Each year, Audrey Myers gets to pick out a new cookie cutter to use for her family’s tradition of making cut-out sugar cookies at Christmastime.
“Ever since she was little, we have always done that with her,” says her mother, Kristi. “We always put it off until Christmas Eve, so it’s an extra busy day.”
The Myers family, Dan, Kristi and Audrey, 9, gather in their Beaverdale kitchen and carry on the tradition that Kristi participated in when she was a child. She and her brother would help their mother decorate sugar cookies.
“We always picked out different colors of frosting,” she recalls. “I remember that being so exciting.”
Audrey enjoys helping to roll out the dough and push the various ornaments from candy canes to snowflakes to stars and even Yoda into the dough. The family bought a set of Star Wars cookie cutters a few years ago, and they have proved to be popular among everyone in the household, as they usually fight over who gets the Yoda cookie cutter, Kristi says.
Audrey also takes all of the scrap dough and makes a special cookie shaped like a dog for the family’s pet, Lucy.
Kristi wanted to continue the sugar cookie tradition but didn’t want to use shortening like her mother did in her recipe, so she found her own recipe online a few years ago. She also rolls her dough out in powdered sugar instead of flour to make the cookies sweeter. Her mom would make all kinds of cookies and candy including buckeyes, pecan turtles and fudge, but Kristi usually sticks with sugar cookies or gingerbread cookies.
Cookie making continues through the generations
Cookie baking would start the week before Christmas at Amy Hansen’s childhood home. And one of the goodies always enjoyed at Christmas time were spritz cookies.
Hansen’s grandmother would always make the cookies at Christmas, as would Hansen’s mom, who had learned to make them from her mom. They would make ornaments, wreaths and Christmas trees. Sometimes they would color the dough green for the wreaths and trees. They like to add almond flavoring to the dough then top the cookies with colored sugar crystals.
“As soon as I would get home from college for Christmas break, that was one of the first things we would do,” Hansen says.
Now, the cookie making is done at Hansen’s Beaverdale home, and her mom comes over to help.
The butter cookies, which come in many shapes, are pushed out of a mold through a cookie press. There’s an art that comes with making the cookies and ensuring they have their appropriate shape when they come through the mold. Hansen says she usually ends up tossing the first couple back into the bowl because she doesn’t like the way they look.
Grandma’s recipes pass down to granddaughter, continue on today
As a child, Jennifer Shaffer remembers seeing boxes of cookies, candies and other goodies sitting on her grandma’s porch, ready to take home.
“She was always making new baking recipes,” Shaffer recalls of her grandmother, Jan Seely. “She loved to make cookies and candies.”
Seely died four years ago, but Shaffer carries on with several of the traditional items her grandmother would make during the Christmas holiday. Among those is a dip called Razzmatazz. It’s a sweet and spicy dip topped with jelly and served with crackers that Shaffer often takes to holiday parties and even other events, where it is always popular.
“It kind of has a kick to it but with that sweet to offset the heat,” she says.
“Whenever I cook my grandmother’s recipes and take them to work events, people seem to love them,” she says.
Shaffer says she didn’t cook much until her grandmother taught her how. Among the other things she learned to make are a mandarin chicken dinner, which was usually served around Thanksgiving, and a buffalo chicken dip. At Christmas, Shaffer’s grandma always made a deep fried turkey for the family.
“We would all stand out there and try to block the wind” while she cooked it, Shaffer says.
Magazine recipe becomes a favorite cookie treat for the holidays
Anne Gray stumbled into baking Christmas cookies. As her family grew larger — she is one of seven children — the family searched for larger venues in which to host their Christmas gathering.
Everyone is responsible for bringing an item to the get-together, and Gray decided she would try to make some cookies.
For the past three or four years, she’s made a variety of cookies, pulling the recipes from various cookbooks and magazines.
“I really don’t like to bake, but I started making all of these different cookies,” Gray says.
The one that has been the most popular is the hazelnut crescent. It was an experiment, but Gray decided to try to because she likes hazelnut. The outcome was a delicious treat that family enjoys.
Gray remembers her mother making delicious sugar cookies when she was a child. She and her other siblings would decorate them — most times her mother would make about five dozen cookies — when they all came back to the farm to celebrate Christmas. Gray has the recipe but says she won’t use it.
“I can’t bake as good as my mom, so I don’t do it,” she says of the sugar cookies.
1 cups butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. almond extract or vanilla
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Blend in remaining ingredients. Fill cookie press with 1/4 of dough at a time. Form your favorite shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 6 to 9 minutes or until set, but NOT brown. Optional: Sprinkle with your favorite decorative sugar prior to baking.
Yield: About 5 dozen cookies
1/3 cups finely shredded pecans
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
1 cup real mayo
1 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups finely shredded colby jack cheese
Red raspberry spread
Thoroughly mix all ingredients except for red raspberry spread. Once combined, place mixture on a serving dish and spread out until it is all about an inch and a half thick. Then take red raspberry spread and cover mixture. Serve with Wheat Thins or another snack cracker.
1 cup (two sticks) of unsalted butter, soften at room temperature
¾ cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs.. vanilla extract
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
1 egg yolk
1 cup finely ground toasted hazelnuts (see note)
2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
3 ozs. semi-sweet chocolate melted with 1 tsp. shortening
3 ozs. white chocolate melted with 1 tsp. shortening
In large bowl beat butter, both sugars, 1 Tbs. water, vanilla, nutmeg and salt at low speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl, and beat at medium speed until fluffy (2 minutes). Beat in the yolk and then ground hazelnuts. At lowest speed, beat in flour until just blended. Dough should be stiff but still soft. Add more flour if needed.
Turn dough out onto floured surface and divide in half. Shape each half into a block, 1 inch thick, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Break off two tablespoons of dough. Warm slightly with hands and roll into a three-inch log. Curve the ends to form a crescent. Space one inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 13 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
Drizzle: Set wire racks over waxed paper. Place melted semisweet and white chocolates into two resealable plastic bags. Snip off a small corner of each. Drizzle over cookies and let harden. Sprinkle with hazelnuts.
Note: To toast hazelnuts, sprinkle evenly onto a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until golden, about 8 minutes. Yield: About 48 crescents.