December 1, 2010
Moment of truth: I’m all burnt out on holiday baking.
A giant cookie-and-other-treat-extravaganza has been part of my regular December schedule since I was a girl. Once school let out for Christmas break, my mom would take off of work and we’d dedicate two full days to baking.
That time of kitchen apprenticeship is really, I think, what started this whole train a-runnin’. Not only did I learn from my mother (about timing, planning, coordination of baking sheets and oven space, how to fill muffin tins just so, how to substitute one sugar for another, how to gently work a cream cheese dough), but I also became committed to the spirit of that baking, done as a way of sharing with and contributing to the ones we loved, used as an excuse for my mom and me to be together in the kitchen for two whole days.
I’m still committed to that spirit, of course; I thoroughly appreciate the ritual and legacy that those days, and my subsequent continuation of them through graduate school and into my home life with Jill, have created. But, you know what? I’m kinda tired. And I realized that I was dreading, instead of joyfully looking forward to, my annual holiday baking project. So this year, I’m not doing it.
What’s hilarious is that, a few weekends ago, I did a “blog day” full of cookies in anticipation of sharing with all of you some favorite recipes for baking and sharing this time of year. I’m still going to share them, of course, over the next two weeks, and I’ve listed below the already myriad cookie recipes contained elsewhere on this blog. And please don’t think that my “opt-out” is a judgment on those who will bake this year—far from it.
In fact, I hope you WILL bake this year, in your tiny cramped apartment, in your beautiful, house-of-my-dreams kitchen, with your children, with your best friend, with your parent, or all alone. I hope it makes your house smell fantastic and your heart feel full.
As for me, this is my year to sit back and watch. Somehow I let a ritual become an obligation in my mind, something I felt I was compelled to do, that I felt others would expect me to do, that I felt I needed to do in order to please others or because it’s what I’ve always done. Instead I’m taking a leap of faith (seems appropriate for the season, doesn’t it?) and trusting that the people in my life are in it for more than just the baked goods.
MEYER LEMON THUMBPRINT COOKIES
Winter is a glorious time for citrus down here in South Texas; I found some local Meyer lemons at the Farmers’ Market a few weeks ago and couldn’t resist their perfume. For the filling, I made a quick blackberry jam, but you could easily use store bought and/or swap in another flavor.
for the dough:
2 ¼ cups flour
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
pinch of salt
Line two baking sheets with parchment.
In the stand bowl of a mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and zest together. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla. Fold in the flour & salt until the mixture forms a soft dough. Shape into a disk, cover in plastic, and refrigerate for thirty minutes.
Remove the dough from the fridge and roll into 1-inch balls. Place each one on a cookie sheet, leaving room for the cookies to flatten a bit. Using your thumb, press gently into the center of each dough ball, then spoon some jam into the indentations.
Bake the cookies for 15-20 minutes or until the centers seem set and the surrounding dough solid. Cool on racks before serving or storing in an airtight container.
for the jam:
1 pint blackberries, rinsed
¾-1 cup sugar, depending on your taste
juice of one lemon
In a nonstick saucepot, stir the ingredients together and bring the mixture to a bubble. Cook for about fifteen minutes, or until the mixture starts to thicken and pull together (it will continue to thicken as it cools, so you still want it to be somewhat loose & stir-able).
Transfer to a glass jar or other heatproof container & allow the jam to come to room temperature before using it in this or another recipe. Store any leftovers in the fridge.
BAKE AWAY, MY FRIENDS: