Most years I never get around to Christmas baking until Christmas Eve and by then it’s too late to do much. It has always been the last thing on my list. When you work full time in a demanding job you either really have no time to bake or are so exhausted by the time you get around to it that you have no energy. But because Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year, I have a whole weekend to prepare some things.
I am not a traditionalist in the kitchen and cookies are not really my thing. Some of them are just too fussy – too many ingredients, or too much time rolling out dough. Perhaps it’s a lack of patience.
My grandmother was a baker. She could whip up cookies, cakes and pies like nobody’s business. She loved being in the kitchen. In fact, it’s hard to remember her anywhere but the kitchen or the garden. She made some fabulous almond crescent cookies every Christmas, and as I think of them now I realize they should go back on my baking list. They were a melt-in-your-mouth shortbread confection with a hint of almond – delicious! She also made a very traditional pignolata (pronounced peen-you-lah-tah) – little balls of Italian fried dough shaped into a ring and held together with honey. Very tasty, but way too much effort for me. Sorry, Grandma.
But I do like to try some different things once in a while, and have come across a few recipes online in the last couple of years that are really Christmas-worthy. This year I made eggnog bread with a rum glaze. Doesn’t the sound of that just make you think of Christmas? Baking with rum is old school and the traditional Bacardi Rum Cake is a perennial favorite.
Gingerbread cookies will be on our Christmas table this year. They do require rolling and cutting, but the smell of gingerbread baking in the oven is blissful. One cannot bake gingerbread and feel anything but euphoric. It is physically impossible.
And not all baking is for sugary delights. I enjoy sweets, but am really much more into savory. Many years ago a friend gave me a recipe for artichoke squares that has become a staple for Christmas in our house. Marinated artichokes + cheddar cheese = delectable gooey goodness! I have found the same recipe online, so you can enjoy them, too. But a word of caution – they are addictive, and if cholesterol is a worry for you then don’t try these.
Last year I tried out a recipe for white chocolate lemon truffles. OH. MY. GOSH. This really is candy-making, not baking, and they are a little fussy because you have to bring the cream to just the right point. But if you like lemon at all, you will LOVE these little beauties.
Peppermint bark has been a favorite at our house for years now. It’s super easy to do and what’s not to like about chocolate and peppermint?
And let me say a few words about Chex party mix. If I did not make it my family and friends would be very disappointed. This does not really count as baking, except for the fact that it goes in the oven. It is the easiest thing in the world, and I make a triple (yes, triple) batch every year in the most traditional way – Corn, Rice, and Wheat Chex, pretzels, peanuts, butter, Worcestershire sauce, and a little garlic and onion powder. No frills, but truly a salty obsession.
Honestly, I don’t know why we do a Christmas dinner every year. By the time my mother, sister, and sister-in-law put out their favorite items, the array of cookies and appetizers on the table all afternoon could rival a state dinner at the White House. Dinner seems almost redundant. But if you can’t indulge on Christmas, when can you?
Best wishes to all to enjoy your tasty holiday treats, whatever they may be. And if you have some great recipes, I hope you’ll share.