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Grandma’s Christmas Cookies, Full of Butter, Nuts, Spice

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Every cookie baker knows they keep a little bit of  history in their recipe files.

cookies3When I go digging into the cabinet that houses the bottle of molasses, I never fail to think of my paternal grandmother, Alberta Walker.  She was a tomboy while growing up in Iowa, she always told us. But when she was 17,  she and her boyfriend, my grandfather, Dave Walker, left for a neighboring town one Saturday morning, telling their parents they were going to the fair. They got married, returned to their hometown and continued to live in their respective parents’ homes, not telling anyone they’d eloped, for quite some time.

She passed away more than 15 years ago. She may have been a tomboy in her youth, but she turned into an excellent cook and baker. One of the many things we remember about her was her gingery Molasses Cookies. A plateful of these were always waiting for us when we visited. She gave us the recipe, and my mother and I tried for many years to make our cookies come out like hers. We finally figured out, with some embarrassment, that we were leaving them in the oven too long. These aren’t crunchy gingersnaps, but moist cookies that are chewy and delectable.

cookies1Noel Bars came from my sister-in-law, Lisa Krueger, years ago. They aren’t fancy to look at, but just one bite turned me into a wide-eyed believer. When I asked her for the recipe, she said she’d go look in her mom’s old red-and-white cookbook. She didn’t find the cookbook. But she e-mailed me an image of the recipe card, smeared with ink, speckled with age spots and no doubt some ancient remnants of cookie dough, too.

When I say the Noel Bars weren’t fancy, I should add that the reason for their name is that you are supposed to write the word “Noel” on each bar in green icing before serving. “That never happened at our house,” said Lisa.  I didn’t have to ask why.

Finally, the Nutmeg Cookie Logs are a longtime favorite of mine. I had asked a friend, Judy Smith, for the recipe when she and I were reporters together in Prescott, Ariz. When I got married, I not only received this recipe but an entire file of recipes, neatly printed on index cards, from her own collection of favorites.  It has been 21 years, but I still treasure them.

cookies2Another memory I have of these cookies also always makes me smile. I worked here with a young reporter, Dee Dixon, for several years. One Christmas at work we had a cookie exchange. I say “one” Christmas because I was in charge of it and was amazed at how much coordination it took. My other contribution was a plate of Nutmeg Cookie Logs. My friend took one look at them and turned up her nose. “Wa-ay too much work,” she sniffed. But I noticed it wasn’t at all difficult for her to eat them up.

Too much work? Well, you have to roll out the dough into long logs, then cut them into shorter logs. After they are baked and cooled, you frost them with a buttercream icing, then pull the tines of a fork through the icing and sprinkle on ground nutmeg. They sort of look like little Yule logs. They taste amazingly good.

Finally, while some like to serve eggnog or punch or other sweet drinks with Christmas cookies, I’ll always vote for one of two things — good, strong hot coffee or a glass of cold milk. And, that’s my own tradition.

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5 Responses to “Grandma’s Christmas Cookies, Full of Butter, Nuts, Spice”

  1. Judy Baum says:

    Bonnie, which of these recipes would keep & ship well?

    • Bonnie says:

      Hi Judy – I think the Noel Bars and Molasses cookies would ship best. The Nutmeg Logs are shortbread, basically, so they are a little more brittle. You know, John’s mom always sends lots of cookies, so you might check with him on how she packs them. I know some get broken, but by and large they arrive pretty well intact. Good luck!BW

  2. Bonnie says:

    Hi Judy – I think that the Molasses Cookies and the Noel Bars would ship pretty well. The Nutmeg Logs are basically shortbread, so they are somewhat brittle. John’s mom always sends him dozens of cookies, well packed enough that most of them get here in one piece. Might ask him she packs them to send. Take care, BW

  3. mlw says:

    oh, those molasses cookies! I made the same discovery – I would poke at them as they baked, and think that they were still raw. They would turn to stone when I finally removed them from the oven. The nutmeg logs look wonderful, too – how can you go wrong with butter sugar flour, and spice???

    Just a SWAG on my part – I bet all these cookies would keep and ship well, but especially the mollasses and nutmeg logs.

    • I served these to one of our SavorSA folks at dinner Sunday. He thought he’d turn down the cookie tray, but then saw the molasses cookies and grabbed one. He said, Oh, my grandmother used to make these…” That was funny. Guess I’d better make another batch next week. Thanks for your comment. BW