Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Taste of Christmas

Some people say they know the Christmas season has arrived when they see colored lights, decorated trees and yard decorations. Others mark the arrival by the sounds of their favorite Christmas Carols. While I enjoy both the lights and the carols (a lot), for me, it's the tastes and aromas emanating from my kitchen that signal my favorite time of the year - the trays of warm cookies covering every available surface in the house, the happy laughter of the children who share my cookie baking traditions and the two dogs sitting in front of the oven, swishing the floor with their tails as they excitedly await the trays of their very special treat: homemade dog biscuits!

I kicked off my baking this week with two perennial favorites from my holiday repertoire: M&M Cookies and Dipped Log Cookies. My family's love of my M&M Cookies goes way back to my college days when I would make them as a special treat for my (nine year old) younger brother who then sold them at school for a quarter each. (which I discovered many years later) Apparently, they were quite popular! Back then I made them with butter and regular M&M's but nowadays I use Butter Flavor Crisco, which makes them soft and chewy, and green and red M&M's which give them a festive flair. The Dipped Log Cookies are my all-time favorites and the first to disappear at any gathering. They're similar to Mexican Wedding Cookies but with a touch of brandy in the dough. After baking, the warm cookies are rolled in powdered sugar and dipped in rich, milk chocolate. I've never met anybody who could eat just one. I know I can't! 

1 cup (1 stick) Butter Flavor Crisco
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
2-1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 bag (12-14 ounces) M&M's

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Cream Crisco, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in flour, salt and baking soda. Stir in M&M's.

Drop by tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes; until golden brown. Transfer to cooling rack