Infinity is Still Bigger than Google: My Mom’s Christmas Cookies

mom's christmas cookies

Decorated, Baked and Ready for Gifting

Pre-Google, moms could just tell you stuff. Like make stuff up to answer your billions of questions. And we just believed her – because she was the mom. Sure, sometimes she might say ‘Let’s look that up in the encyclopedia’ or ‘I’m not sure, let’s ask your dad.’ But, in our house, there was a point at which with four kids bombarding mom with our questions, she just simply made it up.

google logo

The Google

Now, there’s the Google – a world where we can find anything out in the click of a mouse. The Google (I like to say ‘the Google’) has changed the way we learn and the way we argue. Now there’s no arguing, there’s only The Googling. I mean, why take a side when in just a nano-second you can be proven wrong…or right?

Pre-Google we were led to believe many things…One of the greatest and most delicious lies of my life was that the Christmas cookies we made and decorated every year (back in the day of suburban cookie exchanges…do they still do that?) were created from a recipe handed down for generations on my mother’s side.

A few years ago, when I decided to take a stab at the recipe in my apartment and treat my coworkers to a long-storied family holiday secret…I found out the truth.

I Googled ‘Christmas Cookies’. And ‘decorating Christmas cookies.’ And ‘holiday sugar cookies’….And, there it was. Right there on the screen of my Mac.

Did ‘Annie’s Mom’s Secret Christmas Cookies’ come up? No, no it did not.

As it turns out, what I believed were My Mom’s Secret Christmas Cookies…really belonged to someone named, Mary. Mary. They were Mary’s Sugar Cookies…But, still the best Christmas (or Chanukah or Festivas) cookies out there.

And, if you don’t believe me, you can Google it.

Mom and Mary’s Christmas Cookies (makes 5 dozen)

NOTE: There’s a chilling period of 3 hours … so plan ahead!

Ingredients:

  • Christmas Sugar Cookies

    Decorating Mise En Place

    1 1/2 Cups sifted powdered/confectioners sugar – I sifted using a mesh strainer – but for the sugar, a real sifter would be easier…and quicker

  • 1 Cup softened butter
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 TSP Vanilla
  • 1/2 TSP Almond Extract/Flavoring
  • 2 1/2 Cups Gold Medal Flour sifted – sifting flour through a mesh strainer is actually really easy and quick – much easier than sifting the confectioners sugar
  • 1 TSP Baking Soda – sift this in with the flour
  • Christmas cookies

    Sifting the Dry Stuff

    1 TSP Cream of Tartar – sift this in with the flour and baking soda

  • Colored Sugar Crystals for decorating – I bought India Tree Sugar Crystals, expensive but really fun colors!
  • Cookie Cutters – saved here by buying an assortment box at Bed Bath & Beyond
christmas cookie decorating with kids

Super 7-Year Old

And the most important of all ingredients…One super 7-year old girl – you can substitute any child of any cookie decorating age here. But, my 7-year old sous chef was the best!

1. In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer, mix together the Sugar and the Butter

holiday sugar cookies

I heart my Kitchen Aid

2. Add the egg, the vanilla extract and the almond extract

3. Mix in the Flour, Baking Soda, Cream of Tartar mixture 1/2 a cup at a time until smooth

Mary's Sugar Cookies

Add Flour in Stages – scrape down side of bowl

4. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl, divide into same sized balls. Cover each with wax paper and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

holiday sugar cookies

I doubled the recipe

Go Christmas shopping. Sing carols. Decorate your home. Watch ‘Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town’.

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees

5. Remove one of the dough balls from the fridge and allow to warm a bit (about :10mins on the counter)

6. Roll out the ball on a heavily floured surface to about 3/16″ thick. I like them thin and crispy – but this is really your call

christmas cookies

Decorating!

christmas cookies cut out

Decorated and Oven Ready

7. Using cookie cutters – cut out holiday shapes

8. Decorate

9. Put into the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes depending upon thickness of cookies

christmas cookie cutters

This one is an angel..but, looks like MothMan…right?

