Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mom's Christmas Cookies

Every December, my mother's kitchen - and living room, and den, and garage - gets taken over by thousands of Christmas cookies. She works for weeks to produce these beautiful platters of cookies that get distributed to business associates, friends, neighbors, and family members; they are given out to so many people that the cookies do, indeed run out! The following are a selection of the traditional repertoire of cookies that she has built up for our family.

Santa's Whiskers cookies: Mom's grandmother's recipe. Green and red candied cherries, pecans, lots of butter, all rolled in shredded coconut. Slightly chewy with nice crispness to the edges.

Gingerbread cookies, of course! Sometimes decorated, sometimes not, but always soft and well spiced.

Pecan balls: Many call these cookies Mexican Wedding cookies, or Russian Tea Cakes, but Mom's version of these buttery, pecany balls are small and light, ready for a quick pop in the mouth. It's a good thing we have cousins who love these enough to spend hours rolling the balls by hand! The powdered sugar that we store these in at Christmas is always left over in abundance, slightly pecan-flavored and ready for sprinkling on pancakes.

Pecan bars: Anyone who loves pecan pie is a sucker for these honeyed, buttery, nutty bars - a layer of shortbread on the bottom with the gooey sugary nut layer on top.

Chocolate peanut butter bars: These require no baking, just mixing, pressing in a pan, and covering with chocolate. Amazing what magic that can come of peanut butter, powdered sugar, more butter, graham cracker crumbs, and chocolate!

Ganache Cups
: My little brother's most recent addition to our selection, and the chocolatiest of chocolate treats. He creates the cups by painting the inside of small silicone baking cups with melted chocolate, and once they are hardened, he squeezes dark chocolate ganache (which is just heavy cream with chocolate) into the middle. Beautiful and so, so rich. The next generation is already making their mark!

To those who celebrate Christmas, I wish a happy and tasty holiday!

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