Friday, December 31, 2010

Sweet Holiday Tradition

Growing up, the month of December seemed to exist as a mere countdown to Christmas Day; a day when treasures were ripped open making life instantly better. And, what a downer 7:00 Christmas Day would be; the gifts were opened, the meal was eaten and life went back to normal.  Many years later, I still love Christmas for the excitement of the new and the comfort of old traditions.  In our house, few traditions have had the staying power of baking day.

I have always baked Christmas gifts, however this was the first year that I involved my three year old.  With an unexpected chill in the air and Christmas carols blasting from the stereo, the youngest and I took to the kitchen for an afternoon of mixing and measuring.  One of our first creations were Dorie Greenspan's Speculoos; a delicious brown sugar cookie that seemed perfect for small gift bags.  There was only one problem; I used up all of my dried ginger on some stir fry the week before.  Since caution had already been thrown to the wind with a three year old sous chef, I decided that allspice would work just fine, as it turned out, it did.  With warm spices these cookies had a distinct 'Christmasy'  taste.   My only disappointment was my decision to use a 3 inch biscuit cutter which did not offer a very interesting shape.  Later that week, I picked up a mitten shaped cutter from Sur la Table and made another batch for family travelers...perfect!  Encouraged by our success, my young helper and I added Snickerdoodles to the prep list which with their cinnamon sugar coating were the perfect companion.

I have tried many Snickerdoodle recipes over the years and prefer the following as it gives the lovely chewy texture.

Recipe created by: Carole Clements

1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
3 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped (I omitted these)
For the Coating
5 TB sugar
2 TB cinnamon

  1. With an electric mixer, cream the butter until light. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, then the milk. 
  2. Sift the flour and baking soda over the butter mixture and stir to blend.  Stir in the nuts, if using.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375,  Grease 2 cookie sheets.  
  3. For the coating, mix the sugar and cinnamon.  Roll Tablespoons of the dough into walnut sized balls.  Roll in the sugar mixture.  You may need to work in batches.  
  4. Place dough balls two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets and flatten slightly.  Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
These were amazingly popular cookies both among preschoolers and adults alike.  In the end, baking day not only gave the youngest and I a chance to indulge our Christmas spirit, but actually mark tasks off the holiday to-do list.  And, I must admit, watching our cookies being nibbled by family members throughout the week was a joy unparalleled.  Looking for a tradition to add to your list, or just an easy activity for last few days of Christmas vacation? Break out the flour and sugar... sweet tradition is waiting!  


  1. Your cookies look great! And good for you for involving your little one in the baking process. I've had my kids in the kitchen from the time they could stand on a stool at the counter. Sure it's more work than baking on my own. But the time together is so worth it.

    I have fond memories of "helping" my mom bake when I small enough that I had to sit on the counter. I attribute my love of cooking and baking to her willingness to let me mess up the kitchen. And I hope it works the same way for my kids.

  2. What a great story. I grew up helping my Mom and our next-door neighbor bake cookies and Christmas, and have continued that tradition wiht my nieces - even now that they're "all grown up", they still want to come over and bake cookies.

    That's a tradition you'll treasure. Oh, and those cookies look great... makes me want to bake some more!

  3. Both cookies look insanely yummy - I love snickerdoodles! :) Happy New Year to you!

  4. Your cookies look great! I'm sure the ones with the mitten cookie cutter were adorable!

  5. Cookies are so good! Im glad you enjoyed the cookies!!

  6. Didn't you just loved these cookies? Where did you get those CUTE cookie bags? Happy New Year!

  7. It's so good that you're continuing your family's Christmas baking tradition. Also, those cookie bags are nifty!

    Happy New Year!

  8. Thanks for the encouragement all! I bought the cookie bags at Sur la Table; we were not the only ones in love with them as when I went back for another batch they were sold out! Buy early next year..... so fun cooking with all of you. Looking forward to more fun in 2011!