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Pull Up A Chair…


This is the time of year when flour goes on sale for nearly nothing, and all the cookie baking supplies clog the aisles in the supermarket…and my thoughts turn to scented wafers, hot out the of oven, tasting like heaven.  Yep, it's cookie baking season at our house, and it's time to drag out all of my various and sundry cookie recipes and cookbooks and a legal pad and some mini-post-it notes, and do a little marking of this year's possibilities for holiday baking.

I do this every single year.  Pull out the cookbooks and a legal pad, write down recipe names for the ones that catch my tastebuds as I read through them, page numbers and the like of the ones I want to try this year — always picking out something new here and there, a few fancy ones that sound decadent and amazing and full of exotic ingredients or impressive frosting instructions…whatever.  You know, the cookie recipes that make you feel superior to Martha Stewart just by reading them. 

Can't use last year's list, because I'm always in the mood for something different every year. 

One year it was the mocha espresso cookies.  A few years ago, it was the oatmeal cranberry drops with mini-chocolate chips.  Then there was the year that I went a little crazy for shortbread and made three different kinds, one with bittersweet chocolate drizzle, one with an end dipped in white chocolate and then sprinkled with pistachios and one just plain.  Anyway, I'll know what I want this year when I start to make my list.  Somehow, it always ends up being about a page and a half long.

And then, the reality of my overcrowded schedule begins to seep into things, and the more difficult cookies get crossed off in favor of the easier ones on the list:  the slice and bake "ice-box" cookie recipes that I can make ahead, one batch at a time, and store in the freezer until baking day; the drop cookies that I can doctor up a bit with some chocolate drizzle; and the cookies that little hands can help momma to shape into balls and then roll in sugar coating before baking. 

After a week or so of negotiation with myself, I get down to business and our kitchen is covered in flour and ground up nuts and chocolate bits for a week or so until everything gets baked…and then I'm done for another year.  Everyone gets a tin of yummy, homemade goodness for Christmas, Mr. ReddHedd's office gets a heaping tray, and anyone who enters our house gets to nibble on something yummy while they are here.

Why do I do this to myself every year, you ask?

Because I love the happy faces of everyone who gets to bite into a pecan shortbread thumbprint with seedless raspberry jam…that little "ahhhh" they get at the first taste of yummy, preservative-free goodness.  Because homemade chocolate fudge with just the right amount of walnuts, cooked to the perfect temperature so you get a little bit of a sugar grain, but not too much, may just be the best thing this side of heaven.  And because it just isn't the holidays without some pecan tassies or a peanutbutter blossom with a Hersey's kiss in the center and a cup of coffee in the morning to wash them down.  And then there are the lemon cream cheese thumbprints with apricot jam and the lightest dusting of powdered sugar on top with a cup of tea.

Why tell you guys all of this?

Because this year, I am on a quest to find the perfect cookie recipe.  One that doesn't take hours upon hours to bake, but tastes like it did.  And I just know that someone, somewhere out there, knows the very recipe that I'm seeking.

I had this cookie a few years ago — a sort of cross between a sable and a Scottish shortbread.  It had a butter pecan sort of flavor to it, but no discernable pieces of nut in the cookie.  Maybe they were ground up fine, I dunno, but the flavor was subtle and yet discernable.  On the side of a cappuchino, it was just about the most amazing cookie I have ever eaten, but the cafe in which I had these cookies refused to divulge the secret recipe.  I have a hunch that it was that butter nut flavoring that you use sometimes in poundcakes, but I'm not certain.  But this is the year that I figure out how to make that cookie — perhaps with a drizzle of bittersweet chocolate, perhaps just plain…I don't know yet, but I'm going to try.

And it hit me — perhaps, out there in our readership, someone else has a perfect cookie in mind.  One that I have a recipe for in my vast collection of cookie recipes (Yes, I'm obsessive about cookies…this is my one, enormous cooking project every single year, and I like to top my last year's baking with something new each year.)  Maybe someone else has been baking that cookie their whole life.  Or maybe someone has always wanted to bake some cookies for the holidays to give away a little homemade goodness and might get their inspiration here…whatever.

Thought it might be fun to share a few cookie recipes this morning.  Or maybe some other recipes for gifts that you give that are homemade:  chutneys, jams, quick breads, whatever yummy goodness you happen to make for family and friends this time of year.

Coffee is on, and I'm about to pour a hot cup.  But I need something to dunk in it, so let's talk cookies.  Pull up a chair…

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com