This, my dear readers, I can do. The science of cookies gives me great joy.
It used to be that I would do all the baking during one (tiring) weekend early in December when I still worked full time and baking in the evenings was just too much. My son would always help, though, so it was lovely time spent with him as he was growing up. He works full time now, though, so this year, I was on my own.
I love the way things come together, impossible messes in the bowl that suddenly, almost magically, come together to form a dough. I love the scents, the rhythms (dry ingredients first, sifted, in zip plastic bag, butter and sugar, egg and so on.) I love the warmth of it and the gleeful, mad-scientist joy when you pull the first batch of a new recipe out of the oven and they look glorious! I love the regimented little rows of cookie soldiers lined up on the table as they cool. Yes. I'm a geek and I'm even a cookie geek. So sue me.
This year, I did several different kinds of cookies (of course) and thought I would share some with you. The first two came from our dear friend and co-conspirator, Silvia Violet:
Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
Martha says the chili powder is optional (Cue the hysterical laughter.) I'm sorry. To do this right, it is not optional.
If you do these right, they should come out chewy and comfort food delicious.
Oatmeal Hershey Bar Cookies
I'm linking Silvia's recipe on this one since it worked splendidly. She mentioned (I think) that she uses miniatures instead of broken off rectangles of Hershey bar. Either was would be yummy.
These are fabulous - keep in mind that this recipe is for a double batch. For a normal size batch, make sure you halve all the measurements.
These are essentially a butter cookie and were a must-have at my mom's house every year. Half the fun is in the decorating. (Ignore the picture, do whatever you like with them.) This year, I couldn't find a cookie press that worked properly, so I shaped cookies by hand - stars, snowmen, candy canes, braided dough for wreaths. And you know what? Worked just as well.
So if you don't have a press, don't worry about it. Make whatever shapes you please :) I use the old Betty Crocker recipe, cause if it ain't broke...you know the rest.
So - cookies. A balm to the introverts soul, science experiments in the kitchen, and everyone loves you when you bring good ones. Now I just have to resist eating them all before Christmas...