Buy a cookie, and it’s just a bite of sugar, something sweet to get you through the day. Bake a cookie, on the other hand, and you send an instant message from the moment you measure out the flour. Long before they’re done, the cookies become a promise, their endlessly soothing scent offering both reassurance and solace. And even the tiniest bite is powerful, bringing with it the flavor of home. For anyone who is comfortable in a kitchen, a warm cookie is the easiest way to say I love you.
Somewhere in the back of our minds, we all know this. It is the reason we bake cookies at Christmas, why we exchange them as gifts. Not for nothing do we pack up our cookies and send them off to our far-flung families. Like little ambassadors of good will, these morsels stand in for us. There are few people who don’t understand, at least subconsciously, how much a cookie can mean.
The editors of Gourmet magazine share some of their best Christmas cookie recipes:
The cookies are made with modest ingredients, and they keep for weeks, but we were taken with the old-fashioned technique, which calls for blending sieved hard-cooked yolks and raw yolks into the dough, and then perfuming it with lemon zest or a dash of brandy. What you end up with are cookies that are incredibly crisp and so flaky they almost seem to float away.
This was not the first recipe for gingerbread men that Gourmet ran, and it would certainly not be the last. But it is our favorite of a large lot. It came from an article filled with holiday recipes in which time was an essential ingredient. Some required the leisurely attention of the cook during preparation; others could be made ahead and sent out as Christmas greetings. If you decide to send gingerbread men to your friends, this is the one they’ll want. As the recipe suggests, time is on their side: the little men improve with age.
This is an unusual recipe for the thin, gently spicy classic Christmas cookie. Although most Moravian cookies are dark, this one is very pale. We particularly like its lovely flavor of mingled cinnamon, nutmeg, and sherry. While it is stable and strong enough for decorating, it remains light, crisp, and very delicious.
Excerpted from The Gourmet Cookie Book. Copyright © 2010 by Conde Nast Publications. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.