‘Tis The Season

Somewhere along the way as I was growing up, the food element of Christmas overtook the excitement of the gift element. This shift occurred gradually until one year, instead of waking up anxious to see the presents, I woke up salivating with thoughts of Eggs Benedict. However, I have always, always looked forward to the Christmas cookies.

They’re as much a seasonal ingredient as any meat or produce and I would argue they are better than the year-round cookies for simply that reason. When the mammoth Tupperware containers sitting in the cold on the back deck were empty, that was it for 12 months. Savour the anticipation!

Through the years, Mom has developed a standard baseline of Cookies That Must Be Made Each Year. This includes Jam-jams, shortbread and butter tarts. There are also the Cookies That Generally Make an Appearance Every Other Year but do not qualify as bonified baseline: Twix-bar squares, hazelnut clusters, deep-fried sugar cookies and fudge. Finally, we have a mysterious category– the Only Mom Likes This and Makes It With The Assumption That We Will Eat It category. The lone item on this page is Mincemeat Cheesecake. (In my mind, there is no better way to ruin a perfectly good cheesecake than to put a layer of mincemeat in the middle. Why would anyone do this?)

This year marks a milestone in cookie history in my family because I audaciously suggested ditching the ones in the Generally Make an Appearance category and found three new cookies to try. I think we were all ready for a change because it was easy to convince the Matriarch and the Tasting Panel (a.k.a. Dad). So this year, on Ingrid’s advice, I combed the Christmas Cookie section of Canadian Living Magazine and selected Really Good Rum Balls, Eggnog Sugar Cookies and Double Ginger Drop Cookies. I abhor the cheesy titles so I let the ingredients make the decision for me. Love rum; love eggnog; LOVE ginger.

After nearly 6 [hung-over] hours, my mom and I were able to produce over 10 dozen cookies (including the Jam-jams as one of the staple items) and the results were brilliant. The drop cookies have both ground and crystallized ginger in them which made them marvelously spicy and chewy whenever biting into a solid chunk of ginger. We drizzled both those and the Eggnog Sugar cookies with the same simple icing (sugar and milk) and in similar, clean patterns. (Basically, we were too tired to ice each individual cookie so just lined them up on baking racks and streamed long strands of icing across them en masse. They actually turned out ridiculously well as very elegant and attractive treats.) The Eggnog recipe produced a wafer like cookie that reminds me of a delicately flavoured biscuit one might have with tea. The icing gave them just a hint of extra sweetness that was perfect.

Finally, the rum balls: rum, grated chocolate, ground almonds, icing sugar. I hope nobody else likes these.

Et voilà! A completely revised repertoire that has rekindled my love of holiday cookies and is guaranteed to add further insulation. Now comes the fun part: planning the Christmas dinner menu!

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