Today I am going to teach you how to make the Christmas cookies that our family has been making for about 50 years. And I’m thrilled to share it, and even more thrilled to read all of your heirloom recipes and the stories that go with them.
My Aunts and Uncles have memories of these cookies that extend back into their childhood. They remember eating them as children and then returning thousands of miles from college to help roll them out and decorate them together.
As for me, I can’t remember a time when these cookies weren’t a huge part of my Christmas. My dad always made them at home along with 6 other traditional cookie recipes. He had an affinity for christmas tree shaped cookies, frosted green with green sugar sprinkles. He didn’t like to get crazy with the decorating and I must confess I’m still partial to a good ol’ green tree.
Not only that, but every year growing up my Grandparents would rent a cottage for our family so that we could spend a weekend together over the holidays. My Dad was 1 of 5 and I have 13 first cousins, so this was no small gathering.
We would play Euchre on card tables, spend hours in the snow and stay up late telling stories and plotting practical jokes.
At some point over the weekend we would roll out these Christmas cookies by the dozens and then spend the next 24 hour devouring them with hot chocolate from a huge thermos.
I love that because of my Grandparent’s intentional living, my cousins and I have these recipes and memories in common.
They stood on chairs, on either side of me as I rolled out the sticky dough on our floury countertop. Caedmon tried to roll matchbox cars across it as I struggled to keep it smooth and cut in the trees and snowflakes.
They’re young, they’re new at this, they’ll learn. They will grow up all too fast and they’ll stop trying to drink the frosting and eat the sprinkles out of the shaker. These sticky, messy times will give way to a new season.
We will sit and chat together over the cookie dough, they’ll maneuver the roller for themselves. I’ll tell them about the Grandpa they never met and his love for Christmas and the green tree cookies.
I’ll cry a little in that moment, as I’m crying right now. I’ll stop talking, which is rare for me, and I’ll long deeply for my Dad.
I’ll wonder why our Christmases were cut short and then I’ll get a little angry and find a little peace all in the same difficult breath.
Then suddenly one year my children will be all grown up and I’ll be teaching them how to make the dough for themselves. They’ll travel home for Christmas and bring our grandchildren over to roll out the cookies and frost the green trees.
We’ll go for generation number five and then pray that I see number six too.
There’s something about the heritage found in these simple sugar cookies that reminds me who I am and who I come from. May this is always the case with the Penny-Verkaiks.
Because they’re not just cookies, are they? Somehow flour and frosting stops becoming something so easily explained and becomes something strong and powerfully grounding, so full of love and longing.
So this Christmas as you bake your cookies and share them with those who taught your hands to make them, may you thank Our Father for the gift of cookies, family and the thread of sugar that brings us all together.
Now for the Recipe
I’ll be honest with you and confess that until Wednesday I was never brave enough to make the dough on my own, I always just rolled them out and decorated them. My Dad or my Grandma always made the dough for us because in our opinion’s they were the only ones who knew how to do it right.
I found that, if you follow the recipe, it’s not so bad. Our cookies turned out great and the only mistake I really made was adding too much milk to the powdered sugar when I made the frosting, start with a drop of milk, you can always add more.
Grandma Verkaik’s Christmas Cookies (originally from my Grandmother’s friend Mrs DeBoer entitled Grandmas Holiday Crisps)
2 1/4 cups sifted flour (the sifting is essential to this recipe those who have skipped it have met their cookie doom)
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup shortening (you may omit this and use another 1/2 cup of butter, this is the only time of the year that I use crisco because I replicate my Grandma’s cookies to the letter)
Cut all ingredients together, you may use a stand mixer for this part, I did, but Grandma typically uses a pastry cutter.
Now lightly beat 1 large egg
Sprinkle 2 Tbsp of the beaten egg over the mixture (no, not the whole egg)
Sprinkle 2 tsp of vanilla over the mixture
Blend all ingredients together and roll into balls to chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. (I made two balls which I wrapped in plastic wrap to chill)
When you are ready to make your cookies, roll them out onto a clean and lightly floured surface. Do not over-flour your surface or it may dry out the cookies.
Bake them at 400 for 5-10 minutes. They are done when you see them start to turn lightly brown around the edges. Brush them with an egg wash (using your leftover egg) right after they come out of the oven. (This way you can add only sprinkle and no frosting if you desire)
Let them cool on newspaper or cooling racks (if you’re fancy, but growing up, we never were)
While they are cooling, whip up some icing using simply powdered sugar and milk.
This icing recipe is a lot like royal icing, but easier and just as good. Simplicity is nice sometimes.
Gather a bowl for each color icing and put about a cup of powdered sugar in it. Add in the milk a teaspoon at a time, you want it thick but workable. Now add your food coloring.
Decorate your cookies as you like, with frosting, sprinkles, none of it, all of it.
Just make sure to whip up a few green trees to keep the tradition alive.
So, this is a blog Link-up! Now it’s time for you to share your cookie recipe, share your favorite Christmas recipe. You know, the one you make every year no matter what’s swirling around your life.
Write about why it’s so dear to you, so special. Tell us who taught you to make it and what it means to you.
Then link up with us here sometime this weekend or whenever you get the chance over the next week.
If you don’t blog but have a recipe to share, feel free to comment or email me (leannerae at gmail dot com) your recipe story and photos and if I get some this way I’ll share them in a post next Monday.
If you’re blogging along with us, feel free to grab the cookie exchange graphic.
Now get baking, get sharing, I can’t wait to read all about it.
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