The Google Cookie Map

Obviously, I’ve got a strong interest in Christmas cookies. So when USA Today carried a story reporting on what Google searches indicate about Christmas cookie interests in different states, I had to check it out.

The Google American Christmas cookie map is based on searches. The USA Today article explains: “The map shows Christmas cookies that were over-represented in a state compared to the country as a whole. It includes searches from Nov. 29 to Dec. 6, as Americans were baking some of their first batches of holiday desserts.” You can see some of the “over-represented” cookies on the part of the map above, and USA Today helpfully lists them, by state, at the end of the article.

You’ll be pleased to know that, according to Google, Ohio and Michigan (improbably) share the same apparent interest in “snowball cookies,” whereas Maine is one of many states that is keenly interested in gluten-free Christmas cookies. Texas is focused on “Christmas cookie ice cream,” which seems like it is out of step with the rest of the country–but then, it is Texas. No one who watched Fargo and listened to the accents will be surprised to learn that North Dakotans want to know more about “Norwegian Christmas cookies.” And whereas states like Alabama, Nebraska, and Kentucky are all-in on “Christmas cookie fudge,” people from a number of other states are evidently already worried about their waistlines and want to know more about “Keto Christmas cookies.”

It’s nice to see the diversity that still prevails in the U.S. in the important Christmas cookie category. That’s why it’s so darned inexplicable that Ohio and Michigan are both focused on snowball cookies, of all things.

Tin Time

I’ve distributed my cookies and fudge and am glad to see that I was on point in calculating volumes: the cookies and fudge are gone, the tins are filled, and there is nothing left over. I’ve tried to allocate cookies to have each tin feature a range of different colors, too.

Thus ends the 2021 holiday baking frenzy.—and it’s only December 8, which has to be a record!

Baking Day —2021 (II)

Tonight I powered through the last of the baking and cookie decorating. As always, it was fun.

Tomorrow morning it’s tin time. I’ll be glad to get the cookies and fudge out of the house and on their way, to remove the nibble temptation. For now, though, it’s time to kick back with a glass of wine and watch some TV while the icing hardens.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2021

This year I’ve decided to resume baking, and sending out, Christmas cookies to family, friends, and clients. Last year I reluctantly took a year off, breaking a long-running tradition, because of the COVID pandemic. Although the coronavirus is still with us, the CDC says–after more than a year of experience and testing–that there is no evidence that COVID can be transmitted through food or food containers, so long as basic precautions like washing your hands are followed. So, this year I’ve decided to get back to normal and return to my holiday baking efforts.

If you’ve got some good cookie recipes that you don’t mind sharing in the comments, I’m all ears. And I’ve reprinted, below, links to blog entries from prior years that provide links to some of the recipes for the cookies I’ve baked and posted in the past, if you’re on a recipe hunt yourself. The links below will take you to blog entries with recipes I tried in the prior years and, at the bottom of the entry, links to other new recipes I tried that year.

So far I’ve taken the initial steps to prepare for the holiday baking frenzy: finding my old recipes, and (thanks to Kish and The Container Store) laying in a supply of very festive looking silver cookie tins, some of which are shown in the photo above, that I’ll be filling with the baked goodies. The next step will be to figure out which specific cookies I’ll be baking, and then preparing my shopping lists to pick up the ingredients. I haven’t quite decided for sure, but I think this year I’ll get back into the swing of things by focusing on some tried-and-true favorites, like iced sugar cookies, Dutch spice cookies, and cranberry hootycreeks. I’ll probably try a few new ones, too, because experimentation is good for the baker’s soul.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2019

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2018

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2017

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2016

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2015

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2014

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2012

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2011

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2010

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2009

A Cookie-Free Christmas

As regular readers of this blog know, my annual tradition is to bake holiday cookies for clients and friends as a humble token of my appreciation. At this time of year, I would normally be scouring the internet baking websites, old cookbooks, and ethnic recipes for new Christmas cookies to bake and add to the mix.

