The cookie. The. Cookie. One cookie. Singular.
I used to make a lot of cookies. A lot of cookies, all different kinds. I did it because my children loved it, or maybe I was just imagining that. Maybe I was looking to give them some memories that didn't involve me yelling at them for not doing their homework.
Then, one day, I got The Message. It came to me suddenly, while I was meditating on the cruel fate that gave us Thanksgiving and Christmas only a month apart from each other. It was the voice of the Blessed Mother, speaking deep in my heart. "My child," she said, "that's why God gave us Italian bakeries."
And she's right. Think about it. As happy as you were when Grandma baked cookies, you went totally bonkers when she walked through the door with a box from the bakery.
I will cite two examples from my life that carry the Mother of God's point:
- My daughter Nikki was little and I was heavily pregnant with her brother Nino. I had my husband's whole entire extended family over for Christmas dinner. I was just bringing out the coffee and the Galliano and my ABSOLUTELY PERFECTLY GORGEOUS platter of Homemade Christmas Cookies. And my father-in-law took ONE look at it and said, "I loathe cookies." Really? Really? In the dictionary of my mind, next to the word "buzzkill", will forever reside a picture of my father-in-law. He's in heaven now. The part where there aren't any cookies.
- My children have become adults. A couple of years ago I went to a bakery and brought home some cuccidati, which are ground zero of Sicilian Christmas cookies. My son ate one, and said, "Mom. I don't want to hurt your feelings. But these are pretty close to yours." And all those wasted years, all that time and money that I could have spent on shoes, flashed in front of my eyes. I must have had a look on my face, because he said, real fast, "I think your filling is a little better!" Nice save, Nino. I was SO glad to see the look on your face when you discovered that the cuccidati from the bakery this year had chocolate chips in them.
Not being stupid, I currently have it down to one cookie. But this is one heck of a good cookie. Trust me. Everybody (which is my husband Anthony and my cousin Vita) says it's the only cookie they care about. And I've never had one from a bakery that even came close.
The recipe is from my husband's Aunt Geraldine:
Honey Nut Cookies
Take two sticks of butter and set them out to get soft in a big bowl. Once they're soft, beat in a quarter cup of honey and 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla. In another big bowl, stir together 1/8 teaspoon of salt and two cups of flour (sift together, if you've got that gene). Blend the flour with the butter mixture. Then blend in 1 1/2 cups of pecan pieces (this is the only part of the recipe that's a pain in the ass). Now you can bake the cookies, or you can put the dough in the fridge. You've got at least a week to do something with it.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Pinch off pieces of dough about the size of a half-dollar, roll them into balls, and put them on a baking sheet. Roll and shape the balls into crescents. They won't spread much in the oven, so you can get around 20 of them on the sheet. Bake about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. (After 15 minutes, watch carefully because they can get too brown in a hurry.)
Take the cookies out of the oven and let them cool just a little bit until you can slide them off the baking sheet with a spatula without breaking them. Carefully, put them on a plate and sift copious amounts of powdered sugar on them. The more, the better. And you GOTTA do this part when the cookies are still warm.
I make one exception to the cookie austerity program. I will always, happily, host or attend a cookie-baking party (I will happily host or attend any party, actually). Done right, a cookie-baking party will include Christmas carols, White Christmas, and lots of wine. And of course you'll decorate the house before the company comes over. And you can give them their presents, too. That covers a lot of bases, plus you get your cookies done.
Just make sure you invite one adult who doesn't drink. Somebody needs to watch the oven.
Or drive to the bakery.