Monday, December 12, 2011


Glistening sugar and colored icing, red and green sprinkles and silver dragees, cutters in the shape of bells, bows, reindeer, and toys – by the middle of the 20th century, the decorated cut-out cookie had become the holiday pastry . . . The cookie cutter was born in America, the invention of Pennsylvania Dutch tinsmiths who devised them as an affordable alternative to expensive, hand-carved cookie molds. With the first crude star or Santa, the American style Christmas cookie was born. It’s a Wonderful Christmas, Susan Waggoner, 2004

On a previous post, Leah reminisced about her mother baking rolled sugar cookies for Christmas. She said the cookie cutters her mother used were handmade by her father out of tin cans. How special!

Back in the day, one of our December Saturdays was devoted to baking cookies.  My mother and sister joined forces to make traditional Christmas cookies – spritz, shortbread, and rolled cookies. Mother mixed and baked while Nina decorated and frosted. The cookies were beautifully done. Red candied cherries made holly berries while green candied pineapple was sliced for leaves. I always loved the rolled cookies best, though Mother’s recipe was rather delicate for my taste. “Couldn’t we try a different recipe,” I remember asking her, and I don’t think she appreciated it. However, in reviewing her recipe box, I notice a lot of recipes for rolled sugar cookies and wonder if she was entirely satisfied.

When my children were young, I rolled and frosted both sugar and gingerbread cookies and they were allowed to frost them. No piping at our house! Slap that frosting on the cookie, decorate with red hots or squashed mini marshmallows, and there you have it! Delicate is just not my style! I never found my ideal sugar cookie recipe, and this year I tried yet another -- “McCormick's Spiced Holiday Sugar Cookies,” which was featured in an advertisement. The spice is cinnamon and nutmeg in the batter.

We had a skiff of snow last night which made our world almost white. And it's cold -- I don’t think it warmed much above 25 today. After lunch, Nellie invited Mike to take her hunting, so out they went for a couple of hours. The time seemed right for baking the cookie dough I had mixed. I don’t know what Hallie will think, but Mike likes them and I’m pretty sure Nick will, too.

Ms. Waggoner, quoted above, states that “throughout the 1950s and 1960s, new varieties [of Christmas cookies] were added at a staggering clip, and the annual holiday cookie section became a major feature in magazines . . .” Yes, I have certainly noticed the plethora of holiday cookie recipes and yet, just what is it that makes a cookie a holiday cookie if it isn't traditional? One magazine feature this year suggested no-bake cookies to be made Christmas Eve. That just didn't appeal to me. I know how to make Rice Krispie treats if I need them.

Look what I found today – just after I said I didn’t think I would find more treasures. It’s my dad’s childhood postcard album. Talk about a much-loved book! Much loved and much worn. It holds many postcards commemorating many special occasions. KW


Hallie said...

I was thinking about making thumb print cookies to fill with jelly and share. So much good jelly! I'll make a beef roast tomorrow and we'll have pulled beef atop water crackers with a dab of cheese and a dollop of jelly. :) I must have satisfied most of my sweet tooth in childhood. I love to make sweets, but I only want a small taste after meals.

Hallie said...

P.S. I see Rudolph back there on the chair! Nellie dog is SO cute.

Kathy said...

We aren't ready to talk about Rudolph yet. Look at the picture again. Some sort of optical illusion there.

You might have eaten candy at Halloween, but I don't remember that you had a sweet tooth. None of our children enjoyed dessert as much as Mike and I did. I remember taking the three younger children to Baskin-Robbins for ice cream, which proved to be an ordeal. In reviewing the situation, I realized I was the one who wanted the ice cream -- not the children.

When I was growing up, prepared desserts, including cookies, happened on weekends. Weeknight desserts were ice cream or canned fruit. But my parents did buy cookies. I never buy cookies, with the exception of gingersnaps.

Hallie said...

Is the illusion that Rudolph is not on the chair? Thinking about it, he really isn't tall enough to be on the chair and make it into the shot.

Kathy said...

The illusion is that Rudolph is not there at all. If I'm seeing what you are, a piece of wood in the carrier looks like an antler.

But -- maybe it is Rudolph and I'm in denial.

Chris said...

Well, call me crazy, but I sure enough see Rudolf, too! Complete with red nose. And I haven't had any elderberry syrup!

Chris said...

Oh! In getting all caught up in the Rudolf controversy, I forgot to say that you made an amazing find! How wonderful, and I know it will lead to further posts. I'm looking forward to them!

Leah said...

I always marveled at the women who would bake different kinds of cookies for Christmas. Today, so many mothers work outside the home, I think that scenario is a distant memory.

Kathy, I don't understand what you meant by "your mother's recipe was rather delicate." Do you mean thin fragile cookies, elegant decorations or what?

When I bought this house, I noticed the built in oven and thought nothing of it. Then I tried to put my new wide heavy duty cookie sheets in the oven and they didn't fit. This was an awful situation. I had to use my old ones (which aren't used much, either). The wide heavy duty cookie sheets are still with me. If I ever get a new oven, I'm going to make sure it's wide enough for the cookie sheets I'm holding on to.

I'm also anxious to see the vintage post cards. What an exciting discovery.

One of the most wonderful scents is the smell of cookies baking in the oven.

Kathy said...

Leah -- Mother's sugar cookies were the type to be served at a tea -- tea cookies. Thin, crisp, elegantly decorated. Of course, they were delicious, but just not the sort of sugar cookie that appealed to a child. At least -- that's my thought on the matter. And, it took way to long for what it was worth in my opinion. It was what she liked to do. And she made plates of spritz, Scotch shortbreads, frosted sugar cookies, and fruitcake to be delivered to half a dozen friends. It was a big part of our Christmas.

But I prefer a cookie that's a little bulkier, frosting that smooths on with a knife, red hots and marshmallows for decorations.

Too bad about your cookie sheets. I can use my old big ones in my ovens and am grateful. Seems to me today's cookie sheets just aren't what they used to be.