I don’t have many talents. I was never the star of the spring musical, I never scored the winning goal. What I have done is bake — a lot. Baking has inserted itself into every holiday, every major celebration in my life. Friend accepted to college? Bake a cookie cake for them. Got a cool internship? Cupcakes! Looking for a way to procrastinate on a Wednesday night? I’ve got a muffin recipe for you. Every part of baking is personal, therapeutic and painstakingly meaningful. It gives you the opportunity to take a group of tasteless ingredients and assemble something extraordinary.
For me, the month of Dec. building up to Christmas has always meant a lot of things, but one of them stands out above the rest: baking. While other children associate Christmastime with the first snowfall or a desperate hunt to uncover their presents, I was happiest peeking into the oven, dipping my finger into unwatched batter and being the first taste tester of the ungodly mass of cookies my mother cranks out every year. I’d like to think of myself as a mature adult, one who doesn’t fall for the childish whim of an over-advertised holiday. Yet as soon as I catch the first whiff of my mother’s dangerously delicious chocolate-dipped butter cookies as their presence envelops my house, I can’t help but become possessed once more with that pesky holiday spirit.
And so I give you this recipe — this melt-in-your-mouth, sacred recipe — in hope that you will stop lamenting over the allegedly evil personification of capitalism and organized religion that is Christmas. When I make it myself, I lay out each step as if I am a Food Network star instead of a 19-year-old girl making cookies alone. Each ingredient is a story, each step an assurance, all coming together to craft one damn good cookie. To quote the great modern philosopher Sara Bareilles, “You wanna know what’s inside? Simple question, so then what’s the answer? My whole life is in here, in this kitchen baking. What a mess I’m making.”
1 cup butter, softened
If you can give a cookie a heritage, butter cookies like these are technically Italian, but that doesn’t stop my Polish side from perfecting them each year. I’d like to think baking them is an attempt by my Polish family to take advantage of holiday cheer and reach across the aisle to the other half of my family, the one that came from Italy. Or maybe they’re just easy to make. My grandmother and mother always fight about who used the recipe first. I don’t care. I’ll never tell whose are better.
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
My 18th birthday was a snow day. Instead of enduring the ego-boosting delight of everyone in the hall wishing me a “happy birthday,” I sat alone in my room starting and restarting books that stood piled on my nightstand. I made my first mug brownie that day, and I’ve made hundreds since.
1 teaspoon vanilla
Who isn’t obsessed with the scent of vanilla? To this day I inhale the aroma with the enthusiasm of a Juul addict. Spoiler: It doesn’t taste nearly as good as it smells.
2 cups all-purpose flour
My first attempt at baking came at the hands of a corrupt Easy-Bake Oven. It was not even my own, because as a young tomboy I couldn’t imagine anything worse than spending my afternoons partaking in pink frilly activities meant to confine women to the domestic sphere before they even hit puberty. I tried to make a mini bundt cake and burnt my hand, cementing my hatred and resentment of Hasbro and its patriarchal propaganda.
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
As I normally write for the TV section of The Daily, many of my friends think that I am an expert on all things television, popular and unpopular. I nod, agree and ignore the fact the only show I’ve watched for the past month is “The Great British Baking Show.”
1 tablespoon butter
Do you ever wonder why the world still gives Paula Deen a platform?
Christmas was the last day I saw my grandfather before he died years ago. We snuck too many cookies behind our family’s back. He helped me perfect the art of dunking a holiday cookie into a bath of hot cocoa, letting the red and green colors run together like a river. Last year when I was baking Christmas cookies, a cardinal perched outside the window.
- In a bowl, cream butter and sugar.
- Add vanilla; mix well.
- Gradually add flour; mix well. cover and chill for 1 hour.
- Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into 2-1/2-in. x 1/2-in. sticks. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten about three-fourths of each stick lengthwise with a fork.
- Bake at 350° until set, 14-16 minutes. Cool on baking sheets.
- Melt chocolate chips and shortening until smooth; dip the round end of each cookie.
- Add holiday sprinkles. Place on waxed paper until firm.
And above all, enjoy.