Baking is supposed to be relaxing right? What part, exactly, is relaxing? The precise measurements that if deviated from can spell complete disaster! The timing which if off by minutes results in smoke, charcoal briquettes and the occasional visit from the North Vancouver Fire Department? The hot oven that requires me to remove my glasses every time I need to open it? What is it?
My husband’s family has a specific traditional cookie that needs to be baked every year. And when I say need to, I mean HAS to. In our house it’s not Christmas until we have baked the “Christmas Tree Cookies”. They are actually almond spritz cookies. Bright green tasty mouthfuls of almondy sweetness. I know it’s a big part of the impending holiday season so this year I have agree to suck it up and bake. I’m showing my holiday spirit.
Half a pound of butter mixed with a cup of sugar then an egg and some flour thrown in to hold it all together. Oh yes, and green food colouring. Lots of green food colouring. Sprinkled with red sugar and baked for a few minutes. Sound good right?
If only it was that easy.
For starters it’s never just one batch. It’s at least two, if not more. Granted the cookies are only a mouthful, but in some ways that makes it easier to grab, say, a half dozen and snack away. The huge mound I make each year disappears like St. Nick up the chimney. So the kitchen becomes a bit of an assembly line of measuring and mixing the squishy dough.
Then there’s the actual art of “pressing” them
out. This involves a cookie press, a strong hand and some patience. About sixteen or seventeen years ago I was given my first cookie press by my mother in law. It took a little while to figure the contraption out but I eventually got the hang of it. The cookie dough that has been chilling in the freezer needs to be warmed up a bit and then stuffed into the tube of the press. Then the Christmas tree cutout is screwed onto the end of the tube. Now that your hands are nice and slippery from all the butter in the dough, you need to squeeze the trigger until a perfectly shaped Christmas tree appears in your cookie sheet.
Sometimes it does…….and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes your “tree” looks a bit like, oh I don’t know, let’s say a pigs snout. Or a green cow patty. Anything but a tree. So then you scrape that cookie up and dump it back into the bowl and try again.
Over the years that first press has been used a lot and last Christmas I pretty much gave up on it. After about half a cookie sheet done my hand started to cramp up and the profanity coming out of my mouth was not very jolly. My husband had to finish up and I swore I would never make Christmas tree cookies again.
Some months have passed now and for some reason I have agreed to revisit the cookie press. A quick trip to Bed Bath and Beyond and voila I have a shiny new cookie press that promises easy use and perfect cookies. We will see.
Things start out well. The dough comes together easily and the new press gets filled with green buttery goodness. Then human error comes into play. As I squeeze the trigger and await the outcome the dough oozes out the side of the metal tree cutout. Damn.
I try again. Same outcome. As I’m taking it apart for the third time my lovely husband hands me a glass of wine and asks if he can help. I hand him the two pieces and explain the outcome. He asks me if I’ve been putting the disk in the right way. Double Damn!
Not sure if was the wine or the fact that I had finally put the press together correctly but the next 200 cookies came out without incident. (Pretty much).
The Best Thing in Life is keeping a tradition alive………no matter what.