Traditions: The Christmas Cookie Cutters, December 1956-November 4, 2016
When I was 7 my mother was the grade mother for my 2nd grade class at Morehead School in Durham. Back then we could have holiday parties so my mom and a few others baked Christmas Cookies for our class. I knew that my mom would be in the kitchen for a while and that my brother Sam and sister Joy (Alex, the youngest had not arrived at this time) were much too young for the cookie baking process, so I felt confident that I’d have my mom to myself for a few hours.
She started by mixing the butter, sugar and eggs together, then adding the salt, vanilla then flour, very slowly as it stiffened to a dough very quickly. (see recipe at the end) Rolling out the dough and pressing the cookie molds into the dough, then flipping the mold over, gently pushing the dough into the mold, then smacking the mold onto the counter in hopes it would come out in the shape of the cookie mold seemed to take forever. We sang carols and she told me stories of funny silly things she did when she was a little girl. It was our very special time together. We cleaned the kitchen together (well, she cleaned the kitchen) and we sprinkled colored sugar on the cookies as they came out of the oven. They are three-dimensional cookies as the dough takes the shape of the molds and are so unique, different from plain cut cookies. They were so beautiful, and I was very proud to have a part in creating them.
Twenty years later I was helping my mom clean out her kitchen cupboard and ran across the cookie molds in their original box with the original recipe and instructions: Aunt Chick’s Merry Christmas Cookie Cutters (https://www.grammascutters.com/aunt-chicks-story/). At the time my son Will was in the 2nd grade and I was a grade mother for his classroom. So, I was given the cutters and went home to give this a try. Soon after the mixer started blending the dough, I found Will on the kitchen stool beside me and we were singing carols and I was telling him stories of funny silly things my mom did when she was a little girl (I didn’t do anything funny or silly!).
Will grew up, but I continued to make the cookies for our friends with children, and also for each of my music students. Going through the trouble to paint the cookies with confectioner’s sugar mixed with coloring and water, they turn out looking more like ornaments than cookies. Now I have two wonderful grandsons. This year they helped me make the cookies. One on each side as the mixer blended the dough, and as we rolled it out, we sang carols and I told them funny, silly stories of things their dad did when he was a little boy (remember, I didn’t do anything funny or silly!). This was truly special time together.
Here’s a music video that the family helped me put together with the help of the Video and TV department at Enloe High School. It’s entitled “The Christmas Cookie Cutters“.
I love singing the song I wrote about these cookie molds. I get such a warm feeling as I think about the happiness the cookies have brought to hundreds of families and people. This year I will gather some friends to go to the Ronald MacDonald House in Durham and make cookies for 40 or so families who are staying the house we will use my mother’s Christmas Cookie Molds. These families have children who are in the hospital. Many of them will not celebrate Christmas at home this year. I hope they will enjoy these wonderful cookies, and I hope that baking cookies at the Ronald MacDonald House in December will become a tradition.
Recipe for the cookies:
This is the way I make them, which is NOT according to the directions included with the cookie molds.
Blend 1 cup softened butter
1 ½ cups sugar
1/3 cup eggs (about 3 medium sized eggs)
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
2 T vanilla
mix well, then add slowly (1/2 cup at a time)
4 ½ cups flour
I don’t sift anything, I just dump! The dough will stiffen after 3 cups of flour. If you have a heavy-duty dough mixer it will stand up to the test better than just a regular mixer, but a regular mixer will do. You may need to use an old-fashioned spoon and hand to finish mixing all the flour.
The directions suggest dividing the dough and refrigerating it, but I find it easier to work with when it is at room temperature. The secret to success in using this dough is flour. Use plenty of flour on the board and on top of the dough when rolling it out. If you use cookie molds, make sure your molds are floured well, and your hands also. Roll the dough so that it is ~ 1/4 inch thick.
Bake at 350° until they are golden, or just before if you plan to paint your cookies. These are not a very sweet cookie, but still are delicious. Santa will love them!