Foods: Family Recipes and Memories
“Remembering the Christmas Cookie Bakers”
As I planned my Christmas cookie list, I began thinking of the family members who shared those cookie recipes with me. Sometimes it’s funny how things remind you of certain people.
In sifting through my book of cookie recipes, the first one I added to my list… and it’s always on my list – my alltime favorite – Cherry Winks. It’s an old recipe from Kellogg’s, and I learned it from my mother-in-law. It seemed to be her favorite through the years, as I remember her faithfully making them every Christmas. Even though I knew it was a Kellogg’s Cornflake recipe, I never saw it on a box until this year when I bought cornflakes; but they changed the name to Cherry Dot Cookie, which I feel just doesn’t grab you like Cherry Winks! If you’d like to read where I discovered my mother-in-laws recipe at and find the recipe, then just click Cherry Winks.
I don’t remember my mother making any cookies – she was more of a cook of good food, not desserts. There is only one dessert that I ever remember her making, and that was her favorite “lemon pie” made with Eagle Brand milk.
I have no cookie recipes from either of my grandmothers. Grandmama Bryan only made two desserts that I remember – no homemade cookies come to mind. I do remember she always had a bag of Pecan Sandies in the kitchen cupboard… they were her favorites, and she didn’t like to share them.
Grandmama McKinley made a cookie called “teacakes”. Mama tells me that they were a small cake-like cookie and Grandmama would put chocolate icing on them; they were Mama’s after-school snack. She didn’t bake cookies at Christmas but instead made popcorn balls. Mama remembers how she’d pop a big pan of popcorn and pour a hot buttery mixture over it, then while still warm she’d form the balls, later wrapping them in wax paper so they would keep. Mama says, “that was our Christmas treat, she kept them on a tray in the dining room.”
It was not until I married and came to Connecticut, did I learn the ABC’s of cookie making from my husband’s family. Christmas Eve at Grandma Minnie’s yielded the biggest cookie collection I’d ever seen. It didn’t take me long to find favorites and ask for recipes.
All the bakers in the family brought trays of their favorite cookies to share on Christmas Eve and being an Italian family – most had Anginettes on those trays… but all slightly different. Grandma Minnie made hers with orange juice, while my mother-in-law made hers with ricotta; and that is the one I have continued to use through the years. I learned how to make them almost as good as hers, but I think my husband has perfected his mother’s recipe and makes them the best. He needs no special occasion to whip up a batch. Mastering the Anginette recipe takes time… time to learn the feel of the dough; it’s definitely a learned cookie.
It was Aunt Mary who devised a smaller version of Anginettes that I call Anginette Slices; they cook in a loaf form, then cut into slices after frosted. She adapted her recipe to this smaller version and she would whip them up if someone dropped by, or if she wanted a quick dessert to bring somewhere, and didn’t want to make a full-size recipe. Whenever Aunt Mary came with a covered dish, you knew whatever it was…. it was going to be good!
Aunt Mary’s “Anginette Slices
- 2 tbsp butter – soft
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup orange juice, minus just a little (Aunt Mary says so)
- pinch salt
Cream butter and sugar, then add egg, vanilla extract, and orange juice. Mix well, then stir in dry ingredients and blend well to form a soft dough. Scoop out one-half of the dough with a wooden spoon and place on greased and floured pan (or use parchment). Shape dough into two small loaves… shaping with a wooden spoon. Do not flatten dough – pat into logs, about two inches across.
Bake 350, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool and frost… adding sprinkles if desired. Slice diagonally after frosting has set. The recipe can be doubled to make four loaves; cook the four together for about 15-20 minutes.
Frosting: 1 pat butter – soft. Blend with a small amount of orange juice or lemon extract. Add confectioners sugar till the right frosting consistency.
These Anginette logs are super soft and so delicious! Thank You, Aunt Mary, for devising this recipe and sharing with me!
Seven Layer Bars are a remembered favorite on those trays and it was always Aunt Catherine who brought them; I’m thinking it was her favorite also. I could always pick out her tray because they were on the tray along with her Peanut Butter Blossoms. My recipes for both cookies came from her.
Butter Balls were a cookie my mother-in-law made because dad wanted; they remind me more of my father-in-law as they were his favorite cookie. I have two recipes of them with one being a smaller mixture of dough and uses confectionery sugar in the batter; it makes for a more tasty cookie. I’ve seen some recipes call for walnuts, but it’s pecans, preferably Georgia pecans, that make the better tasting cookie. I’m just a little prejudice on where my pecans come from!
