When I was a child, every mother worth her salt made homemade traditional Christmas Cookies and Sweets!
It is December second! Time to get those traditional Christmas treats prepared for my loved ones this season! The once so familiar tradition of making and baking homemade Christmas sweets has diminished so dramatically that I am compelled to proselyte: Put on your aprons, get out your recipes, call your friends, and have some good old fashioned fun in your kitchen! The joy you will find sharing the stories about your cookies as you munch on them together gathered around your tree will edify you and enrich your family.
These are the staples that you will find on my family Christmas Cookie platter every year.
Inspired by my mom who made shortbread every Christmas cut into more traditional rectangles, these are my favourite. Buttery shortbread in the oven was the onset of Christmas in our house when I was a child. However, one Spring, I recall the most beautiful pink and green shortbread sandwiches on a tiered tray in the dining room. I had never seen anything so delicate and beautiful. I never thought of them again until many, many years later when I was a young mother going through mom’s cupboard to borrow her rectangular cookie cutter when I came upon a round cutter and the memories of those precious dainties flooded back. She gave me the cutter which I have in my cookie cutter vault and our favourite of all favourite family traditions was born.
My grandmother, Maude had Brown-eyed Susan flowers growing wild on her property when I was a child and when she first made these cookies, I was in awe. They were much bigger and flatter and so delicious. Everything grandma made was delicious – and big! I was captured by these because they looked nothing like the flower but always reminded me of it, just the same. It wasn’t until my first year of teaching school, thirty years ago, when a mom brought these cookies to a party that I remembered grandma’s. I got the recipe from Brenna’s mom, changed the shape and size to match all I make, and have made them every year since.
I like having a “positive” and a “negative” plated alongside each other: a dark cookie beside a white one. This cookie is the perfect counterpart to the Brown Eyed Susan and is my heritage cookie. I was born and raised n Red Deer, Alberta, just 100 miles South of Edmonton where I live now, and returned for a retirement party of a neighbour about twenty years ago and discovered this cookie on the treat table. It looked nothing like this as it was large and flat and round with ground pecans on top, but it was chewy and delicious. I learned that Red Deer had held an official cookie contest and this cookie was announced the winner. It has a surprise caramel centre which makes it extra delicious. Again, I changed the size and manner of shaping and garnishing the cookie and had to add my heritage cookie to our Christmas plate!
These evolved from my grandmother Maude’s sugar cookie recipe. Hers were thick and gigantic and the best in the world. I decided I needed a counterpart for the shortbread sandwiches and a cookie that had a winter theme and was not so specific to just Christmas.The crystal sugar makes them sparkle and we all love them!
An homage to one of my favourite cities in the world: Venice, these cookies have found their permanent position on our family Christmas platter. I have visited three times (so far), and still long to go back. I love marzipan and recalling the gorgeous sweets as I pressed my nose against the glass windows in all of the narrow winding streets there, I did a little research to find one I could make. This was it. It was not easy at first, but it is now. One batch is enough for the season and for gift giving. Everyone loves them!
Firenze used to be my favourite city. I was always going to live there until our most recent trip this fall (2011). Apparently, these cookies do not hail from that region, but they do in my mind. They remind me of the ones I found in the small crowded shops; they were also an homage to my future retirement home, but now more of a representation of a love for the entire country of Italy. My dear friend, Rae, found this recipe. We did cookie baking together a few Christmases and it is difficult to find a Florentine that is not so labour intensive. This one is not so easy to make, but so worth it, and so much easier than many we read about. I make two batches of these every year as they are sensational and one of my dad’s favourites.
Ah, the butter tart! This is a traditional Canadian tart and my particular recipe comes from my great grandmother: Maude’s mother. It has only currants in it and she changed it to add golden syrup when that came out sometime in the 1800’s. I have never tasted a butter tart recipe as good as this one. The tart shell shape evolved about twenty five years ago when one of my students brought butter tarts to school that her grandmother had made looking very similar to these. I had to find the cookie cutter and I did in an antique store! I remember Grandma Maude, and her mother, and my little student, Jenny, every time I make these.
I adore these! I squiggle and giggle every time I make them. The recipe is from the Western Canadian famous Best of Bridge series. Mom often had a lemon tart on her Christmas platter and dad really loved them. I wanted something smaller that packed a more powerful punch and did I ever find it. The shells are very labour intensive to make. Watch a good movie. The filling is puckery perfect. And the violet? My tribute to my travels in France: Oh, how I love thee! I grow my own violets and taught myself how to sugar them. They are not tasty, like the ones in France, but they are boo-ti-full! …and the tarts are deadly delicious!
Almost every platter from my childhood proudly presented rum balls. I hated them. They looked so yummy and were consistently dry and yucky. These are have graced our table for the past several years and are the best rum balls I have every eaten. I never made them as I never liked them. I also used to made several different kind of truffles every year, so it was just too much to think of another round chocolate morsel. Rae’s sister, Debbie, found this recipe. One batch makes enough for an army, so be prepared to gift some. They are extraordinarily moist, pack a powerful rum punch that are perfectly paired with the marzipan chunks and deep dark chocolate. Dramatically different that the old hard knobs and so worth making.
I discovered this only a few years ago from Helene at Super Kitchen Machine. I had seen it before on The British Larder’s site, but just didn’t find it as appealing until I saw Helene’s version of it. This is the best gift I can give at Christmas. I love everything about it! It is easy to make, delicious, and has an artisan appeal that I adore. I have seen them in the fall for sale in Italy (not nearly as good and outrageously priced), too! You might even say it is somewhat nutritious with all of the good nuts and grains that go into it! Did I say it was delicious? It is! It does help to have my favourite kitchen machine (The Thermomix) to make it with, but you can make it without one, too. If you don’t bake traditional sweets, this is the one treat that I would definitely encourage you to try!
The criteria for our Traditional Family Favourites is simple: each has to be spectacular in its own right to make it to the plate. In my circle of family and friends, each of these meets that criteria.
Each comes from a special place in my heart and as I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas this season, I would love to hear about your family cookie traditions! It makes me so sad that fewer and fewer of my friends carry this tradition on at all. It used to be that we could go from house to house and the pride on the face of the hostess beamed as she offered you her wares wrapped in love during the season. Far too often now, everything is purchased. It is too easy. Dalene is the only friend I have that still makes her own! Well, I “hear” Cathy does, too, but have never been over for a Christmas tea! (wicked grin)
But, is there a story to tell? Is there a connection to the past on that plate?
Please share your Traditional Christmas favourites! I will add them below! There is still so much to learn and explore… and more traditions to build.
- Susan from Savoring Time in the Kitchen has shared that her favourite family Christmas Cookie is her Candy Cane Cookie!
- Mary from One Perfect Bite has made her favourite Christmas Cookie every year since she was 10! It is the Swedish Rosette! She also makes a chocolate version!
- El from Fresh (New England) has made her favourite Christmas Breakfast Puffs here!
Merry Christmas, everyone. The season has begun!