My sisters and I grew up baking Christmas cookies, and I am the first of us three to admit that the mindset of Holiday baking 'sets in' immediately after Thanksgiving dinner.
That is, right after we consult with our mom - or like this year, take over on her behalf - to decide on the menu for her annual Christmas party in early December. Suz just about had her clipboard handy this year to make sure my mom knew our take on her menu. The most important thing to note, is that our mom is to do none of the baking. We will handle that.
December's blog posts, which I will try to keep coming fast and often, will be dedicated to Christmas cookie recipes, and the stories that inspire them. I cannot promise that my sisters' recipes will get any days in the sun here, but hopefully those I do share from my own files, will be warmly, and deliciously, received.
The first one is for Ricotta Sugar Cookies, and this is one of my favorite stories ever.
In 2004, I volunteered to demonstrate Italian recipes on the Cooking Stage at the Feast of San Gennaro in Hollywood. The stage was managed by volunteers extraordinaire, Dolores and Johnny, two of the kindest, most fun people I have ever met. I told Dolores, when we were planning the menus for each chef, that I wanted to make dessert, since the other chefs were all featuring savory recipes.
She gently suggested I make her mother's Ricotta Sugar Cookies, which simple, delicious recipe was shared in that year's cookbook. I was honored that she had offered something so special and I agreed to the idea in a heartbeat. I even made a double recipe. There were more than enough cookies for our audience that night, all of the volunteers and then some, and then the village after that. But everyone knows Italians don't know how to prepare small portions of anything.
What I didn't know, was that Dolores' mom had passed away several years before. When her father tasted the cookies that night, I believe with tears in his eyes, he said he was touched that they tasted so good, he had almost forgotten ...
Suddenly I knew that Dolly's cookie recipe is probably one of the most precious family heirlooms they had. It made me all the more humble to have prepared them, both for her and her father, and for so many others who all agreed they were so incredibly delicious.
Dolores and I reconnected a couple months ago. I told her that I make these cookies every Christmas, and I send a prayer of love and gratitude to her mom, and to her whole family, for such a precious (and I said incredibly delicious, didn't I??) gift each year. To prepare them each time, is still an honor and, a joy!
In December 2005, I brought a ton of Christmas cookies to the managers of the LA Dodgers' Clubhouse, because I wanted to stay connected with them after having been their caterer during the previous season. When one of them tasted this cookie, he looked at it with such wonder and said, "Oh my god, how did you make these?"
I just smiled. No-brainer, Mitch, come on.
In that same spirit of Holiday wonder, it gives me tremendous joy to share this recipe with you.