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Baking Christmas cookies – a family tradition

Ella Marie Hayes
Saratoga, Wyo.

As older family generations have left us and younger generations have arrived, new families have been created and new traditions have been introduced. When each child has grown up and married, their spouse brought new traditions, and some old traditions were adapted or disappeared.

However, baking Christmas cookies is one tradition that has survived from generation to generation in our family. I began baking Christmas cookies as a teenager and continued through college, early marriage, but it became even more meaningful when our children became old enough to enjoy the tradition, and continued with our grandchildren. Now we are looking forward to sharing the tradition as our great-grandchildren arrive.

Recipes, like clothing fashions also enjoy periods of high popularity. Cherry Winks were the rage decades ago, but have remained a family favorite with their cheery appearance and the delicious flavor from chopped maraschino cherries and dates, and corn flakes coating.

New recipes and new technology may be constantly introduced, but there will always be some old favorites that never seem to lose popularity. Sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, and spritz cookies are a few of the basic recipes, but we may add new twists to the old favorites.

Gingerbread cookies in various shapes have always been popular whether as gingerbread girl and boy shapes, or more elaborate gingerbread houses. Sugar cookies recipes offer many ways to vary them from thumbprint cookies with a variety of fillings, to cookie cutter shapes decorated with a multitude of choices.

One of our favorite activities, especially for the children, was cutting the rolled sugar cookie dough into the chosen shapes and painting with inexpensive water color paint brushes. The paint is made with brightly colored Egg Yolk Paint (1 beaten egg yolk, 1/4 teaspoon water, and a different food color in each small cup or juice glass).

Before baking, sprinkle with a choice of purchased colored sugars, candy sprinkles, or other packaged cake decorations. After baking, the cookies have a beautiful colorful, glossy finish and no further decoration is necessary. Cookie cutters with grooves forming details on the cookies are a bonus with the egg yolk paint, as paint settles into the grooves and emphasizes the lines.

A variety of cookie cutters can be found for cutting shapes from rolled cookie dough. Two specialty cookie cutters sets I have found include a Nativity set, and a 3-D set of assorted Christmas shapes with both handy for creating stand-up scenes.

Other specialty equipment used for shaping spritz recipes has undergone a series of changes. My family has added to my collection ranging from a family antique press with a rotating handle, a press with a hand-grip twist knob, a hand operated cookie gun with squeeze trigger, and finally an electric super shooter.

Generally the cookie presses are used in a vertical position placed directly against the cookie sheet. However, the press is held above the cookie sheet at an angle when using a star disc which makes a “rope” which can be formed into shapes by hand such as wreaths, or the “sawtooth” template which forms a flat ribbon “washboard” shape.

These cookie presses feature many different changeable disc designs and can be used year-round for a variety of cookies for different occasions. (In addition, cookie press sets usually include special decorative tips to use for adding glamorous touches to many ordinary-looking foods.)

Although most people will probably include regular favorite family cookie recipes during the holiday, I hope that these ideas will motivate readers to at least try a few special Christmas cookie treats. Happy baking!

Van and I wish everyone a blessed holiday season.


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