The December calendar is practically full already and I don't see where I'm going to fit in baking or wrapping or even bathing, but I know it has to happen. On Christmas there will be presents and food and fun and the lights will all be hung and the stockings too, but right now there's a lot more work to do. And I still have to work work. But I think I'm going to take a Cookie Day, not a day off, not a sick day, just a Cookie Day. I'll be in my kitchen all day with the butter and the flour and the mixer and the radio turned up high enough that I can still hear it. I'll dance around the kitchen all day.
One of my earliest childhood memories is baking with my mother. She used to bake in our grandmother's kitchen when I was very young, filling poinsettia-covered cookie tins with sprinkle cookies and sugar cookies. The cookie tins were stacked on a shelf of a built-in hutch in my grandmother's pantry, and given to guests and relatives at Christmas. I remember Gran asking me to get a tin for someone off the shelf and feeling that that hutch held all the cookies in the world. Next to the tins was a canister of chocolate straws that she would bring out for guests as well and I can still feel that melting chocolate on my tongue.
My mother baked cookies in a continuous loop. The press out cookies, the chocolate chip, and something special, our "hand" cookies. She would gently trace around our little hands with a sharp knife as it hovered over the sugar cookie dough. I can still feel the tickle trying to move my fingers out far enough to get each finger cut just right. If you pressed too hard with your hand the dough wouldn't come off the surface and we'd have to start over. She somehow put our names on these and hung them on the tree. Then we got to eat them! It was our first breakfast on Christmas morning. So fun! (I know I threw her under the bus in another post, but these were the kinds of things she did to make holidays magical and Christmas was the most magical of all!)
When we were older my mother hid the cookies on the top shelf of our kitchen coat closet, out of reach of ten little hands that would have eaten through them in one day. She had a huge Tupperware tub that she lined with wax paper and layered the cookies carefully so they wouldn't crumble or break. You can't find that Tupperware any more: I know because I've tried. There's just no need for something that big any more I suppose.
When my brothers were finally old enough they could reach right into the tub and get a cookie without too much effort - they didn't even have to tippy-toe. They peeled the seal back and reached in without taking it down or pulling it off the shelf. I remember asking for one because I couldn't reach. My mother was determined to keep it filled though and would pull it out each night and lament about the fact that no matter what, she just couldn't get that tub filled and so would pull out her baking again, with the mixer and the vanilla and the chocolate chips and the eggs.
So I am taking a cookie day and I am going to bake my heart out. I'll leave the butter out the night before, or maybe get the doughs all ready so all I have to do is scoop the next day. (Then I can wrap while the trays are in the oven.) Really I've been to countless cookie exchanges, but the only ones truly worth baking are the Tollhouse chocolate chips. My family's not into anything fancy or with rum and coconut and chopped pistachios and pine nuts, just good old fashioned Toll house at Christmas. Ginger snaps aren't bad, maybe some snickerdoodles and peanut butter. Simple is best. Maybe I'll make some sugar cookies because Annie loves sprinkles and I'll cut out a few hand cookies too for Christmas morning. It's going to be a great day.
Here are two claiming to be the best:
** One note - I saw on America's test kitchens that the vanilla doesn't really make a difference, and that it can be eliminated. I also heard somewhere that chocolate is best complimented by coffee, so I'm substituting Coffee (strong, left over kind that's been sitting there all day) for the vanilla. I'll let you know how it turns out!! I'm going to make sure I have good chips too!