I had high hopes for this holiday season. When I posted about my holiday cocktails, I was just swinging into it. Then I got this miserable cold that clutched my bronchi for two weeks. The whole family got it, of course, and that means no sleep when you most need it. So, boo-hoo, right? I'm better now, but the season seems to have soured for me. I've never been one much for Christmas, to be very honest, and the only reason I am now starting to be swayed by it's glitter and sweets and mystery is that my son is just starting to be enthralled by it. How can I not enjoy that sparkle in his eyes when he sees trees lit up?
What I really do enjoy celebrating now though, is the solstice. It's a quiet celebration, one spent walking one of the nearby preserves. More and more, as I get older and especially now that I get up so early, I look forward to the darkest day with much anticipation. I feel as if there is something to said in that. Welcoming the darkest day, as it slowly creeps towards us, feels like something powerful. To really accept the winter fully and respect it for what it is, the only way we can reach renewal, to return to the green.
It's not that I wasn't deeply affected by Christmas myself as a child. Buying a tree, standing it in the foyer with the old red towel, decorating it. Begging my parents for tinsel which was considered vulgar. Wrapping up sticks I found in the yard for my dog, Moro. We got clementines in our stocking, and pieces of coal, as well, my parents making sure to not let us think we were that good. I think I remember taping a few Christmases, with a tape recorder, then a new-fangled technology for us. We always ate fish on New Year's Eve, smelts and octopus in keeping with the Italian tradition of the feast of seven fishes. Breakfast was usually homemade croissants that I helped form with my mother the day before. We always made gingerbread men, which I never truly loved to eat, but I always enjoyed dressing them with raisin buttons. Anise cookies, Pfeffernüsse and the requisite rolled sugar cookies were also in our cookie rotation.
In keeping with the age old cookie-making tradition, we've been making cookies nearly every day. My son is at the age now that he really loves to measure out the flour and spoonfuls of various leavening and spices. The funny thing is that he rarely eats the cookies we make! I've been bringing them around to friends because otherwise I'll eat them all. These cookies are a riff on the jam-filled thumbkins that folks like me (who have a cupboard full of jams, that is) like to make. They are lightly sweet with a toothsome chew from the cornmeal. Best of all, they are incredibly easy to make!
Sugar Drop Cookies with Cornmeal and Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, not a finely ground one
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Mix the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients, below, in a separate bowl.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of cherry pit liqueur or almond extract
Add the wet to dry ingredients, as you mix it will change from a smooth thick batter to a somewhat dry dough. Using a measuring tablespoon, scoop out balls of dough, roll them between your palms, roll them in extra sugar, and place them on your parchment paper covered tray. I like to use my measuring teaspoon to indent a bowl shaped pit in the middle of the cookie dough ball. Then I use that spoon to fill with jam. I used a fig fennel vanilla jam, which went amazingly well with the dough, and a raspberry jam, which was pretty but seeped a little. Use a jam that's firm, and not syrupy or it will seep into the cookie and not look as pretty. I covered them with sliced almonds. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes.
While you are at the cookie thing, check out Tigress' virtual cookie party (tonight!) and cook book giveaway. She is giving away a bunch of amazing books, and there will be cookie camaraderie to boot. You can bet I will be there, with a plate packed with cookies!
|Branches from the yard dressed up until we get a tree.|