According to my kids, there truly is nothing better than a heaping plate of freshly baked cookies at Christmastime.
For certain, no matter how high the mound is heaped, the cookies generally don't last more than a day or two at my house.
It never matters, though, because when the mound begins to dwindle, we all just get together and make more! It's the help of my two sons, after all, that makes the treats extra special at the holidays.
Butterball cookies and Peanut Sitting Pretties are shown as part of a Christmas cookie tray.
Likewise, when I was growing up, I always tried to assist my mom when she was baking cookies and her incredible nutrolls at the holidays. Looking back, I am certain I was more of an hindrance than a help - there was the year when I insisted on grinding the walnuts, and proceeded to lose part of her mechanical grinder (we never did find it). Still, mom always kept her patience and let me "help."
One recipe we always baked together was a peanut-M&M thumbprint cookie that she called "Peanut Sitting Pretties."
We started out making those when I was very small, and my job then was to put the icing and M&Ms on top after they were baked.
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg, separated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Finely chopped walnuts
Can vanilla frosting
Blend butter and sugar in a bowl. Stir in the vanilla and egg yolk (saving the egg white for later). Sift flour, salt into the bowl. Mix well. Chill about an hour. Roll into 1" balls. Dip into slightly beaten egg white, roll in the chopped nuts. Place 1" apart on a cookie sheet or baking stone. Bake at 350 for five minutes. Remove from oven and carefully press finger into the center of each cookie to make the "thumbprint." Return to oven for five more minutes.
Cool, top with frosting and a peanut candy. Makes about 30 cookies.
Mix the dough as instructed above. Add about a 1/2 cup of chopped nuts to the dough and refrigerate for about an hour. Roll into balls (discard the egg white) and bake 9 minutes at 350 degrees. Allow to cool, then toss into a plastic bag of powdered sugar.
As I got older she eventually conceded that the thumbprint cookies could be my contribution to the holiday treats.
Now grown with a family of my own living 150 miles from home, I still find myself reminiscing of those days when I smell the treats baking and taste the special cookie that I make only this time of year.
Over the years, I have found that the recipe is similar enough to "butterball" cookies that I can double or triple the recipe and make half into "butterballs" with very little effort.
After baking half the recipe into thumbprint cookies, I mix a handful or two of chopped walnuts into the remaining dough, roll it into 1" balls and bake for about 9 minutes. After they've cooled, I toss them in powdered sugar, and that's it. It's that easy!
I hope you enjoy the recipes and make memories with them as happy as mine are. Merry Christmas!