At this time of year, the kitchen of my childhood home was covered in a thin blanket of flour. That's because my mom when into baking overdrive around the second week of November and didn't stop until the day after Christmas. We kids all had our favorites and Mom always obliged. These six recipes, by far, were and still are, at the top of the list of must-haves at Christmastime.
Because some of these recipes have been in my family generations, you'll notice one particular ingredient that would make dietitians faint. That ingredient is shortening/Crisco. When I make these cookies now, I swap the shortening out for butter, which my mother thinks is an expensive, unnecessary extravagance. Also, these recipes
make a lot to HUGE batches of cookies. Keep that in mind as you'll probably want to cut them in halves or even fourths. And, finally, since these recipes are straight out of my collection, there are no accompanying images as I'm not in the habit of taking pictures of my baked goods. (Why does that sound a little dirty?) Anyway, here we go.
Our first recipe is for Mom's light and delicate sugar cookies. Because they are rolled into balls and not rolled with a rolling pin, they're easy to whip up with little fuss.
Mom's Sugar Cookies (Makes about 6 dozen)
- 1 cup of oil (Mom uses canola these days)
- 1 cup margarine or butter
- 1 cup of powdered sugar
- 1 cup of granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon of almond extract
- 4 cups + 4 tablespoons flour
Sift the baking soda and cream of tartar with the flour. Mix all ingredients and roll into balls. (About walnut-size.) Press the tops of the balls into colored sugar. Arrange on un-greased cookie sheet--sugar side up--and bake at 350 degrees for 7 to 10 minutes.
Sweet and slightly spicy, Mom's gingersnaps filled the house with a scent I will forever equate with Christmas.
Mom's Prize Gingersnaps (no mention of quantity, but based on the flour content, I'd guess about 3 dozen)
- 3/4 cup shortening
- 4 tablespoons molasses
- 2 cups flour, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoons cloves
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
Cream shortening and sugar. Add the molasses and egg and mix well. Added flour and dry ingredients. Chill mix. Roll dough into small balls (small walnut-size); dip tops in sugar and place on un-greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
Before my mom, there was my grandmother, who was the original super-baker in the family. Only five ingredients, these Butter Balls are easy and fast to make.
Grandma Jochim's Butter Balls (probably 3 dozen or so)
- 1 cup soft butter
- 6 tablespoons powdered sugar-sifted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla OR almond flavor
- 2 cups sifted cake flour
- 1 cup ground nuts (usually walnuts)
Mix all ingredients. Roll into balls. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool and roll in powdered sugar.
This next entry isn't exactly a cookie but it deserves to be on this list. I made them one Christmas and my uncle-in-law almost when into a Nut Tartlet coma.
Mom's Nut Tartlets (makes 8 dozen)
To make the crusts:
- 5 cups flour
- 2 1/2 cups butter
- 16 ounces of cream cheese
Mix these 3 ingredients and CHILL WELL. Shape into walnut-sized balls and press into little muffin tins. You'll want to press them up the edges, making little 'pie crusts.'
To make the filling:
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- 4 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 cups chopped walnuts
Mix the FIRST FOUR ingredients. Put 1 teaspoon of the filling in each cup. Sprinkle tops with the chopped nuts. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
I must admit, our next batch is my all-time favorite. Not too sweet and subtly spicy, they're a dangerous cookie because you can eat a lot and not even know it.
Mom's Ginger Creams (makes 8 dozen)
- 4 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup molasses
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 4 teaspoons baking soda + 2 tablespoons hot water (mixed together)
- 4 teaspoons ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.
Mix ingredients and drop in tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from sheet while still hot. Frost with powdered sugar frosting and sprinkle with nonpareils.
And, finally, the ultimate Christmas cookie in our house. The recipes above Mom would make throughout the year, but not this next one. Nope. Pfeffernuesse were a Christmastime only cookie. Mom SWEARS these cookies get better as they age. Like better at 2 and 3 weeks stored in the fridge rather than cooled straight out of the oven. I'm going to transcribe the recipe just as Mom gave it to me as it has a certain charm I think you'll appreciate.
Mom's Pfeffernuesse Cookies (quantity is huge)
- 1 cup butter flavored Crisco
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
Cream together, then add:
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup black coffee
Mix again and add:
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 3 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoon anise oil
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cloves
Mix together and then add 7 1/2 cups sifted flour gradually. Chill for several days.
Roll into walnut-sized balls. Bake at 350 degrees on greased cookie sheet for 13 minutes but not over 14 minutes.
Roll in powdered sugar while warm.
You probably want to cut this recipe in half.
Tip: Get your anise oils at a drug store (LorAnn's brand).
Also, I just sift the powdered sugar lightly on a layer of cookies at a time. No more sticky hands. Also, the butter flavor Crisco makes a difference.
Also, just use instant coffee in hot water and let it cool!
And there they are, my family's favorite Christmas cookies, courtesy of my Mom.