With Christmas vacation officially begun, I had a license to goof off. But there are other things still need going, like making Christmas baking, so my mom mixed up the dough, over the weekend, and got started. By the time she had made several types of dough, I had joined in the process, if only getting cookies in and out of the oven, for a time.
When the pecan tassies had finally come out of the oven (they take the longest to bake, it was time to make the press cookies. A week or so before this, I had attempted a batch, and for the first time since Australia, it was a failure. You see, press cookie dough has to be pretty stiff, but if it’s too dry, it won’t press into the shapes you want, or stick to the tray. I’m still not certain what happened, because my measurements were right. And for the record, I am a cookie pro, and this had only ever happened once before.
I finally decided that it might have been like when I was in Australia, it was too warm and humid at the time. Usually, when we make Christmas cookies, it’s rather cool out and the heat is on, just enough to keep things comfortable. That day, it was unseasonably warm, too warm to have the heat on, but not quite warm enough to have the windows open. And it was rather humid. So, with no way of proving it, I blame the weather.
This time, all the dough came out perfectly (it wouldn’t dare do anything else, when my mom’s in charge), and I took charge of most of the pressing, for as long as my hands held out. While not quite a science, you have to keep twisting the handle on the press, press out the dough, and then… well, sort of jerk the press to the side, in order to get the dough to “cut” off from the rest. A couple seconds too little, and you don’t have enough cookie to stick to the tray, a second too much, and you have a fat cookie with a print on it, but not an actual shape to the dough.
I whipped out several trays worth, and then my hands got tired. I blamed it on all the writing from my exams, but it occurs to me that I twist with my left hand (and have a bruise on my palm to prove it), so I guess that didn’t really make sense, after all. Mom and Matt each took a turn, and then I finished off. But people can say what they like about modern cookie presses, with buttons to push. I wouldn’t give up using our Mirro presses for anything, and I even have several I’ve picked up at yard sales and antique shops, waiting for when my brothers are ready to bake their own, in their own homes. : )
We finished the peanut blossoms earlier in the day, so that the Hershey kisses would cool off enough to be put away. When you first put them on a smoking hot cookie, they melt, so if you try and store them immediately, you’ll get chocolate smeared all over everything.
The following day, for similar reasons, we began icing the cookies in the early afternoon. You want to give them several hours for the icing to dry, so you can store them without getting the icing everywhere. I remember some years when we waited until too late, and I did storage duty, somewhere around midnight, because the cookies hadn’t been dry earlier.
While we continued to debate whether the icing was too runny (me) or too thick (my dad), we managed to ice them all, with all four of us working away at them. The press cookies are dipped into a bowl of thinner icing, and then you put sprinkles on them, while you use thicker icing to spread on the cut-out cookies, using a knife.
Looking at that table, it looks like a lot of cookies, but I think this is a smaller batch than some years. But maybe not. They really look like a lot of cookies, once you put them away in the cans and boxes.
The snowballs (Russian tea cookies) and Scandinavian cookies were put away last. If you’re not familiar with the look of the nutty Scandinavian cookies, with the hole in the middle, when we fill up a tray with those, we load them with raspberry or blackberry jam. So yummy!
I hope you are enjoying the Christmas activities in your own home, with your family, whether it involves baking or not. I will probably say this again, but in case you forget to check back, I do with you and your family a most wonderful Christmas and a fantastic New Year!