It's that time of year again. We've stocked our cabinets with loads of sugar, flour, nuts, chocolate chips, and graham crackers. I've made a trip to Michael's for Christmas boxes and tins. We've bought extra rolls of parchment and boxes of butter. My heart is a flutter, for our apartment has transformed into a Christmas cookie factory.
Christmas cookies have held a certain magic for me all my life. I have distinct childhood memories of Mama B baking batches upon batches of Christmas cookies throughout the Christmas season, starting at the very beginning of December. The treats, wrapped in multiple layers of saran wrap and wax paper, filled tin upon tin, each tin stacked on top of another on the corner shelves in the kitchen.
"Kate, get me some Chocolate Crinkles for this tray," she'd say.
I'd climb up on the kitchen bench, grab a tin from the top of the stack, and open it. Magic Cookie Bars.
Another tin. Spritz.
Yet another. Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars. Russian Tea Cakes. Cranberry Orange Shortbread.
Finally, in the last and biggest tin, Chocolate Crinkles. I'd grab a handful, carefully re-fold the wax paper and saran wrap, close up the tins, and re-stack each of them, making mental note of which cookie was in which tin, for I secretly prided myself on being able to grab a specific cookie on a moment's notice. My own little Christmastime memory game, and proof that I was a good little helper.
There was such wonder in opening those tins for the first time every year, for while Becky and I helped with some cookies, Mama B did a lot of baking while we were asleep. There was also comfort in opening the tins, for in all but one of them, the cookies were familiar, staples of the family's Christmas cookie tray, signs that Christmastime was truly here and that some things never change. As for that one different cookie - that was a tradition, too - to try at least one new recipe every year.
Becky and I continue our family's baking tradition, often spending a full weekend baking hundreds of Christmas cookies for our east coast family of friends. Over the next few weeks, we hope to share some of those recipes with you.
Today's recipe, however, is this year's newbie - Almond Snowflakes.
I adapted this dough from an almond crescent recipe. With no eggs and quite a bit of butter, these cookies are a cross between a shortbread and a sugar cookie, and have a distinct almond flavor. Because the dough holds its shape so well, it's great for cutouts, in this case - 1.5-inch snowflakes. I chose to dust this batch with powdered sugar to keep with the snow theme, but if you want something more decadent, try dipping the bottoms in melted chocolate chips.
And now I'm off to a gathering.
"Beck," I say, "get me some Almond Snowflakes for this tray."
To which she just rolls her eyes and says, "Get them yourself. I'm in a hurry, too."
Oh well. We're not little helpers anymore and sisters will be sisters. Doesn't mean the magic in our hearts is any less :-)
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Makes approximately 6 dozen small cutouts
1 cup of butter, room temperature
2/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of almond extract
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 cup of slivered, blanched almonds, ground in food processor (or almond flour)
1/4 cup of powdered sugar for sprinkling
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment.
2. Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the extracts and mix.
3. Add the flour and almond flour. Mix thoroughly. Dough will be very crumbly at this point.
4. Use your hands to work the dough until it comes together. This may take a couple minutes.
5. Divide the dough into four balls. Place one ball between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Alternately, place the dough between two sheets of parchment, place a cookie sheet on top, and press down evenly with both hands, flattening the dough to 1/4 inch thickness.
6. Use cookie cutters to make cookies, and place on cookie sheets. You can place the cookies fairly close together; they don't spread much.
7. Bake cookies for 6-8 minutes, until edges just start to brown. Let cool 2 minutes on cookie sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.