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Christmas Traditions and Holiday Cookies
by Hart Dowd

Children around the world always write a long list to Santa telling him what they want for Christmas. But has anyone ever asked the jolly man from the North Pole what he wants? Well, the secret's out. Not that you couldn't have guessed.

" It's cookies!" Santa likes cookies to look special, just as you do when arranging a plate of them for company, boxing them up for gifts or toting them to a bake sale, or cookie exchange.

This selection invites little hands to help in the cutting out, the decorating and, certainly, the choosing of the best and most beautiful for the jolly man who appears by magic on the most fantastic night of the year.

To leave some cookies and milk by the fireplace for Santa is a relatively new addition to our holiday rituals. In fact, the tradition doesn't go back much further than the Depression, when it was also a reminder of the importance of sharing in the face of hard economic times. Then, as now, cookies were one of life's little indulgences, especially at Christmastime, but all cookies are variations on the same basic theme: butter, sugar and flour.

However, that's only the beginning. The mark of an exceptional cookie is the special ingredients ~ and lots of them ~ that make an ordinary recipe even more of a treat. Here I present some slightly decadent cookies, each reflective of the why-use-a-little-when-you-can-use-a-lot philosophy.

These could prove to be such a hit with your family that there might not be enough left for Santa on Christmas Eve, so maybe the recipes should be doubled. You wouldn't want to disappoint St. Nick, would you?

Being Canadians we think MAPLE SHORTBREAD COOKIES put a quintessentially Canadian spin on an Old-World Tradition. The classic component is traditionally Irish shortbread, whose claim to fame is, of course, the richness of creamery butter. What makes it truly unique is the unmistakable flavor of Canadian maple syrup. Although this recipe demands two separate steps, the maple butter flavor is well worth the effort.

MAPLE BUTTER

2/3 cup maple syrup and cup butter (room temperature)

In a small saucepan, bring maple syrup to a boil and reduce by half, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand at room temperature. When cool, add the butter and stir until completely blended.

Place in refrigerator until firm. Makes cup.

SHORTBREAD

cup maple butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
teaspoon salt

Combine the maple butter, flour and salt in a food processor. Pulse until all the ingredients are well combined and form a ball. Flatten into a disk shape. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until the dough is well chilled.

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C (350 degrees F).

Position rack to center of oven.

Remove dough from fridge and roll to -inch thickness. With cookie cutters, cut dough into desired shapes. Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake until slightly golden brown, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

Makes about three dozen two-inch cookies.



Little CHRISTMAS THIMBLE CAKES

cup butter
1 cup unsifted flour
cup confectioners' sugar, preferably sifted
1 egg, separated
teaspoon salt
teaspoon vanilla
cup finely chopped pecans
Jams, jellies, marmalade . . . . . . .

Cream the butter and sugar; add the egg yolk and vanilla, then the flour and salt. (Put the egg white in a little dish for dipping, later.)

Mix it well. If it's hard to handle, chill it. Then shape it into -inch balls, dip them in the egg white, and roll them in the chopped nuts.

Now we come to the thimble part:
Put the balls on an ungreased baking sheet and, with a thimble, poke a little crater on each.

Bake for five minutes at 350 degrees F. Then take them out and repoke them ~ the craters tend to level out ~ and bake them six minutes longer, till they're set. After they've cooled on racks, fill the centers with the jams, jellies and marmalades. (If you're storing these, store them unfilled, or things will get pretty sticky.)


CURLED-UP CANDY COOKIES
{These give a lot of expression to a cookie plate.}

cup unblanched almonds, grated or ground fine
cup butter
cup sugar
1 tablespoon each of flour, heavy cream, & milk

Put it all in a saucepan over low heat and stir it till the butter melts. Then whisk it a bit till its smooth, and drop the batter by the teaspoonful onto a well-oiled and floured cookie sheet ~ only three per sheet, because they spread like mad and, also, you have to roll each one while it's malleable, and they cool fast.

Bake at 350 degrees F. about eight minutes till the centers bubble a little and they're deep gold. Take them out, let them cool for a few seconds, and then quickly roll each one around a broom handle or a wooden spoon handle. Re-oil and flour the cookie sheet each time or you may be sorry.


PEANUT--BUTTER POKIES

Liberate two egg whites from two eggs and slip them into a bowl.

Mix with 1-1/2 cups of peanut butter and 1 cup white sugar.

Drop by the teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet.

Press gently with the tines of a fork.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.



Thanks to Hart Dowd for these great recipes!
Check out Helen Dowd's site Occupy Till I Come for more great reading.

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