This year, regrettably, I’m going to break the tradition.

There are several reasons for my decision, all of which stem from the coronavirus scourge. Many of my clients’ offices are closed, and people are working remotely. Part of the idea of the tradition is to send a batch of cookies that can be put out at the office coffee station that everyone could share and enjoy as a small pleasure and little taste of the holiday spirit. Thanks to COVID-19, those office gathering points simply don’t exist this year.

I also think there are safety questions about baking and then shipping handmade cookies. The health care authorities carefully say there is “no evidence” that coronavirus is spread through cooked food, and I take them at their word. But there’s more to the issue than that. The cookie exercise requires getting the ingredients at the store, buying tins, baking the cookies, and then having them shipped and delivered. In an era where we are being urged to reduce our contacts with people, that’s a lot of points of contact that could be avoided by not baking the cookies in the first place.

And I’ve also come to realize that there is a pretty broad spectrum of personal reactions to the ongoing pandemic. At one end of the spectrum are people who are still largely isolating and won’t go to restaurants, at the other end are fatalists who think we’ve overreacted and are willing to take their chances in doing just about anything, and there are lots of different points of view in between those two poles. I don’t know whether the recipients would feel uncomfortable about getting some home-baked cookies delivered to their door–and potentially causing that kind of reaction would be inconsistent with the whole point of the exercise in the first place.

So, I’ve reluctantly concluded there will be no cookie baking this holiday season. It makes me wistful, but a lot of traditions have been interrupted this year. Next year, the fates and vaccine manufacturers willing, maybe I’ll do a double batch to compensate for the Cookie-Free Christmas of 2020.

Tin Time

The cookies and fudge have been carefully — and more or less equally — distributed to their respective tins, in the last step in the holiday baking process. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I baked just the right amount to fill up our tins, without a lot of tempting cookies left over or an egregious shortfall.

This year we’ll be sending out 24 tins to friends, family, and colleagues– the most ever. And I can fairly say that, after the last few days, I will be perfectly content not to see a cookie for a while.

Baking Day — 2019

We’ve been baking all day and making good progress on this year’s batch of holiday cookies. So far we’ve baked the cranberry hootycreeks, the peanut butter and almond cookies, the Dutch spice cookies, the sugar cookie cutouts, and the lemon ricotta cookies. I’m having some fun experimenting with some new toppings– like maraschino cherries — and have managed to resist spoon-licking temptation (for the most part, anyway).

Tomorrow we’ll tackle this year’s new cookies, make some fudge and bar cookies, and try to show some decoration flair with icing the sugar cookies.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2019 (II)

The internet is a wonderful thing — at least, some of the time — but sometimes sifting through the mass of available information seems overwhelming.  Run a search for Christmas cookie recipes and you will get an avalanche of hits that leaves you no method, aside from random chance, to pick which website to review.  They all promise to offer favorite recipes that people will love.

That’s where the use of finer search terms become necessary.  I realized this when I happened across a website post that featured the best soft Christmas cookie recipes — just in case you’re baking for the toothless among us who must gum their holiday delicacies.  So this year I did a search for Christmas cookie recipes from the 1960s and ran across a treasure trove of options, including this gem, which is described on yellowed print as “Easy-to-make cookies for those who like a not-too-sweet dessert” that are “good keepers and shippers.”  I’m pretty sure Mom made these, by the way.

Swirl cookies

2017-11-18-holiday-pinwheel-cookies-coloradjusted-7Ingredients:  1 cup soft butter; 1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; 2 1/2 cups unsifted flour; 1/4 teaspoon salt; red and yellow food coloring

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla until light.  Stir in flour and salt until well blended, then divide dough in half.

Color one half with 1/4 teaspoon of red food coloring and 7 drops of yellow food coloring.  Leave other half uncolored.  Chill the dough.

