Most families have their favorite Christmas cookies and the holidays wouldn’t seem the same unless they were part of the scene. Our family fits into that as well. Our grandmother would start baking cookies the beginning of December and although there were dozens and dozens and dozens hidden away in containers in the closet until Christmas Eve, there never seemed to be enough.
Our family favorites and probably most of these are your favorites too are:
-"Pain in the Butt" Candy Canes (see explanation below)
-Rum Balls (which we have changed into Southern Comfort Balls, or Apricot Brandy ones, or any liquor since the taste is always more mellow than straight rum)
We also have updated our must-haves to include:
-Chocolate Espresso Balls
Although I am not a big fan of sugary things during the year, I have to admit to eating more than my fair share of these delights during the holiday season. We now make only half of each recipe since there are so many must have varieties. This way we don't have to give as many of them away to other family and friends who already have too many of their own. And we also aren't forced to stand on the corner and hand them out to complete strangers, who might be a bit cautious in accepting food from crazy cookie bakers.
OK I said that I would explain the "Pain in the Butt" Candy Canes. It is simply this, if you have ever made them you totally get it. If you haven’t, well you should try it once in a lifetime if you are a glutton for punishment. First of all there are only two people on the planet who can make them look pretty – my grandmother who is no longer with us and my aunt. They have never explained their tricks for making them perfect and to us who have tried, they are tedious and try everyone’s patience.
First you make an almond flavored sugar cookie dough and then divide it in half. Half stays the same and the second half gets red food coloring added and a bit of raspberry extract. It’s chilled and small pieces of each color are made into tiny ropes and then twisted together. It doesn’t sound hard you say — just try it. Out of the batch only a few look perfect. The rest you aren’t quite sure of the shape before baking and after it spreads in the oven, well you get the picture.
Anyway I used to make fun of my mom for her attempts at making them look good, but now that I’ve joined in the process, I have to admit it takes a long time to get it semi-right, and just as you are somewhat getting the hang of it, the dough gets too soft, and you have to chill it again and wait. Let's also not forget the constant hand-washing because the red gel gets on your fingers and all the cookies can become totally pink if you're not careful.
The few that do come out perfectly you feel really good about and just about then someone grabs one and pops it in their mouth – “Wait I say, couldn’t you have eaten a crappy looking one since they taste the same?”
Last year after our holiday party we had enough cookies left to not only let people take some home, but also to freeze some before we got into any more trouble. We had never frozen baked cookies before, and weren’t sure what to expect, but we thought it would be the adult thing to do - to get them out of sight before we ate every last one of them. So fast forward a few months later when we were looking for something to eat, and we were surprised that in the back of our freezer that there were the cookies. What a nice surprise that was. They were as fresh as when they went in. We had only placed them in a plastic carryout container and then placed that into a zip lock bag.
Our cookies might not be perfect looking (Is that the reason why we rarely take closeup pictures of them? Oh well there is always next year.) but they are delicious. If you end up having extra ones try freezing them. It's such a good thing to discover that you have such a yummy treat when it’s dark and gloomy and cold in the middle of winter!