[Ed.: Here’s Janelle, having emerged from her cookie baking marathon, to share 20 years of Christmas cookie baking wisdom with us! ]

Are you a soft/chewy kind of person or a hard/crunchy /I’m going to dunk it in my coffee kind of person?  Do you keep them in a cookie jar or do you have to put them in the freezer so they actually last more than two days?  Classic chocolate chip or some modern treat like “Orange Hazelnut Olive Oil Cookies“?

A few little crumbs of cookie history for you:

  • In earlier American cookbooks, cookies were given no space of their own but were listed at the end of the cake chapter. They were given really goofy names such as “Jumbles,” “Plunkets,” and “Cry Babies.”
  • The first cookies were created by accident. Bakers used a small amount of cake batter to test their oven temperature before baking a large cake. In Dutch these little test cakes were called “koekje”, meaning “little cake”.
  • Cookies can be found in the culinary history of 7th century Persia. Seeing as they had already cultivated the use of sugar, it was only a matter of time before someone made tasty little cakes of sugar, nuts and and fruit.
  • Cookies became a part of European culture as a result of the Muslims conquering Spain.
  • They are the most common home baked good.

In my house, cookies are without a doubt the #1 baked good. That is because of Christmas. With a large family that always exchanges gifts, I started baking cookies to make gift giving affordable – and doable. Who doesn’t like getting fresh baked treats at Christmas?  Over the years, the “Cookie List” has featured quite prominently on my list of Christmas things to do. It takes at least one evening to plan. I need a calculator and a large chart. That’s because each year, on average, I bake 500-600 cookies.  So, I computerized my cookie list this year. It needed to be done.  It was much easier to calculate I needed to buy 9 pounds of butter!

The Production Line

Baking Christmas cookies for almost 20 years (YIKES!!!!!) gives you an opportunity to really perfect the ones you have inherited from your family and time to find and solidify your own baking traditions.  From my Mom, I make Jam-jams (butter vanilla sandwich cookies with raspberry jam in the middle) and for my Dad some type of butter tart square.  This year I am also making my tried and true Chocolate Walnut Rum balls, Turtle Bars, traditional Gingerbread (the kids get to help decorate), and Chocolate Dipped Sour Cherry Hazelnut Biscotti.  I also thought I would try a couple new recipes: Coconut Chocolate Almond Biscotti and Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies.

To end this day’s blog, here is my ultimate Christmas Cookie recipe: Mexican Chocolate Cherry Rounds. No one else in my family makes anything close to this one. This is my Christmas Cookie pièce de résistance! [Ed.: It’s true, they are amazing! ]. They have cinnamon, cloves, cayenne pepper, lots of chocolate with a sugary coating finished with a maraschino cherry on top. Nothing makes me start humming Christmas carols more than the smell of the flour and spices being whisked together. They require fresh spices and if you decide to try them make sure you only chill the cookie dough for a couple hours. (Overnight would result in rock hard cement).

I have to keep my Christmas cookies in the basement deep freeze or outside in the garden shed so there are still there at Christmas.

I baked more than 150 of the little lovelies this afternoon. Outside the snow came down slowly, almost lazily, there was a fire in the stove and I listened to a little Cat Janke Christmas music while I melted chocolate and mixed ingredients.

Hope this gets you all in the spirit of the season.

via Saskatchewan,