Who doesn’t like cookies: those perfect, hand-size, easy-to-take-anywhere. mouth-watering, sugary-sweet (somebody stop me – I have already gained five pounds), delectable morsels of goodness?
(Please excuse me for five minutes. That sentence made me hungry.)
Now that I am full, I can continue (for a while). With Christmas fast approaching, and my fat pants calling to me, daring me to see if I can outgrow them once again, I thought this a good time to list my all-time favorite (for a few days before I discover new ones and change my mind) Christmas cookies. (Please note that some of these are not specifically geared to the holiday, but they all are ones that I have gotten as Christmas gifts at one point).
Grab a pen and paper; you may want to take notes and then go looking for the recipes. Also please remember that the better the cookies you leave for Santa, the happier he will be. And if you really do a good job, he just might eat too many and have to stay at your house, thereby leaving you with all his presents (and a bunch of ornery reindeer on your roof).
Drum Roll Please…
These cinnamony treats are of German origin, and date back to the late 1890’s when cinnamon tycoon Baron Otto von Doodle commissioned his private pasty chef to create a holiday cookie that would cause his guests to be overcome with infectious laughter. At first von Doodle was displeased, as the cookies only managed to evoke titters and snickers. But after guests kept asking for the recipe, he finally considered them a success. Lucky for everyone, von Doodle nixed the idea of calling them Titterdoodles, opting instead for the more family-friendly version, for advertising reasons.
12. Peanut Butter Chocolate Kiss Cookies
Inspired by the Middle-Eastern dish of hummus with figs, these treats were Americanized by the Hershey’s company in the attempt to increase holiday chocolate sales. The cookie was originally a flop because everyone put the chocolate in too soon and it melted. First called “elf heads” because of the pointy appearance, the cookie caught on slowly because of the melting chocolate issue and the fact that it more resembled a bloated elf being squashed than anything else. Still they taste pretty good, and can be found in many homes to this very day. (Hint: the reindeer love them.)
These delights might possibly be the oldest recorded cookie on the countdown. I’m not really sure – my calendar doesn’t go back that far.
Once a staple in European armies, the ginger served to calm down the queasy stomachs of motion-sick troops. But soldiers looked at the cookie with disfavor, as it was virtually impossible to be used to make a good ham and swiss sandwich with them. This lead to the invention of the sub roll, to the delight of generals everywhere as warfare increased, along with their salaries.
10. Raspberry Linzer Cookies
Invented by noted Brooklyn plumber and part-time baker Roscoe “Drips” Linzer in 1932, the cookie was first designed to look like a toilet seat. First attempts were failures as the open-ended cookie’s design allowed the raspberry to leak out all over the place. It wasn’t until Linzer decided to enclose the cookie on all sides that it became a favorite with the public in general.
Invention of these cookies is credited to Bruno “Yeast Man” Spicolli, noted cookie maker (“creatore di biscotto”) of the Arnazzi family, one of the top 10 crime families in New York City circa 1900, a short-lived mob family whose member all died of high cholesterol.
Originally called “Mobster Fingers,” sales of the preserve-filled sweets was slow because people kept finding bones in them. It wasn’t until the name was changed to butter cookies that people stopped worrying that they might be eating evidence
8. Christmas Sugar Cookies
Probably the easiest to make and the most popular of the bunch, these cookies are all based upon a common recipe that varies among cultures and regions of the United States. Details about the origin of this cookie are sketchy, but it is a good bet that they were invented sometime after the birth of Christ and the discovery of sugar.
7. Spritz Cookies (Plain and Chocolate – above)
Another cookie of German origin, this snack is credited to Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz in the late 1450’s. Legend has it that, after inventing movable type, he soon realized that this would lead to books, and when people would read books they would need snacks. Always thinking like an inventor, Gutenberg came up with the notion of a “squeeze tube” and interchangeable nozzles to create various patterns. First batches were decorated with strands of sauerkraut. This was soon changed after Gutenberg noticed that his kids were feeding the cookies to the dog, “Spritz”,” after whom the cookie was named and the sauerkraut ditched in favor of colored sprinkles.
The name of the cookie comes from an Italian word meaning pasta, “maccarone”. About the origin, culinary historians claim that macaroons can be traced to an Italian monastery of the 9th century. Italian Jews later adopted the cookie because it has no flour or leavening (macaroons are leavened by egg whites) and can be enjoyed during the eight-day observation of Passover.
The genesis of today’s macaroon is also disputed, and some claim the the idea for the Mounds candy bar originated with these treats. Either way, they are just too tasty to leave off this list. (I have to be serious sometimes, don’t I?)
5. Almond Cookies
Another cookie of disputed origin, almond cookies have been traced back both to the Middle East and to China. I mean, who cares; have you ever tasted one? Boy, are they good!
Some historians are adamant that these cookies originated with Wo Ya, a nearsighted chef in the ancient Ming Dynasty. Wo was notorious for being unable to shape dough into a circle, so he grabbed wads of dough, squeezed them into crescents and called them “crescent moons.” Wo was later beheaded when he tried to do the same thing with the Emperor’s wife. He may have been a stupid lover, but as a cookie-maker he was top notch.
Though some will not call these delights “cookies,” I don’t care. If you don’t like it, get your own list.
Lemon bars first came to existence during the carefree pre-Depression days of the late 1920’s. Invented by the growing Florida citrus industry, they became favorites of New Yorkers of Jewish descent, soon making their way up north when the weather warmed up. It was then that they were introduced to the Howard family of noted Stooge fame. Shemp came up with the idea of using them in their act instead of pies. He was out-voted by Moe and Curly, and then kicked out of the act unless Curly wasn’t feeling good. Luckily for comedy lovers, they stuck with pies – but didn’t destroy the recipe for the bars.
3. Rainbow Cookies
Readers will please forgive a bit of self-indulgence (but isn’t that the best kind?) as I am purposely listing the next few cookies with an ulterior motive: I am hoping that someone will bake these for me for Christmas. (Shh! Please keep that secret.)
Rainbow cookies are pure heaven: three layers of almond cake, filled with raspberry jam filling, and liberally covered on top and bottom with dark chocolate. Historian fight over their origin, but that’s okay. Let them fight. I am too busy eating these babies to care about that!
Also liberally labeled a cookie (since they need to be eaten with a spoon), these fried droplets of ecstasy are traditionally Italian, a fact which does not escape me, because so am I.
Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around these “round” balls of dough covered with honey and sprinkles. Fun to look at, and even more fun to eat, these guys wreak havoc on the waistline. What’s worse, traditional recipes call for the use of lard to insure melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.
Just call me “Winnie the Pooh,” because when I spy a plate of these, I go to town. Afterwards, my belly is about the same size as his. If you haven’t ever tasted these, get a hold of some as soon as possible – and check your arteries at the door.
And the number 1 Christmas cookie is:
1. The Chocolate Chip Frito Cookie!
Okay, so this one hasn’t been invented yet. So sue me. A guy can dream can’t he?
Are there any takers? Anyone want to bake some. I would, but I can’t – I have honey all over my hands at the moment.
All my best to everyone for a joyous holiday season and a wonderful Christmas – and you have my permission to over-indulge a bit. We can all worry about that next year.