Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Cookie Recipes

As promised, in yesterday's blog, I intended to post recipes for two of the cookies I brought to the Christmas cookie bake with some of my Mennonite friends a few weeks ago (the third was just the basic Toll house cookie recipe--from the bag--with red and green M&Ms added instead of chocolate chips). Well, as my eroding mind would have it, I thought these recipes were from my friend Anna's cookbooks that she put together for the **Oberholtzer family a few years ago.

Every recipe I've tried in these cookbooks has been foolproof so I just assumed (and you know what happens when we assume.) This thought wasn't helped by the fact that her second cookbook is sitting on my counter waiting for me to try her recipe for refrigerator rolls that she made for us for Christmas and that we savored with our oyster stew (that I made on Boxing Day). Oh the flavor, oh the soft melting quality of the supple, buttery dough in the mouth, with or without butter! Anna's rolls run neck and neck with my friend Cat's divine sourdough rolls (rumor has it she's putting together a cookbook, too) that she sent over with a vat of chicken and rice soup when I was so sick. [Anna also says that her roll dough makes a great cinnamon roll and I believe her. Before the New Year rings in I will have tried both ways, I can guarantee it.]

So, back to those cookies. Turns out, after much cookbook scouring, that the cookie recipes I used were actually in another great cookbook I found on-line this spring after my Mennonite friend Mary loaned me her copy. [Shown at left next to a quart of peppermint tea she made while we were making sausage and scrapple from our butchered pig last spring. Now, I thought I'd blogged about that, too, but I guess I never did--lots of photos and "how tos," however. Maybe sometime this winter I will blog about butchering day--don't worry, however, there are no graphic photos. I respect the animal as much as I do the Mennonites for their privacy and dignity in photograph-taking.]

Big Valley Amish Cook-Book: A Cookbook from Kishacoquillas Valley
(which is apparently in central Pennsylvania, northwest of Harrisburg) was first published in 1979 with at least two additional printings in the 1980s. You might be able to find one on eBay or another on-line resource as I was able to do. Throughout the book are some poems by an unknown poet including "Grandmother's Pantry and Mine," "A Happy Home Recipe" and "Tis Canning Time" so it is as much fun for these as for the excellent tried and true recipes (which include things like soap, different cheeses, and household hints).

Irene's date-filled cookies cool in front of the window.

Here are the recipes with my notations:

Ginger Crisps [NOTE: these are neither that gingery or crisp! But still good...]
from Lois and Emma Zook
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks) or other shortening
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 level tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. soda
Mix well, form into rolls and refrigerate overnight (I rolled into four logs of about 1.5" inches in diameter and wrapped in plastic wrap). Cut in slices, sprinkle with sugar (I used red and green sugars) and bake in quick oven. [NOTE: All of our cookies were baked in a wood-fired oven or gas oven and I did not participate in their monitoring while baking. Perhaps one reason they weren't crisp is because they didn't bake long enough, but they were still good. I would say 10 minutes at 350˚ or 375˚ would be a good starting point--I sliced them c. 1/8 inch thick.]

We made 15 varieties of cookies: the red and green ginger crisps are in the foreground and crescent cookies middle ground, right.

Christmas Crescent Cookies
Mrs. Daniel R. Peachey
  • 1 lb butter or margarine (4 sticks)
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 cups chopped nuts (I used pecan meal with great effect and lower cost)
  • 10 Tbsp. sugar
  • 4 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. water (I have a hunch that *rosewater would also be good)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • confectioner's sugar (for dusting)
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla, add water, salt, flour and nuts. Using portions size of a walnut, roll in crescent-shaped cookies. Bake in slow oven, 350˚. Roll, while still warm, but not just out of the oven, in powdered sugar. [NOTE: these keep well and are excellent with tea!]

** My friend Anna's family cookbooks, Tastes from the Kitchen of The Oberholtzers and More Tastes from the Oberholtzers can be ordered directly from her. They include family recipes of Mennonite and Pennsylvania German cooking at its best, with many modern twists and surprises. If you are interested, please email me at and I will get back to you with the details. [Anna was one of 17 Oberholtzer siblings, many of whom have settled in south-central Kentucky from Missouri.]

* I highly recommend the rosewater sold by our friends at the United Society of Shakers at Sabbathday Lake, Maine. It supports a great cause, is affordable and comes in a lovely bottle. [Also delicious in apple pie or shortbread and you can dab it behind your ears.] Three Shakers continue to live and work at their historic village in New Gloucester, Maine and also sell a variety of dried herbs in tins, as well as other products, on-line. [Their pantries were featured in The Pantry-Its History and Modern Uses.]

1 comment:

cakeitaly said...

Wow fantastic ideas for my next lunch with my friends.

Bye from Italy by - A taste of Italian sweets