Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Cookies

Christmas cookies: the reason I come home for Christmas. I travel miles and miles, hour after hour, from Greenville, SC and my cozy Furman University apartment, to Pittsburgh, PA, following the aromas wafting from my mother's kitchen.

And every year, she ferrets away the goodies, saving them for Christmas day. *sigh*

Cookies were made to be eaten. Cookies taste best fresh. So why on earth would you bake cookies and immediately pack them into a not-so-airtight container doomed to be shoved into a dark corner of the pantry? Or even worse, the freezer?!

My sister and I decided to bake tonight, luckily. We're not so stingy with our cookies. We baked Oatmeal Cookies with raisins and a batch of Russian Teacakes. I'm posting as the Russian Teacakes cool, awaiting their second dusting of powdered sugar.

My dad enjoyed about six oatmeal cookies with his nightly mug of tea, and my brother and his wife nibbled at another two. It makes me feel happy to have spent time with my sister baking, as well as to have shared a little bit of tasty pleasure with my family. Nothing beats a warm cookie on a cold winter's night, especially during the Christmas season.

Sandi's Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup quick oats
1 cup dried coconut flakes
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325° F. Mix oil, sugar, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla until combined (about 20 strokes). Add flour, baking soda, salt, and oats. Mix until all ingredients are combined. Do not overmix. Add coconut flakes and/or raisins if desired.
Spray cookie sheets with non-stick cooking spray. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of cookie batter onto cookie sheets, with 2 inches between them. Flatten each cookie a little with back of the spoon before putting into the oven.
Bake 12-15 minutes, or until edges begin to brown and center of cookies look baked through. Remove from cookie sheets and cool on flat surface. Serve warm if possible! Store in airtight containers.

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Russian Teacakes

1 cup softened margarine (two sticks)
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Cream together margarine and confectioner's sugar. Add vanilla, flour, salt, nuts. Mix until dough forms, being careful not to overmix. Chill dough (in plastic wrap) at least two hours.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll dough into slightly-larger-than-walnut-sized balls, and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the bottom edges of the cookie begin to darken a little. Do not let the cookies get brown!
Allow to cool 5-10 minutes, then roll cookies in confectioner's sugar while still warm. Cool completely, 30 minutes to 1 hour, then roll in confectioner's sugar again. Store in airtight container.

Yield: 2 dozen cookies