Su Lum: Cursed Christmas Cookie Column
December 11, 2002
I can’t believe that Christmas is upon us yet AGAIN, when it seems about a month ago rather than two years, that I wrote my annual cookie recipe and left out the flour.
Oh well. The good part about getting old and time flying by is that old age doesn’t last very long and the winters get shorter and shorter. I don’t even want to think about the number of years I’ve written this cookie column.
As you may recall, the Christmas cookies were made by an old German couple who owned the Cottage Bakery in my home town, Boonton, N.J., and were a major presence in my holidays as far back as I can remember. They were the best part of my Christmas stocking, and when I left the nest they followed in the Christmas boxes through two marriages, to the homestead in Alaska, then to Colorado.
By the time I moved to Aspen, the bakers had retired and moved to a house next door to my parents, where they did a limited business to a limited clientele, which fortunately included the cookies and my mother. By this time the bakers were ancient, but the cookies kept coming.
Meanwhile, anticipating the inevitable end of the supply, I had been scanning cookie recipes for years, never finding anything even close, and finally, about 20 years ago, I worked up the nerve to write to them about my lifelong devotion to the cookies and asked for the recipe.
They wrote back that they had never given the recipe to anyone, but they would give it to me, and there it was in pounds and grams. Six months later they were both dead.
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For a long time I baked up a storm every Christmas, but was creeped by being the Keeper of the Recipe. Did they die because they gave it to me? If I told anyone, would I die? Finally, I decided to exorcise the curse by publishing the recipe in the paper, and have been doing so annually ever since just to make sure.
Here it is:
Bring to a boil 1/3 cup molasses, 2/3 cup honey and 1 cup brown sugar, stirring lest it boil over. Cool it a bit and when still quite warm, pour it into a mixing bowl and add 1/3 cup shortening.
Whisk 1 egg white with 2 tablespoons of water and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Add it to the bowl, along with 1 tablespoon ground anise seeds (or liquid extract), 3 teaspoons cinnamon and 1 teaspoon allspice.
The mixture will foam up like a chemical experiment. Set some aside for snacking.
Stir in 6-1/2 cups of cake flour, not easy to find in these days of ready-mix, but last I looked they had it at Clark’s Market. If you don’t have a dough maker (I don’t), you might want to stop short of 6-1/2 cups because it’s rough going.
Wrap the dough in aluminum foil or waxed paper and let it ripen in the fridge for a few days or, my preference, roll it out then and there while it’s still warm and pliable, 1/8 inch or 1/4 inch thick, cut with cookie cutters, and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.
When cool (or days later), ice with a combination of confectioner’s sugar and boiling water and a little unflavored gelatin (optional), which should have a consistency somewhat thicker than whipping cream and somewhat thinner than Elmer’s glue.
I slather the icing on the cookies with a basting brush, but more patient friends and neighbors have made works of art by adding food colorings and painting the cookies with fine-tipped brushes and icing bags. Either way, they taste as good.
[Su Lum is a longtime local who wishes you all Happy Horrordays. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.]
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