In my family, on Christmas Eve, desserts take center stage. Yes, the ham and the macaroni and cheese are important -- God forbid anyone try to change that menu -- but that spread pales in comparison to a dessert table so weighted down with homemade cookies and candy that it is shocking the table still stands. My mother and grandmother would spend the month of December crafting peanut butter fudge, chocolate fudge, needhams (aka potato candy), penuche, peanut butter cups, and out-of-this-world candies. The cookies might vary a bit from year to year but the old standbys are peanut butter blossoms, spritz, and sugar cookies.
Oh, the sugar cookies! For years, my grandmother would spend days rolling and cutting Christmas trees, stars, stockings, candy canes, reindeer, elephants (my grandmother collects elephant figurines), and Santas. Another day would be devoted to glazing the cookies and, once the glaze dried to a shiny finish, piping on the final details. The cookies are highly coded, the decorations painstakingly proscribed; the specific design patterns are as much a tradition as the Christmas Eve gathering itself.
Growing up, just about every year, I would help my grandmother decorate the cookies. It was from her that I learned how to make a vanilla glaze, how to make buttercream frosting, how to use gel colors and how to pipe intricate designs. This year, for the first time, instead of aiding Grammy, I got to take responsibility for the whole process. I had a lot of fun making these cookies, and I hope you enjoy looking at these pictures. Click here to see more.