Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Home is Where the Heart Is {Recipe: Paper-Thin Sugar Cookies}

Every family has holiday traditions, and mine is no different. We would usually watch our first Christmas movie usually the evening of Thanksgiving, fighting off the food coma induced by too much turkey and way too much stuffing. My brother and I always got one gift to unwrap on Christmas eve, after coming home from the evening church service. We knew it was always going to be pajamas, but it was so exciting, and felt a little rebellious to be able to open a gift early.

Mostly though, when I think about the holidays at our house, I think of the music we have playing. Of all the Christmas songs that play on the radio these days, I am still drawn to the music of Burl Ives, Perry Como and Bing Crosby to make my holiday feel complete, because that is what our family listened to while trimming our tree, opening presents on Christmas morning, and while rolling, cutting and baking these sugar cookies - a holiday staple at our house.

Though my top ten favorite Christmas songs do change from year to year, the song that inevitably tops my list is “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” sung by Perry Como. As I got older and moved out of the house to go to college, this song always made me look forward to the end of finals, and being able to go home and relax with my family for my month long winter break. I knew, too that I at least still had my summers at home, so being away wasn’t too difficult, but there were moments I got very homesick my first year of school.

Then, I got older, and I moved out to Indiana during the summers to work as an intern, leaving only my winter breaks for the relaxing month-long visit with my family.

Then, I got older still. I graduated college, moved out to the Midwest, got a job, married my sweetheart, bought a house and adopted a puppy. There are no more winter breaks, no more relaxing month-long visits with my family, just a few long weekends several times a year. Back on the east coast with my family, I’ve missed weddings, funerals and babies being born. I didn’t relaly think about it too much until my first winter in the Midwest. Turning on the Christmas music, I heard Perry Como’s voice singing “There’s No Place like Home for the Holidays.” and I started feeling a little depressed. I felt like I should feel at home in my new surroundings, but without my family, my traditions and my holiday routine, I just felt lost.

It took me a while to accept that while this is all part of growing up and moving on, I also realized that I am not lost, and am, in fact, lucky now to have gone from one place that I consider ‘home’ for the holidays, to having three – my home with my husband and puppy, my parent’s house and my in-laws’ house. My hubby and I now have incorporated some of each family’s traditions and now have some of our own.

Now when I hear “No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” I still occasionally get a little nostalgic for my childhood Christmases, but I can smile knowing that no matter where I am when Christmas rolls around, I’ll be at home. And as a little bit of insurance, I listen to Perry Como sing the Christmas classics while I bake these sugar cookies from a recipe that has been passed down from my grandmother, to my dad and now to me. I can hear both of them telling me that to know when the cookies have been rolled thin enough, you should be able to see the design of the table cloth through the dough. And, when I smell the buttery, sugary aroma of these cooking wafting through the house, and taste my first cookie of the season, I know I’m home for the holidays.

Curious about what I’ve made already? Check out:
White Trash
Quick Mix Spritz Cookies
Peppermint Icicle Candy
Spiced Pecans and Praline Candy
Fresh Orange Spritz Cookies
Ginger Molasses Cookies

Paper-Thin Sugar Cookies
Family Recipe

½ c Margarine
½ c Shortening
2 c Sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp lemon extract
½ c evaporated milk
2 Tbsp Water
7 c Sifted Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda

Cream together margarine and shortening. Add sugar and continue creaming. Add eggs, one at a time, vanilla, and lemon extract. Add canned milk and water. At flour, salt and baking soda. Use large mixer, start with beaters and finish with dough hooks. Chill and work with small sections of dough at a time. Roll extremely thin. Cut shapes and transfer to cookie sheet sprayed with PAM. Bake cookies at 375 degrees for 3-4 minutes or until edges start turning golden. Cool on racks.

Note:These cookies bake in a flash, as in, two to three minutes. Once these go in the oven, don’t get distracted. They will go from golden brown to Santa-shaped charcoal briquette faster than you can say”:
“HO HO HO-ly Christmas the cookies are burning!”

Dough can be frozen unbaked or stored, tightly wrapped, in refrigerator.


The Cooking Photographer said...

Paper-thin sugar cookies? Brilliant! No guilt if I eat 10 right? Oh yum.

I hope you have a fun Christmas!


Caroline said...

Laura - the fact I can eat a ton of them is the best part, because I will still have room for everything else on my plate!

Have a very Merry Christmas!!

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