Saturday, December 08, 2007

Christmas Cookies, A Holiday Staple

Christmas cookies... what a delicious subject! My mom made them every year, as long as she was able. To my recollection, she made four different types, Cut-out Cookies, "Chicken Necks" (more about those later), Spritzes (my favorite), and Brown-eyed Susans.

The Cut-out Cookies were made from a standard sugar cookie dough. My mom always made the dough and I cut out the cookies. Funny, but I don't remember decorating the cut-out cookies. I doubt if we put icing on them, perhaps colored sugar? My mom had a small collection of aluminum cookie cutters that I recently inherited. Boy it brought back memories seeing them again.
The Spritzes were made from a butter cookie dough and pushed through a cookie press in several different shapes. Each shape was given a different flavoring and coloring. Snowflakes were white and vanilla flavored, hearts were pink and cherry flavored, stars were yellow and butter flavored, and Christmas trees and wreaths were green and mint flavored. I always got to press the dough through the cookie press, my way of helping :-) I recently inherited her old cookie press too.

Now, about those "Chicken Necks"… I don't know the real name of Chicken Neck cookies, we always just called them that. My brother Jerry came up with the name, we all laughed about it, and somehow it just stuck. I believe my mom used a yeast dough for those cookies and would fill them with apricot jam, raspberry jam, and ground nuts. She would roll a square of dough on a diagonal and then bend them in a U shape. When the cookies were done baking she would dust them with powdered sugar.

I suspect the cookies on the left are the ones my brother called "Chicken Necks" only when my mom made them she put the filling on the dough and rolled it up rather than just pinching the dough at the top as pictured.

The other cookie I remember her making, Brown Eyed Susans, were also made from a sugar cookie dough. You roll the dough in little balls then press a wafer of mint flavored chocolate into the dough and bake. Voila! Brown Eyed Susans. Yum! Those are pictured above on the right.

The photo above is from my mom's copy of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. I've searched the book from cover to cover and I can't find a copyright date on it anywhere. The photos all show women dressed in classic 1950s fashions and the book references nutrition information from 1959 U.S. Department of Agriculture. I checked the BH&G website and as best as I can determine, mom's cookbook was printed right about 1960 (There have been 14 editions of the cookbook printed since the original in 1930).

We never had a cookie jar, that I remember. I don't recall ever seeing a cookie tin in the house either. Instead my mom would line clothing boxes (gift boxes from department stores) with paper napkins and waxed paper and store and serve the cookies in the boxes. She waited to make the cookies until just prior to Christmas so they would be fresh. And probably because if she made them any earlier we'd have eaten them all before the holiday even arrived!

I inherited my mom's recipes and cookbooks this year so I'm going to try my hand and at baking some of these cookies for Christmas. I'll let you how they turn out.

[The Advent calendar number graphic used in this post was created by NicNic at the NBK blog.]