© Another Day in the Country
It is that time of year again and we are baking cookies.
I do not know who for and I do not know how many, but I do know why. It is the season for cookie baking, pure and simple. So, let’s get with it.
In fact, I must admit that I have cookies in the oven baking as I am writing this column. That is a very dangerous exercise!
I just went to check on them and they aren’t quite done.
These particular cookies are favorites of mine but I must admit that I’ve never ever really followed the recipe.
The recipe for these anise cookies calls for beating 2 cups of sugar and 4 eggs for 30, yes, 30 minutes.
“Whoever beat anything that long?” I want to know.
The recipe says to then add 4 cups of flour (sifted, which I also never do) with ¼ teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons of baking powder.
Lastly, you add 4 teaspoons of anise seed. Then you roll the dough ½ inch thick, cut out the cookies, and let stand 12 hours or overnight. I never do that either.
But I love the cookies!
This year, I decided that it was about time that I actually followed the recipe for a change.
I didn’t really go the full 30 minutes on the beating regime, but I did go a full 20 which was a great improvement over five minutes.
I did sift the flour concoction, per the instructions, and decided to let the raw cookies stand overnight.
So, this morning, I baked those cookies at 350 degrees for 12 minutes just like the instructions called for. (I’d better go check them again).
I cut them out in star shapes this year although usually I do bells. There is something strange happening as the cookies rise in the oven—it’s like the stars are on little cookie-dough pedestals, with the bottoms rising faster than the top portions.
I’m not sure about this “following the rules” business. (I’d better go check again; I don’t want to over-bake these cookies while I’m telling you about them.)
You will be relieved to know that the cookies settled down, so to speak, and I took them out of the oven and dusted them with powdered sugar.
They do not look all that different from my cut-corners version, and don’t taste different either.
I do think that perhaps the dough was easier to handle this year after all that beating and sifting.
Usually I chill the dough for a bit before rolling it out; this time I didn’t need to cheat like that. I think I am beginning to sound like “Cook’s Magazine.”
My sister and I love this baking ritual at Christmas time.
She makes her favorite “tried and true” cookies, like Russian tea cookies, that have a variety of names but taste the same, and peppermint crunch.
I make persimmon cookies with frosting on top and anise stars only this time of year.
She makes layered lace cookies with raspberry filing and I warn her, in big sisterly tones, that “they won’t ship well.” She persists.
I study the recipe book for something made of chocolate.
“We’re missing that flavor this year,” I say, “and I don’t want to just make brownies.”
She wants to know if I’m actually doing caramels this year and if I have enough whipping cream for the project.
There is a rhythm to our cooking and a rhyme to our reasoning as we package and stack the cookies on the table in anticipation of the actual sending, delivering, giving-away part of the picture.
“We haven’t made candy cane cookies this year,” I remind my cookie-cooking partner, and she reminds me that they did not ship well last year.
Evidently, the mail service throws things more these days and squishes boxes more readily, all to give slower service.
I am being skeptical, which definitely is not part of the Christmas spirit.
It’s another day in the country and I’m making a list. Jess is checking it twice, and then we will be off delivering cookies.
Last year I forgot a whole package of cookies in the freezer and we ended up having Christmas cookies one hot day in August.