10. Remove from the oven, transfer cookies to a rack and allow to cool for a few moments

11. Carefully place the cookies into a holiday themed box or cookie tin.

12. You can eat them, gift them, or take to one of those suburban cookie exchanges!

holiday themed cookie box

Boxed and Ready for Gifting

I love the Google. But, ever since its introduction, we’ve all probably been forced to realize the little lies and deceptions our mothers may have told us.

holiday christmas cookies

More Love than Infinity

There are still some things that are immune to the Google. The other day, my 7-year old sous chef asked her mom: ‘What’s bigger…Google or Infinity?’

Her mom didn’t have to Google that one and she didn’t have to lie…She honestly replied: ‘Infinity’…

And, that super 7-year old didn’t miss a beat and said: ‘Well then, Mommy, I love you more than Infinity.’

I don’t know who this cookie baking chick Mary is or was…But, I do know that the cookie recipe is just part of the equation in creating the perfect Christmas cookie. The magic, intangible ingredients come from the family tradition of making the cookies, decorating the cookies, sneaking a slice of the chilled dough from the fridge as a snack. The magic is in the super sous chefs and little helpers who carry more love than infinity. Because Infinity is still bigger than Google.

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When You’re Only 24-Cookies Sad…And Have To Say Bye Bye Bye

Some people starve their way through heartbreak…Others eat their way through.

I’ve been eating my way through the pain of knowing that Justin Timberlake will never be mine.

I have loved Justin Timberlake ever since he graduated from Disney and burst onto the boy-band-teen-idol-music scene with his frosted tipped curly hair. Fresh faced with instant allure and breathtaking adorability he was the 14-year old baby front boy in N’Sync. You couldn’t really put your finger on it, but you just knew he was going to be a big deal.

Justin Timberlake N'Sync

JT Dirty Popped Onto the Scene

I was among a select group of the world’s oldest N’Sync fans. It was a small club (or a secret society maybe) composed of gay men and pop music loving 30-something women. My college roommate was a member as well and we had several conversations debating which was the cuter band member – She liked JC…I always liked Justin.

I was a quasi grown up with a pretty demanding job at the time. She was a new mother. We had no business spending our time talking boy bands.

But we didn’t care.

Justin Timberlake Secret Wedding

I Should Be His Girlfriend

I boldly braved the ridicule of friends and professional colleagues when I announced proudly that I was going to see N’Sync’s ‘No Strings Attached’ show.

I even bought the DVD afterwards so that I could watch the show over and over and over again in the comfort of my own home.

When the ‘band’ broke up – I avoided separation anxiety because JT immediately released his solo album crying himself a river after his split from Britney.

What he really cried was a river of solo success.

  • He brought sexy back…in a big way.
  • He crafted one of the most watched SNL skits of all time.
  • He became an actor and garnered kudos from Hollywood’s toughest critics for his role in The Social Network
  • Oh, and he’s a scratch golfer.

His talent knows no end.

With each addition to his resume, my infatuation intensified. (In the OK way).

I did meet Justin once…Some of my colleagues might say that I accosted him. Whatever, we met.

I spotted him leaving the Governors’ Ball after the 2011 Academy Awards. I looked at one of my friends and said, ‘you know I have to..’ She nodded knowingly, with a little bit of ‘you’re pathetic’ in her eyes.

But he was getting away…I had to hurry. I jogged after him in my 5 inch heels, stopped right in front of him and introduced myself. He was gracious. We shook hands.

I        touched          Justin Timberlake

At that moment I understood how Marcia Brady felt when after receiving her first kiss from Desi Arnaz Jr, as she declared ‘I’ll never wash this cheek again.’ Obviously, I would have to wash…but right then I considered my options.

Justin Timberlake Weds in Italy

It’s Tearin’ Up My Heart

So, News of Justin and Jessica Biels’ nuptials are tearin’ up my heart.

And no matter what I do I feel the pain.

So, I bake.

And, I’ve been baking ever since I heard.

Friday I made Nestle Toll House Chocolate Cookies. I won’t bore you with the details – because I pretty much follow the directions on the package…

Semi-Sweet chocolate Chips Nestle

Semi-Sweet for a Bitter-Sweet Day

Except…

  • I cut the recipe in half  – Let’s be honest: I wasn’t 48 cookie sad, I was more like 24 cookie sad.
  • Half of the directed flour would have been 1 1/8 cups…but, I used just shy of 1 cup. That way the cookies are crispier and less cakey. You also really get the buttery flavor by cutting the flour down a bit.
  • I gave the majority of the cookies away – Sometimes just the baking is therapeutic enough…And, let’s face it: Fat and sad is no way to go through life.
Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie

No Coincidence that the Chips are Tear Shaped

I know that my adoration of Justin isn’t really normal. And, down deep I have always accepted that becoming Mrs. Timberlake just wasn’t in the cards.

