Not Just Cookies
Baking is as much a part of the holidays in my house as getting a tree. Along with my grandmother's coffee cake, when I was a kid, it wasn't Christmas without almond crescents, Chinese noodle cookies, and jam thumbprints.
But baking is hard work, let's be honest. And baking a large variety of cookies, well, that can be more than anyone wants to take on this time of year. Luckily, because I'm part of an exclusive cookie society that meets every December, I have more cookies than I need -- and dear friends that I treasure.
I can't recall what I did to merit inclusion in this special group of women, but for 12+ years now, I've been baking holiday cookies the first weekend in December with five amazing women -- Cathy, Chelle, Janna, LaRene, and Patti. Each year, the six of us converge on one of our houses, bring at least two batches of cookie dough, and do all our baking, together. You can imagine how many cookies we produce.
We roll and cut, bake (and burn), sprinkle, melt, drizzle and ice our way through the day. We shuffle sheets of cookies in and out of the oven for about 7 hours straight. And when they are all cooled and decorated, we fill our empty tins with enormous quantities of cookies, the likes of which you could never find in a store.
Last Sunday was Cookie Day 2009. By the end, we had cornmeal lime cookies with citrus glaze; chocolate-cherry-pistacio biscotti; double-ginger gingerbread; chocolate chip shortbread; cinnamon diamonds; Mexican diamonds with sherry, anise, and cinnamon sugar dipped in spicy chocolate; sugar cookies iced with orange glaze; almond crescents; red wine crescents; spice cookies; chocolate spiders, and cherry shortbread dipped in dark chocolate. And this was a light year (I'm not kidding about that).
Chocolate Spider Cookies (aka Chinese Noodle Cookies)
1 bag butterscotch chips
1 bag semi sweet chocolate chips
approximately 2 bags of Chinese noodles (3 if they are small bags)
In a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan, melt the chips together over low heat. Be patient, you want them to melt smoothly and not burn and dry out. When completely melted, stir to blend. Then dump in the Chinese noodles a few at a time, folding them into the melted mixture to completely coat them. Some will break as you fold them in and that's just fine. Add enough noodles so that all of the melted mixture is used up.
Keeping the pan on the stove over very low heat, drop spoonfuls of the coated noodle mixture (I use two spoons) onto a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper or parchment. Let them harden in a cool place (the garage is a good spot). Serve when hard. They can be stored in a sealed container for several days, if they last that long. Refrigerate to keep them fresh longer.
Makes at least 50 cookies.
Most wonderful of all is the catching up. We learn how children and parents are doing, look at pictures from recent travels, talk about new jobs and adventures, and tell funny stories. Significantly, we have baked with each other through both the good and bad times in our lives, supporting and celebrating each other nomatter what the year has brought.
While I always enjoy the cookies and the banter and, yes, the dip, I remain most grateful every year for the friendship and humor of the five interesting and capable women with whom I bake.