Monday, February 15, 2016

"Vintage" Holiday Cookie Recipe

As a child I was fortunate enough to attend a fabulous Montessori preschool.  My memories of this place are warm and fuzzy, colorful and bright, inspiring and fun.  One of the very best parts of the program is that we got to cook.  Often.  And it was real food.  I remember making fried rice, ice cream and cookies.  Lots and lots of cookies.

Fortunately, my mother saved all of the recipes that the school sent home.  Each is illustrated and written out by hand.  I don't have the original copies of the recipes (hint hint Mom) but I did write a few down before I made my way out into the world.  When I was 23 and about to move into my first apartment, my mother and I sat down with her recipe box and copied down some of my favorites.  The Casady School Montessori Cookies made the list of all time best recipes.

Growing up we made these cookies throughout the year.  For Valentine's, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving and of course Christmas.  As a teenager, my friends would come over for cookie decorating parties.  It didn't matter how old we got, we still loved baking and decorating cookies with red hots, sugar and sprinkles.

The other thing that made these cookies so special was that my creative mother collected cookie fabulous cutters.  We had them in every shape and size for nearly every occasion.  The best ones were bought from the Hallmark Store.  Even now, almost 40 years later, they have a very distinct 1970's plastic smell.  When my mother moved, my brother and I packed them up and peacefully divided them between our households.

So, by now you are probably wondering what is this amazing recipe.  Of course I'm going to tell you! It's super simple which one would expect since it was made by 4 and 5 year olds.  Generally I do use the almond extract but if you have concerns about allergies, it may be omitted.  Enjoy and happy baking!


1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
food coloring - optional

Cream butter for 5 minutes.  Add sugar and cream for another 3-5 minutes until lightened in color.  Add eggs one at a time. Scrape down bowl as needed.  Mix in vanilla and almond extract.  Now is the time to also add food coloring.  Make it fairly dark as the color will lighten with the addition of flour and during the baking process.   Mix flour in 1/2 cup at a time.  Scrape down bowl.  You will have a very thick dough.

Divide dough into half or thirds and wrap in wax paper.  I find it best to shape dough into flat discs - it's easier to roll out after chilling.  Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.  On a floured surface roll out to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut and decorate.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes depending on the size of your cookie.  If you are using a convection oven reduce heat to 325 degrees.  Baking time remains the same.  They should be a very light brown in color on bottom.

Save one for me.