Friday, December 11, 2009

Food is Community December 2009: Christmas Cookies

What's better than a cookie party right?  You bring a couple dozen cookies to a friends house and trade with a bunch of women who make equally yummy treats and create a great selection at Holiday parties or even around the fire.  This year, I am highlighting sisters and their holiday cookie recipes - please write in and tell me about your sisters and your favorite recipe to make together.  

First contribution is from my family and it requires history.  In the 1940's, when my grandparents married, it was nearly scandal in my grandmother's Italian community that he was Greek, and maybe more so with his family.  Early in their marriage, to make my grandfather happy, my grandmother, Lillian, worked very hard to learn the famous Greek dishes for each of the holidays.  Though she never said so, I imagine it must have been a moment of great pride when, after years of work, her version of the families Greek recipes eclipsed her mother-in-laws.  With no recipe was this more evident than the Greek Christmas cookie - κουραμπιέδες (or pronounced in English - at least in my family- {GCoo-lah-byeh-thes}).  These almond flavored, powdered sugar covered version of shortbread are named appropriately as celebration cookies - traditionally for Christmas, baptisms, anniversaries and weddings.  These cookies are so good that my grandmother would have to hide them - more from my Dad and his sisters than from me and my cousins.  I cannot recommend them enough - they will be fantastic the first time you try them but better each and every time after that. 

My Dad's sisters and their sister-in-law - my mother - make these every year and they are the best.  One of the women makes it better than the other two (I am not mentioning names) but she swears her secret is putting a picture of my grandmother in the kitchen while she is baking them.   On a personal note - the adorable little boy in both pics is my cousin Tom who is getting married this month to a fun and gorgeous woman - GO TOM!


1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup chopped almonds
1 lb. salted butter, softened
5-6 cups of flour (start with 4 1/2, add rest gradually)
Confection sugar after they come out of the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, bake.  Cream the sugar, butter, egg and chopped nuts.  Add flour last, mix and pinch to know if more needs to be added.  The pinch should remain for a few seconds if the dough is ready.  Roll out into the shape of a chunky letter "s" or into a round cookie.
Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350 for about 20 mins.
Look at the bottom, if they are slightly brown - just starting to brown, they are done.
Roll out wax paper, sprinkle with confectioners sugar, put hot cookies on it, 
add more confect. sugar on top...

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