I like to note on my recipes which type of nuts to use as often you’ll just find the universal “nuts” listed in recipes…. The type of nuts you use in cookies, can either make or break the taste of the cookie.
Thumbprints was another cookie on my mother-in-law’s tray and soon became my 2nd favorite cookie. Many recipes just list nuts…. and one year when I couldn’t remember which one, I made them with walnuts… which was absolutely the wrong type of nut; the cookies didn’t have the right taste. I immediately went to my cookbook and noted on the page – only use pecans! The pecans give the cookie a toasted nutty flavor, the walnuts were bland tasting. In my Cherry Wink recipe, I only use walnuts, maybe I should try pecans and see how different the cookie tastes.
The “Famous” Fudge Recipe!
Fudge – another holiday dessert included on the cookie trays, but just on my mother-in-law’s…. rich and sugary and so good. She was the only one who somehow perfected it, everyone else gave up. I learned from watching… and making it over and over until I mastered the secrets in stirring until just the right consistency could be seen… the smooth sugary, shiny look it yielded when ready to pour; and when it was ready to pour, your buttered dish better be ready, or you’ll end up with fudge too hard to pour. Most recipes call for a candy thermometer, but I learned the look and feel of knowing when it’s at the right stage. One year I decided to test the candy thermometer and when it was ready to pour, the temperature seemed to be about what they recommended; so it seems I eye-ball just right. I’m really craving a pan of fudge right now! And yes I add nuts (walnuts) to mine, but only on one side… hubby doesn’t like nuts!
Spritz cookies, another favorite on my mother-in-law’s Christmas tray. I remember she brought me a dish of them when I was in the hospital with my son; they always taste best when someone else bakes them. The first time I watched her I was fascinated as she loaded the dough into a gadget called a cookie press and the dough pushed out through disks to form different cookie designs. She taught me how to use the press and eventually gifted it to me when she bought one of those electric cookie shooters, but they never worked as good, or as easy as the old twist and turn press. Believe me, Spritz cookies take time to master…. it’s not a cookie that might come out right on your first try, but don’t give up! I eventually bought an electric cookie shooter also, but never had much luck with it and went back to the old twist and turn one; I use the electric one to make my wreath which I fill with Italian cream… like cream puffs, but bigger. It makes a great presentation!
At an Estate sale this summer, I came across a couple of cookie presses…. still in their original boxes. One vintage one I bought, and another manual cookie press like my mother-in-law’s. This past Christmas my daughter looked to borrow mine, so I gave her the vintage one, complete in box with attachments and even pastry attachments; she loves it!
The vintage cookie gun I bought at an estate sale – my daughter scoffed it up!
Although this wasn’t on the cookie tray… that I remember… but, it was Aunt Nancy who always made the Christmas Fruitcake…. don’t be wrinkling up your nose, as this is not the usual fruitcake recipe! She found the recipe in a magazine that told a story about a mother who saved and skimped through the year just so she could buy the ingredients for Christmas Eve Fruitcake; after baking it was placed in a tin with an apple slice in the center to keep moist – replacing slice when needed. I have made this a couple of times and anyone who’s tasted it, says… “this doesn’t taste like any Fruitcake I’ve ever eaten.”
Aunt Nancy’s famous Christmas Eve Fruitcake
- 1 stick butter
- 1 stick oleo
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 Lrg eggs
- 1 1/2 cups flour (save 1/2 cup to dredge nuts in)
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 cups coconut
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup pineapple juice
- 1 can (20 oz.) pineapple chunks (drain – use juice)
- 1 cup chopped dates
- 1 cup candied cherries (drained – use whole)
- 1 box white raisins or substitute cran-raisins or dried cranberries
- 1 cup pecans – halves
- 1 cup walnuts – halves
- 1 cup almonds – whole
Cream butter and sugar – add eggs, one at a time. Slowly blend in flour (1 cup), baking powder and salt. Add pineapple juice, beat well. Dredge nuts and fruit in reserved 1/2 cup flour and add to mixture; stir in coconut.
Line tube or bundt pan, or 2 bread pans lined with parchment paper and grease well. Bake 275 for 2 1/ 2 hours in tube/bundt pan or about 1 hr. and 40 minutes in bread pans. Place the pan of water on lower rack in the oven while baking; store in the tin with wax paper.
If you’re wondering why I’m posting this in January…
Somehow I overlooked my Christmas drafts in December and never posted…. so I apologize for being late, but I didn’t want to wait another 357 days.
Thanks for stopping by!
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