The Christmas-cookie baking marathon that so many of us home bakers annually embark upon has its charms but, for me at least, those charms always seem to be counterbalanced by the problem of narrowing down all the potential cookie choices. How do we please everyone when each family member has his or her own list of favorites? How do we incorporate a few new recipes year after year without retiring our cherished regulars? And, how do we prioritize our time in the kitchen as the big day approaches and the tinsel starts to fly?
In a poignant/pathetic attempt to gain clarity, I have to sit myself down each December and ask vital questions like the following:
- Will you consider yourself a yuletide failure if you don't, yet again, make your mom's ancient but enduring thumbprint recipe?
- Which kind of cookie production gives you the most bang for your physical and emotional buck anyway? Fast and furious (think drop cookies, bar cookies, cookies with few ingredients, etc.)? Or slow and meticulous (think rolled, cut, and decorated sugar cookies)?
- Will your kids pout and whine if you neglect to make tons of chocolate crinkles?
- Will your spouse's co-workers gaze at him despondently if you fail to produce a hefty platter of rugelach, etc., for his office party?
- Will you end up paralyzed with fatigue if you battle through and manage to make a dozen (or fifteen, or twenty--what's the difference?) unique cookie varieties all by yourself in one day?
Bottom line? Don't sacrifice your sanity on an altar of old cookie tins. Sacrifice anything else, but not that. Just do what brings you some joy. But don't go off the rails. Five or six cookie varieties? Let that be fine with you. One favorite cookie choice per immediate family member? Perfect. Years ago, my husband became interested in home brewing and home brewers had a mantra, which he would occasionally spout. They'd say, "Relax. Don't worry. Have a home brew." I suggest we edit that to read, "Relax. Don't worry. Have a Christmas cookie."
Here's a little round up of some favorite cookies from past posts. I want to try a few new recipes this season, but I'm going to keep it all under control. If it kills me.
Merry Mocha Streusel Bars
Hard to resist. Not too sweet, and just a little cheese-cakey. Maybe the best bar cookie around.
Chocolate Walnut Rugelach and Raspberry Rugelach
What's not to like about cream cheese pastry filled with yummy stuff like chocolate, cinnamon, nuts, and/or raspberry jam? Nothing!
Cranberry Snowdrift Bars
These babies are just darn incredible. I love them. A cookie-like base, sweet and tart cranberry filling, topped with a tender/crisp baked meringue. Pretty to look at, and really good.
Cinnamon Cranberry Shortbread
The variations you can eek out of a simple shortbread recipe are endless. Here's a great example!
Scotch Oat Sandwich Crunchies with Raspberry-Key Lime Filling
So good. And crunchy. Really, really crunchy.
Kahlua and Cream Shortbread Sandwich Cookies
If you love Kahlua and you love cookies, hop on board this train. You won't regret it.
Chocolate-Filled Coconut Macaroon Sandwich Cookies
Oh man, were these good. American-style macaroons at their very best. Tender, chewy. Yum's the word.
Orange Almond Butter Buttons
The kind of cookie that longs to accompany a nice, hot cup of tea. Crispy and delicately flavored.
Robust Molasses Cookies
A classic molasses cookie that will not disappoint purists. Chewy and nice. Every cookie platter needs these!
Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies
This is chocolate taken to the nth degree. It's where chocolate ends because it can't get any more chocolatey than this.