When the ever-present plate of cookies is passed at a holiday gathering, what do you choose?
I’ll admit, there’s a strategy to how I load up the Royal Copenhagen Christmas plate for its next trip around the table. The Springerles, Pfeffernüsse and Lebkuchen are given pride of place, hiding the melt-in-your-mouth Mexican wedding cookies, the sugary Scandinavian roll-ups known as Finnska Pinnar, and the Zucker Hutchen, the “little sugar hats” with candied citron and meringue that thrill my taste buds.
As much as I love these perennial favorites, some new treats are going to debut during this year’s holiday baking extravaganza. Several will hail from Christmas Cookies: Dozens of Classic Yuletide Treats for the Whole Family, by Monika Römer. Others will rise from the pages of the Columbus Dispatch’s Holiday Cookie Guide.
I came to that momentous conclusion on November 20, when I attended a terrific cookie-baking demonstration commemorating the release of the newspaper’s eighth annual collection of holiday cookie recipes.
Dozens of people packed a section of the Fresh Thyme Farmers Market grocery store on Polaris Parkway to watch Dispatch Food Editor Lisa Abraham prepare eight kinds of cookies featured in this year’s guide.
As we arrived, we were given a free spatula imprinted with a table of handy baking measurements and a sought-after print version of the special section containing the recipes and the stories behind them. Lucky wheel-spinners also took home Dispatch oven mitts, Macy’s gift cards and cookie cutters in the shape of the state of Ohio.
I proudly picked a Chocolate-Coffee Drop that my friend Joan Stack successfully submitted. I also chose to try a Norwegian Almond Bar, a White Chocolate-Cherry Shortbread and a heavenly Stained Glass Window.
As we squeezed into a place and munched away, Lisa provided some pre-show entertainment as her helpers passed out complimentary bottles of water to those wanting to wash down their selections.
“What goes better with cookies than coffee?,” Lisa asked. “Here’s a free canister of ground Folgers coffee for this man who was the first to arrive.”
Other lucky ladies who had attended the past two years of holiday cookie demonstrations received cookbooks like Frankie Avalon’s Italian Family Cookbook.
With the door prizes distributed, Lisa and Julie Fulton, news librarian at The Columbus Dispatch, began making a sweet confection called Cheery-Cherry Macaroons.
As she beat egg whites, added sugar, folded in flour and salt, stirred in cherries and coconut, and dropped the mixture by tablespoonful onto a baking sheet, Lisa described how the holiday cookie guide is produced.
After the call for recipes went out in August, Lisa received 186 submissions from readers, up from 165 last year. By mid-September, she started picking recipes, breaking them into categories. She reviewed what recipes had been printed in the last three years and eliminated half of the entries to prevent repeats. Then came testing the recipes, with help from over 40 bakers among the Dispatch staff, their family and friends. The 50 recipes that were chosen met Lisa’s criteria for being representative of a good mix of categories, different flavors and for successful execution by bakers of various skill levels. Finally, the recipes were typed and edited, the cookies were photographed, the publication was laid out, and its cover was designed.
As we sampled these easy-to-bake morsels, Lisa and Julie got to work on a version of Apricot Bars, another speedy bake included in the guide. Bar cookies are always a hit because they are so efficient to make during the holidays, Lisa advised; they can be cut into triangles to yield four dozen cookies.
While I can’t report on the other kinds of cookies that Lisa made for the rest of the afternoon, I can share that I’m anxious to try baking the Almond Butter Sticks, Garibaldi Cookies, Butterscotch Brownies, Forgotten Cookies, Spice Cookies with Caramel Frosting, and Sandbars.
A digital version of this year’s complete guide is available to subscribers, but individual cookie recipes can be accessed on the Dispatch website. Click here for more information.
Tune in to WOSU Radio’s All Sides with Ann Fisher on Thursday, December 8 to hear Lisa talk about this year’s Holiday Cookie Guide.
For more holiday cookie ideas, check out Good Housekeeping’s Christmas Cookies: 75 Irresistible Holiday Treats and Christmas Cookie Swap! More Than 100 Treats to Share This Holiday Season, both of which were published this year.