“Gotta stop at the market on my way home and pick up some more butter,” my officemate announced. “The cookie factory is open for business.”
She was in the midst of a chopped pecan, chocolate chip, sanding sugar, pre-Christmas baking frenzy. I’ve been there myself many times. But I’m sitting it out this year. Because in a little over a week, I’ll be home for Christmas, enjoying my mother’s sweet and delicate holiday treats.
Every year, about a week before Christmas, my mother (picture an Italian-American Martha Stewart) puts on her apron and her favorite Christmas music (cue up Dean Martin singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside”) and embarks on a baking marathon known in our family as “Cookie Day.”
Her butter cookies are made with a cookie press and decorated with chocolate or brightly colored sugar. Her almond crescents are rolled in confectioner’s sugar while they’re still hot. The thumbprint raspberry linzers and Italian sesame seed cookies are especially labor intensive. And the pizzelle are painstakingly made one at a time on the stovetop.
As a teenager, I loved assisting her in this holiday tradition as she prepared the various types of dough, then decorated, and baked the cookies. Once we got into a rhythm, there was no stopping us. The moment a tray came out of the oven, the next one went in. Carefully, the oven-hot cookies were set on the parchment paper lined kitchen table to properly cool. When we ran out of space on the kitchen table, I got the idea of using the ironing board, so we lined it with parchment paper, and placed the overflow cookies there.
Since he retired, my dad helps out on Cookie Day. At least he calls it helping. But my mother’s on to him. She makes him whistle, so he can’t sample too many of the homemade Christmas treats.