Still, that doesn’t make it any easier to say ‘bye bye bye’.

You Will Never Be Gymnast Meringues

The morning of the tryouts for the swim pre-team was a rare, cold, rainy June morning. I was 6 and would need to just swim one lap of a 25 yard (not meter, yard) pool in order to earn my spot on the team. I stood at the side of the pool shivering as my goosebumps grew goosebumps from both the cold and my own nerves. By the time it was my turn, I could barely breathe. I jumped in and began to swim as my peers and my mother looked on. As cold as the air was, the water was colder and my red and white speedo swim suit did nothing to insulate me. My teeth were chattering and as I turned my head to take a breath I took in a mouthful of water and started to cough.  Gasping for air, I grabbed for the ladder about 3/4 of the way down the length of the pool and ended my swimming career.

I wasn’t ever meant to be a swimmer and decided later to have a go at diving. Not surprisingly, this also turned out to be a challenge for my lanky 10-year old body. The most common thing I heard following any one of my very low degree of difficulty dives at a meet was ‘Fail Dive’. When I finally quit the diving team two-years later, my coach smiled and thanked me.

These failures at water sports were painful – but, I really wasn’t all that disappointed. Gymnastics – that was my passion, my everything. Every four years when the summer Olympics start I am reminded of my experience with competitive gymnastics. I was 11 and had convinced my parents to send me to Murial Grossfeld’s Academy for Gymnastics summer camp in upstate NY. Before Bela Karolyi there was Murial Grossfeld. Murial was known as ‘The Tyrant of Girl’s Gymnastics’ and once told a 12-year old: ‘Don’t be a lady on that beam! Be an animal!’. She was a big deal in the sport for Americans. After a week of intensive 8-hour days training on all the apparatus, each student was granted a ‘hearing’ with Murial. My meeting with Murial was the most important moment of my life. I entered the room and was completely in awe of her. Even though I had been at Murial’s camp all week, I had yet to be in her presence. I walked in slowly and sat down as she directed. Ms Grossfeld looked at my skills evaluation report that lay on the desk in front of her and then looked up at me. Sigh. Pause. And then….’You will never be gymnast. Find something else.’ And that was it. My gymnastics dreams shattered in two terse sentences.

In spite of my shattered dreams of Olympic gold, my passion for the sport did not diminish. I love gymnastics and will spend the next 14 days glued to the television watching the US Women and Men perform.

Tonight is the Olympics opening ceremony. I am gathering with friends to watch and have been charged with bringing dessert. In an effort to make something patriotic, I am preparing Red, White and Blue Chocolate Chip Meringue cookies. The recipe below is a tweak on Claire Robinson’s from the Food Network. These are so easy – just a little time consuming.

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.

In a large bowl, using a hand beater, or, better yet, a KitchenAid Mixer with the whipping attachement, beat 4 egg whites, 1/4 tsp cream of tarter, a pinch of salt and 1/4 tsp vanilla until soft peaks form. Divide the egg white mixture into thirds. In the first third, gradually add 1/4 cup of sugar and beat until the sugar dissolves and stiff peaks form – about 3 minutes.

Remove the white meringue mixture from the bowl.

In the second third, gradually add 5-7 drops of red food coloring and 1/4 cup of sugar. Beat until the sugar dissolves and stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.

Repeat this process with the final third using 5-7 drops of blue food coloring and 1/4 cup of sugar.

Into each color,  gently fold 1/3 cup of chocolate chips.

Drop the batter onto silicone mats or parchment lined baking sheets (will need 2) with a teaspoon, spacing at least 2 inches apart.

If you’re not putting in chocolate chips, you can use a pastry bag to make prettier meringue cookies. Bake until the meringues are dried through, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The cookies will remove easily from the parchment or silicone mat when ready. And their red, white and blue color will be the perfect dessert for any Olympics themed event.

I have long since accepted that I will “never be gymnast” and I did eventually ‘find something else’. The kitchen is my stadium and the stove top, my torch. And instead of being adorned in gold medals, I’m surrounded by copper pots.

Go Team USA!