Holiday cookies often taste sweeter because of their nostalgic ties. All of us long for, or try to recreate the cookies of our past: Mom’s icing sugar-dusted shortbread, Nan Chapin’s haystacks or those classic no-bake coconut-rolled ‘church window’ cookies with mini coloured marshmallows mimicking stained glass. Harrowsmith asked five of our favourite notables in the kitchen to share their holiday cookie memories and trade secrets. See what’s baking in the kitchen of Happy Hens and Fresh Eggs author Signe Langford. Get a sneak peek in the mixing bowls of the brilliant bloggers behind The Cookie Writer and Eat What You Sow. And, we also bring you musings from our talented food editors at Harrowsmith too.
If you’re really smart, you’ll follow my lead and farm out potential recipes to your mom. It works like a charm. That’s my trade secret. “Hey Mom, did you see this? It’s from the Ontario Pork site: Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookie Truffles. Her email response came back almost immediately. “I’ve put these on my baking list for Christmas! Thanks!”
Signe Langford, Signe’s Kitchen
I’m single and don’t have kids so Christmas baking isn’t something I immerse myself in. Oh, I’d like to – it’s all so pretty and tempting and I love gingerbread in any form – but then I’d eat it all, and that would just give me a Santa-esque silhouette. (Currently I’m a comfortable Ms. Clause and I’d like to keep it this way!) So, I limit my cookie making to the essential single batch of Mother’s Shortbread. I’m sharing it here for the first time ever: It’s a Christmas Miracle!
Kacey Joanette, The Cookie Writer
During the holiday season there is nothing I love more than baking! Now that my daughter is older, we get to play around in the kitchen more 🙂 These Caramilk Stuffed Snickerdoodles are a family favourite (so much so that my cousin calls me each year to remind me to bring his “secret” batch to the family Christmas party!) Stuffing cookies with chocolate-caramel pieces is the perfect task for kids. A great thing about these cookies is that they use up the previous holiday’s leftovers (cough cough, Halloween.) If I had to choose one kitchen tool related to baking that I couldn’t live without it would have to be my cookie scoop (it guarantees me one tablespoon-sized portions of dough every time, meaning equal-sized cookies!)
Cheryl Cook, Eat What You Sow
I acquired my love of cooking from my mom, who grew up on a remote homestead in the Peace River valley. The oldest girl of 6 kids, she was expected to cook at an early age. Matrimonial Bars, a staple of rural Canada, were one of her earliest desserts. When you’re 8 years old, baking in a temperamental wood oven, with the vast Alberta wilderness calling you to play, things can go sideways fast. The story of how terrible those bars were live on in our family’s history (in short, they turned to stone, and the knife snapped), but with treats being a rarity for this bunch, they were gobbled down without a moment’s hesitation. Mom honed her skills over the years, and food is often how we show love in this family; it features in most of our most precious memories, whether we plan it that way, or not.
Rebecca Kinghorn, Food Editor, Harrowsmith
The Empire Biscuit, simple, elegant and delicious, by far is my favourite cookie, to make and to eat. The recipe I use has been passed to me from my Aunt Ruth and I believe she had it from her Grandmother. I have made it my own by making a flavour substitution, I prefer lemon juice or vanilla to the almond extract in the icing but the essence of the cookie remains the same as when my Great Grandmother made them. Evoking memories of Christmas past, this little sandwich cookie holds its own at our modern Christmas table, delighting the old and the young.
Latham Hunter, Food Editor, Harrowsmith
Cookies aren’t my thing. I remember my mother telling me that she tried to bake gingerbread man cookies with me one Christmas when I was a toddler, and I screamed and cried when it was time to put them in the oven (the fear of getting burned by the stove had already been instilled in my tender consciousness). I don’t remember much going on, Christmas cookie-wise, after that, and today, as a health food person, cookies don’t appeal at all, since they have so much sugar. Despite these odds, however, my family has discovered one perfect cookie that we can all agree on, even me: Angela Liddon’s pumpkin cookies from her Oh She Glows Everyday cookbook. We replace the brown sugar with xyla or coconut sugar, skip the icing, and proceed accordingly, usually finishing a batch within minutes (I have five kids). Is it possible to have a healthy Christmas cookie tradition? Yes!
Inspired? Be sure to enter your best-ever cookie recipe in our Holiday Cookie Contest before December 15th, 2017. Winners will have their recipe published in our Winter 2018/19 issue and receive a copy of Dan Needles’ True Confessions from the Ninth Concession
Jules Torti’s resume reads more like a well-folded treasure map. She has been a canoe outtripper, outdoor educator, colouring book illustrator and freelancer. Jules has volunteered (and eaten all sorts of questionable things) in the soupy jungles of Costa Rica, Uganda and the Congo. Her work has been published in The Harrowsmith Almanac, The Vancouver Sun, The Globe & Mail, travelife, Canadian Running and Coast Mountain Culture. She actively feeds her blog, Alphabet Soup, with posts on books, birds, burgers and beer (in no particular order) across the latitudes from Zanzibar to Iceland. Closer to home, she was grandfathered into the Galt Horticultural Society, was the caretaker of a 155-year-old stone heritage cottage and has chronic fantasies about church conversions, beekeeping and owning llamas. She has been known to slam on the brakes for photo ops of saltbox houses, saddle roof barns, snowy owls and sunflower fields. As editor-in-chief of Harrowsmith she is thrilled to be able to curate, write and read about the very best things in life.