My first childhood Christmas memory is not of trimming the tree or opening presents, but of baking sugar cookies with my dad.
The first time must have been when I was four–who would let a three-year-old into the kitchen with a hot oven going?–and while Dad made the dough and rolled and cut the cookies, I stood on a step-stool with an array of sprinkles and colored sugars to hand, ready to decorate them before they went into the oven. (We’re not a fancy frosting family, it’s all about the sprinkles.)
As I got older, my duties expanded to include: 1) helping choose the cookie cutters; 2) actually cutting the cookies; 3) rolling out the dough; and eventually, 4) making the dough and being allowed near the oven for the baking part of the process.
We did this, me and Dad, every year until I went off to college, and sometimes even then, too, if I was home on break soon enough to help. Several batches were always necessary to keep up with the cookie plates for church, for my parents’ coworkers, for my teachers, and of course, for our own voracious sugar-teeth.
The cookbook that the recipe came from is long gone–the page fell out of the book when I was eight or nine, from excessive use. We saved the loose page until it was so flour-coated and milk-spotted that Dad copied the recipe over onto notebook paper, then that version lived under a magnet on the side of the fridge so that it wouldn’t get lost before next Christmas.
When I moved out on my own, the first Christmas I wasn’t there to bake with him, I ended up calling a week before Christmas so he could dictate the recipe to me, because I needed to make them to have a proper Christmas, and I’d never taken the time to copy it out for myself.
My own Christmas baking, to cover my friends and my family and my coworkers, has spiraled into the realms of “What new and exciting things can I try this year?” But I still try to make at least one batch of the family-recipe sugar cookies, because traditions are worth having and keeping, and of course, they’re freakin’ delicious.
If you want some new recipes yourself, here are some of my favorite finds from last year’s cookie-and-candy extravaganza:
- German Chocolate Fudge
- Crispy Peppermint Bark
- Clementine Rum Balls
- Iced Pumpkin Cookies
- Snickerdoodle Brownies