I have a conflicted relationship with cookies. They’re made with good things, but they’re not always good for you – particularly if it’s impossible to eat just one, or even two.
I can’t resist the sweet, crisp, crunch of a Linzer cookie, a sugar cookie or even an Oreo. (Have you tried the Golden Oreos?) The chewy comfort of a chocolate crinkle, a peanut butter cookie, or especially a chocolate chip cookie spells temptation for me. Lace cookies, Milanos and macaroons (which are cookies for the purposes of this discussion) are all grist for the mill. Even oatmeal cookies, which are suspiciously healthy sounding, don’t last around our house.
I just can’t seem to eat a reasonable number of cookies. One or two should satisfy, but I gobble them so ravenously, that by the time my body responds with signals of satisfaction, I’m way over the legal limit. Long after my craving is gone, I’m still having symptoms of cookie gluttony.
A bag of Milanos (double chocolate, of course) is not safe in my house. A family size pack of double stuffed Oreos is cause to have Weight Watchers on speed dial. By the way, I wonder who came up with the idea for double stuffing? It transformed good cookies to great. I can imagine long meetings about the extra expense, but I don’t care that they cost more, they’re so much better. Marketing genius! Someone should get the consumer goods equivalent of the Nobel Prize for this. I’m surprised that there is still demand for the single stuffed.
In Norwalk, we are privileged to have the headquarters for Pepperidge Farms. I hope somewhere on the grounds there’s a monument to their cookie achievements and the excess calories we have all absorbed thanks to their creativity.
Now it’s Christmas time, when the homemade cookie world swings into overdrive. In addition to year-round favorites, Christmas cookies are everywhere.
Around our house, the cookies tend to be pretty down-home, made from family recipes winnowed by generations to a list of favorites. At Christmas time the cookie press comes out to make shapes for stars, Christmas trees, wreaths and more. Decorated with colored sugar or infused with color, these bite-size nuggets go down easy. Sugar cookies are easily cut into Christmas shapes like santas and reindeers for icing or decorating.
This year, inspired by Marsha’s Norwegian friend Berit, we’re making Christmas trees of stacked-up star-shaped cookies (pictured above). The moist family sugar cookie dough is rolled out under wax paper with a couple of chopsticks on each side to support the rolling pin for an even thickness.
Cut into star shapes and baked, the cookies are slicked with green icing and stacked into a tree shape. Alternating the orientation of the star points makes a good evergreen effect. Berit’s trees, neater than ours, are decorated with green sugar sprinkles and red sugar balls.
Our granddaughter thinks this is the perfect treat to leave for Santa on Christmas Eve.
Chocolate Crinkles and Oatmeal cookies are always on the platter at home, along with pecan fingers and decorated sugar cookies. Lace cookies were added to the mix a few years ago. There’s always fudge and spiced pecans too, although they’re not,strictly speaking, cookies. Isn’t the Christmas tradition of sweets a wonderful idea?
For the definitive cookie reference, check Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan. It’s the hot new cookbook this season with over 500 comprehensive pages of cookie magic. Each recipe has passed the author’s irresistibility test. Cookie lover and part-time Connecticut resident Greenspan is the award winning author of 12 cook books, mostly about baking.
Pfefferneusse, portofignos, and “World Peace Cookies” are right in there with chocolate chip, lemon sugar, and pecan shortbreads. You’ll find your favorites in well-tested recipes along with a host of tempting new types in this cookie compendium. It’s going to be a standard reference for any accomplished baker.
Thomas Keller is another renowned chef with a sweet tooth. His Bouchon Bakery, down the street from his renowned French Laundry restaurant in the Napa Valley, is a cookie destination. In the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook he includes a dozen decadent cookies, including his version of an Oreo called TKOs, oatmeal, chocolate chip, shortbread and macaroons, along with decorating tips and even dog cookies. Challenging to make, the cookies look spectacular and taste even better.
Christmas time is cookie time. The delightful aroma of baking sugar, flour and butter heralds the cookie banquet to come. Yes, I’ll overindulge, but it’s only for a few celebratory weeks. There’ll be plenty of time in January to recover. I hope your holiday season is filled with lots of good cookies, too!