Ladies and gentlemen...let the Christmas cookie season begin. What, I ask you, is more merry than a Christmas cookie?
Not Bing Crosby.
And definitely not the mechanical Rudolph nodding in your neighbor's yard.
There's just nothing that's not fun about a Christmas cookie. Santa-shaped, thumbprinted, or rolled and smushed with a fork, cookies are the shining stars of holiday foods. Oh of course they're delicious, that goes without saying; but the reason we love Christmas cookies, deep down, is because of the memories they draw up in our minds every December. For example, I was fortunate enough to grow up with a grandmother who baked approximately one million Christmas cookies during my childhood. She would put them in tins and lay them out on the dessert table for all to graze on, and let's just say that no one ever really touched the fruitcake with those things around...Christmas just wasn't Christmas without them. Gramma Betts, as we called her (short for Betsy, short for Elizabeth), took so much pride in making them for her family every year, and the special care she took in carrying on her traditions was certainly not lost on me. I remember her cookies every year, and I like to think that now I can carry on her tradition. Can love be expressed through food? Without question.
So, like I said, there is nothing more merry than a Christmas cookie.
And let's pause for a minute to consider the astounding number of varieties: sugar cookies, peanut butter kiss cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies! Gingerbread! Shortbread! Tassies, teacakes, sandies, snickerdoodles! And, of course, macaroons...how it is a sin to forget the macaroons.
I made my first batch of the year tonight, and chose macaroons to kick off the season. I do recommend running--not walking--to the nearest home kitchen and doing yourself a favor by whipping these up as soon as humanly possible. Cheers.
ORANGE CHOCOLATE MACAROONS
2 2/3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 egg whites
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 ounces dark baking chocolate
Mix together coconut, sugar, and flour in a large bowl. The result will look like a tiny winter wonderland! Who wants to ski?
Then mix in the egg whites. I have yet to master the technique of separating the whites from the yolks.
Then you add in the vanilla extract, chopped pecans, and orange zest,
and this is what you get.
Scoop them with a spoon onto a cookie sheet, and bake at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes. Make sure you use the right kind of wax paper when lining your pans, however...I definitely used the wrong kind and had a TIME trying to get the little buggers unstuck after cooling.
And now to the fun part! Put the chocolate squares into a ziplock bag and melt them in the microwave until they're just squishy enough to become liquid, about one minute. Snip a hole in the corner of the bag and pipe on the chocolate to your liking. And if "to your liking" means piping half of it directly into your mouth, that's ok too. It's Christmas for crying out loud.
Gosh they're pretty. Here's to you, Gramma Betts.