It’s the time of year flour, sugar and butter manufacturers live for: Christmas cookie baking season. Bakers across the country (and the world) celebrate the season by assembling different combinations of these three ingredients (plus an assortment of others) to tempt the rest of us into gaining Christmas pounds so we can resolve to lose them in January.
Your favorite Christmas cookie can reveal your personality, but before we look deep into your psyche, a definition is in order: Christmas cookies may have chocolate chips, but chocolate chip cookies are not Christmas cookies! As I have ranted in the past, Christmas cookies are special, once-a-year ordeals. They use special ingredients — like crushed candy canes or chocolate extract or dried cranberries or apricot jam. Or they come in special shapes — like spritz cookies or gingerbread men. Or they require complicated assembly, like sandwich cookies or red-hot-nosed reindeer cookies or those tedious twisted candy canes made of vanilla and red-colored sugar cookie dough. Or they have special toppings like powdered sugar or frosting or crushed nuts.
Chocolate chip cookies are for every day – they’re not for Christmas!
So with that in mind, what’s the one Christmas cookie you never pass up when the cookie plate comes your way? The one you pray to see when the neighbors gift you a batch? The one kind you’d make if you had enough discipline to bake only one batch this season?
I Like To Help: Sugar Cookies
My sugar cookies have mini M&Ms this year (because they need help).
When I worked at Target long ago, my name tag (and everyone else’s) read “My Name is [insert first name here] & I Like To Help.” I was imbued with the servant heart I don’t possess, but if sugar cookies are your favorite, helpfulness probably comes naturally to you. Sugar cookies are the Mr. Rogers of the holiday neighborhood: Everyone likes them because they have no offensive qualities like nuts, foreign spices or messy powdered sugar. They offer sweetness and light time after time.
Look At Me: Spritz Cookies
Sylvester Stallone probably likes spritz cookies. Making them, too.
Your favorite Leo probably likes spritz cookies. The ingredients are plain vanilla (with a dash of almond flavoring), but their presentation is anything but. Sometimes food coloring is added to the dough, it’s tortured by being squeezed through a press and decorated with sprinkles. If you like spritz cookies, you’re popular, you work hard to distinguish yourself from others and you’re probably physically attractive. You’re the king of the jungle, and anyone who doesn’t believe that gets mauled and eaten.
Second Thoughts: Snowballs
Nutty on the inside, sweet on the outside.
These cookies go by a half-dozen different names: Mexican Wedding Cakes, Russian (or Polish) Tea Cakes, Butter Pecan Cookies, Snowballs, Crescents, Pecan Sandies or one of the 5 million names that come up when you enter the recipe into Google. Also known as Those Buttery Cookies With the Powdered Sugar that Make Such A Mess on My Sweater. Despite the coating, they’re distinctive because the dough has relatively little sugar. If snowballs are your favorite, you eat fudge when you want sugar; you eat snowballs when you want Christmas cookies. You think deep thoughts and might be considered eccentric or even radical. At your best, you’re a genius, at your worst, you’re schizophrenic (what name are you going by today?). You probably hate sugar cookies and when you do actually bake, you don’t like to share.
Hey, Man, Don’t Get Crazy on Me: Gingerbread
Everything about gingerbread says tradition. It’s been around for a 1,000 years in various incarnations; in contemporary times, it’s a handy building block: Think gingerbread men and gingerbread houses. If gingerbread is your favorite, you like a good rut, a good boss and good political party. Family and friends are important to you. Without people like you, the world is an anarchy of white chocolate bark, chocolate sprinkles and whole cloves.
Just Wanna Have Fun: Peanut Blossoms
The No. 1 favorite cookie by many measures, peanut blossoms marry cookies with candy (and Hershey’s Kisses is forever grateful). And who can deny the appeal of peanut butter? If peanut blossoms are your favorite, you’re dazzlingly multitalented, uninhibited and enthusiastic. Haters call you hyperactive. What do they know? They probably like gingerbread.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies or Macaroons
White chocolate cranberry cookies differentiate themselves from chocolate chip cookies with seasonally appropriate coloring that coordinates with Santa’s suit. And the crazy coconut of macaroons reflect his beard. If one of these types of cookies are your favorite, you’re courageous, possibly heroic, and entrepreneurial (how else could you deliver toys to 2 billion children every Christmas Eve?). At your worst, you’re a megalomaniac running an elf sweatshop in a country without income taxes.
Mr. Spock’s Favorite: Biscotti
Biscotti is both the bane and the savior of the holiday baker: It’s a pain in the arse to bake it twice, but once done, crisp biscotti lasts until the 12 days of Christmas are a faint memory. “Moist” and “soft” are insulting to biscotti. If you like biscotti best, you’re wise, ethical and humorless. Be honest: The only reason you even profess to like Christmas cookies is because they’re an excuse to drink coffee.
What’s In A Name: Snickerdoodle
Without the cinnamon coating and a name that’s as fun to say as boondoggle and dingus, snickerdoodles wouldn’t even qualify as Christmas cookies. If snickerdoodles are your favorite, you’re peace-loving and unpretentious, but whatever you do, don’t bring these to the Christmas cookie exchange: Your lack of flash will get the stink eye from the woman whose favorite cookie is in our final category.
Everything but a pageant sash: Cookie contest cookies and anything with pretzels
Photo by Six Sisters’ Stuff
Who needs flour, sugar and butter when there are so many other ingredients in the world? If your favorite Christmas cookie is the one you’ve never seen before it appears on a plate from your familial gourmand, you’re creative and you know it, clap your hands. You are a romantic, possibly tortured and probably competitive. Aesthetics are important to you. And you probably play a mean game of Scrabble.
Daily newspapers across the Midwest hold Christmas cookie contests every year to inspire bakers to try new things, but that’s just a cover: Reporters like free cookies and Christmas cookie contests are a lot more delicious than lutefisk tasting contests. I devour the annual recipes with amused curiosity. Who has time for 16-step recipes and where can you find ground chipotlé pepper (don’t neglect the accent)? But these are my favorite cookies. Really, who can resist cookies with names that include chai latte, salted caramel and spiced something-r-other. My sister is taunting me on Pinterest with pins of elaborate cookies she thinks I should make in preparation for her visit later this month, but this one she sent sounds divine despite the multi-step recipe: Chubby Hubby Buckeye Peanut Butter Truffles. Because it has peanut butter. And crushed pretzels.
I am an artiste.
How about you?