Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cookie Day 23....Oh, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Cherry Shortbread

Today in NOTL: Cold, with highs today of 26F/-3C under partly cloudy skies. Not much chance of snow today; maybe tomorrow though.

The 24 Days of Cookies has been a real challenge for me.  I've had to pick and choose from hundreds of recipes in my collection, a collection begun when I was a first-year teacher planning my first New Year's Day brunch for family and friends.  I scoured cookbooks for recipes, but being a Cancerian, I didn't want cookbook cookies: I wanted secret family recipes that had been handed down for years and years.

I hounded the teachers in my school.  I begged recipes from the women in my women's group.  The ladies at church were reminded week after week of recipes they'd promised.  It became a treasure hunt.

At garage sales, I asked for old cookbooks and handwritten recipes.  Once, I got especially lucky.  I was at an estate sale and the organizers obviously were not cooks, as they'd gathered together the deceased owner's recipe file, her clippings, her small recipe booklets, and a binder filled with recipe-treasure into a box they sold for a dollar - to me!!!

Ah, what a pleasure to browse through her recipes, carefully clipped from newspapers and magazines.  That she had been a lady of means became obvious from the many recipes written on stationery from chi-chi hotels.  Some were full recipes, with notes about the person who'd given it.  Others were personal speculation, lists of ingredients she tasted in dishes for which the recipes were not forthcoming.

Another time, a good friend who doesn't cook gifted me with her mother's cookbooks and notebooks filled with recipe after recipe after recipe, all in her mom's hand.  Over the years, I've found homes for many of these, but some I have kept, remembering Mrs. M and her scotch shortbreads as I browse the old books.

Visiting with friends' mothers always ended up with my begging recipes.  Usually I'd get a couple; sometimes I got a treasure trove, like the cinnamon bun and butter tart recipes I got from one friend's mom with the caution that I did NOT have permission to share them (and I never have).  I've shared plenty of the baked goodies, though, and they are indeed the treasures Mrs. R promised me they were.  The cuccidati, Italian fig cookies, come from the mom of my oldest friend, who as a child comforted a tearful little Jean sitting beside her in our kindergarten classroom.

Each year, our cookie platter is like a visit with absent loved ones, some far away and some on the other side.  There are Gram's shortbreads and my mom's teacakes mingling with Mrs. M's shortbread and Mrs. R's butter tarts. The mystery traveler's sugar cookies and Mrs. B's snickerdoodles and Ms. S's oatmeal lace cookies sit beside a batch of vintage-recipe cuccidati from Miss Jenny.  I bake their cookies, praying for them as I do, and inviting the spirits of those on the other side to visit with us for one more Christmas.

Tomorrow is the last day of cookies....but I will make it a cookie-lalapalooza, I promise.  (And if you have any family recipes hanging around looking to be treasured by new eyes....you can send it to me at Box 1856, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON  L0S 1J0 Canada or email it to me at atcjean[at]gmail.com.) 

Today's cookie is a variation on shortbread, and they are both delicious and quick to make.  No mixer needed for these!

Cherry Shortbreads

1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 egg yolks
2 cups flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
maraschino cherries - 1 jar

1.  Dry the cherries on paper towels - as dry as you can get them.
2.  Mix ingredients, reserving cherries for later.  If the dough gets soft, place in fridge to firm up.
3.  Take a spoonful of dough, flatten, and wrap around a cherry rolling to make a ball.
4.  Place cookies on sheets sprayed lightly with baking coating.
5.  Bake 15 minutes at 350 or till golden.

If you want to finish these off nicely, try this:
Cherry Glaze
In a small bowl, whisk together
2/3 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons juice from marachino cherries
1 teaspoon finely minced cherries (optional)
Dip cookies into glaze and add sprinkles, minced nuts, coconut, etc.

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