Press together one level teaspoon of each color.  Roll into a pencil shape, then form in a coil on the baking sheet.  Bake for 8 minutes at 375 degrees.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2019

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2019

Has anyone else stopped to notice that it is December 9, 2019?  That means we’re only three weeks or so away from a new decade and a new year that will remind those of us old enough to remember it of a TV news show featuring Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters.  It also means we’re about to commence our twelfth year (yikes!) of publishing Christmas cookie recipes on the Webner House blog.

And yet — there are still unknown cookie recipes lurking out there, just waiting to be tried and enjoyed for the holidays.  Thus, our voyage of baking discovery continues.  If you’re interested in the recipes from the prior years, you can find all of them by clicking on and following the links for each year at the bottom of this post, which in turn have links to all of the recipes provided in that particular year.

The first recipe for 2019 comes by way of Aunt Corinne and the Food and Wine website and blogger Luisa Weiss.  The first sentence of the description of the cookies reads:  “These German raspberry-hazelnut macaroons require just five ingredients and are extremely no-fuss.”  That’s a pretty compelling recommendation for cookies that will be prepared by a novice baker in the German Village neighborhood of Columbus.

Raspberry-Hazelnut Macaroons

Version 2Ingredients:  1 1/2 cups of whole hazelnuts; 2 large egg whites; 1/4 kosher salt; 3/4 cup sugar; 1/2 cup raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Spread hazelnuts in a pie plate and toast for about 10 minutes, until the skins split and the nuts are fragrant. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and rub together to release the skins, then let the hazelnuts cool completely.

In a food processor, pulse the hazelnuts until finely chopped. In a medium bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt at medium speed for about two minutes, until foamy.  Gradually add the sugar and continue beating for five to seven minutes until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted, then fold in the chopped hazelnuts.

Use a soup spoon to scoop 1 1/2-inch rounds of the batter onto the baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake the cookies for 11 to 13 minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned; rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Remove the cookies from the oven and, while they’re still hot, carefully make an indentation in the center of each with the back of a teaspoon.

In a small saucepan, boil the raspberry jam for 30 seconds, until slightly thickened. Carefully spoon about 1 teaspoon of the hot jam into the center of each cookie. Let the jam set and the cookies cool completely before serving.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2018

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2017

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2016

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2015

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2014

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2012

Calling for Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2011

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2010

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2009

Tin Time

Last night I finished baking and icing the sugar cookies, and this morning I got up extra early to put all of the cookies into their holiday tins for delivery. Then — and this is especially important, because baking and frosting cookies is of necessity a highly messy, creative process (for me at least) — I cleaned the kitchen and returned it to its pristine, pre-cookie frenzy state.

There’s a certain glow of satisfaction in finishing up, and I will enjoy a cup of coffee and some orange juice while I fill out my address labels. I’m ready for Christmas!

Baking Day — 2018

We’ve gotten an early start on Baking Day this year. The necessary ingredients were purchased yesterday, I’ve got my baking/chilling/mixing plan laid out, the Dutch spice cookie mix is ready to go into the refrigerator to chill, and the Christmas music playlist is in full swing on the iPod. (I ‘m listening to Burl Ives’ bouncy Holly Jolly Christmas as I write this.)

I always really enjoy this day. Baking cookies is just fun.

Going Through The Stack

Each year, a key step in the cookie-baking process is going through my stack of tried and true recipes — some of which were singed around the edges by s close encounter with a stovetop in 2014 — and deciding what to make this year. After the recipes are selected, it’s time to prepare the shopping list and hit the neighborhood grocery store before the morning rush really starts.

Every year, I try the new recipes I’ve posted on the blog, so that decision is easy enough. And for me, at least, it wouldn’t really be Christmas without iced sugar cutout cookies and Dutch spice cookies, so they’re in, too. And people seem to really like the cranberry hootycreeks, and they’re fun to make, so they’re in, too.

But what else should be pulled out of the stack? It’s decision time!