When Ken and I married four years ago this past October, we had a small wedding. And while we’d asked that guests “just bring yourself” – discouraging any gift-giving – my BFF and her partner showed up with a ginormous, need-a-forklift package, which, when I unwrapped it the next day, began howling with laughter.
“You said that when you moved to the country, you were going to bake,” Mish said with a giggle when I called her. “So get to it.”
For the girl who hated measuring, hated wiping up flour (the fact there was so much flour to wipe up speaks to prior culinary competence), and spent the majority of her life in congested North Jersey with an Italian bakery on every corner anyway, I was now the owner of a steel-gray industrial/professional standing mixer in my kitchen in Upper Bucks County, which compared to congested North Jersey is the country.
This behemoth couldn’t even fit in the pantry, and I didn’t want to disrespect Mish and Cat by relegating it to the basement, so with a one, two, three…HOIST, I shoved it into the corner of the counter. After a few days, I draped a pretty dishtowel over it. When in the world would I use this thing? I wondered. The answer came on a mid-December Saturday when my teenage stepdaughters decided today was the day to bake Holly’s Holiday Almond (but mostly butter) Cookies.
Holly was my mother-in-law. Ken and I go way back, first as dating partners then friends, but spent almost a quarter of century leading separate lives; so, of course, during those intervening years, Holly had been absent as well. I am sad she left us before I joined the family, knowing her now only through a boatload of stories and adages, and, pertinent to this particular Saturday morning, by way of a handwritten recipe – yellowed and anointed with greasy fingerprints – for her family-famous cookies, which the Odells traditionally bake together.
My standing mixer had a maiden voyage, which would turn out to be the first of many baking journeys, as I’ve taken on lots of personal cooking challenges since. But more than just a bake fest the last few years, we’ve come to package up lots and lots in holiday tins (many, btw, purchased from Full Circle Thrift) and deliver them to business associates and neighbors because this is the season of giving, after all. So while I can’t bring you a batch, I can – in recognition of Bake Cookies Day, on December 18th this year – give you Holly’s Holiday Almond Cookie recipe. Enjoy!
- 2 lbs unsalted butter creamed in a bowl. To that add:
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tsp almond extract
- 1 lb confectioner’s sugar
Beat together and transfer all to bowl larger than beater bowl, then slowly add and hand turn:
- 10 cups pastry flour (8 cups if all-purpose)
When well incorporated, roll into logs no longer than 1 foot; cover in plastic or wax paper and refrigerate for 2 hours. Cut into 5/8-inch slices. We decorate with gold and silver glitter, which we sprinkle on before putting in the oven.
Don’t overcrowd oven and bake at 400º or until lightly brown (bottoms should be deep golden), approx. 8 minutes (but check). And with all that butter, you don’t need to grease the sheets!
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