JOPLIN, Mo. —
For the record, the Christmas cookies were tasty, they just didn't look very good. And, since I was in charge of making the cookie dough, while our 14-year-old daughter, Emma, was in charge of decorating the cookies, the blame for their appearance should go to her and the credit for their taste should go to me.
At least that's my story.
The cookies we made Sunday were called Christmas tree cookies, and the recipe came from my dad, Don Pound. My dad is a great cook. Wait, I take that back. Paula Deen is a great cook. My dad is an excellent cook. I would like to say that I cook as well as my dad, but I would also like to say that I played basketball as well as Larry Bird.
I don't cook as well as my dad is what I'm saying.
My dad particularly liked to bake, and every year a few weeks before Christmas he would lock himself in our kitchen and begin churning out dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies, fudge and candies.
He would make Spritz cookies dipped in chocolate and decorated with frosting and chopped nuts. He would make almond stars, filbert crescents, Santa's boots and the aforementioned Christmas trees. He would make fudge with black walnuts, and he would make divinity.
Because my dad had seven kids, most of his recipes produced at least 10 to 12 dozen cookies. It would take my dad hours and hours to get his baking done in time for Christmas. While I'm sure churning out all of those cookies was a difficult chore, I have to think my dad enjoyed his time in the kitchen. After all, he had seven kids. We're talking about a guy who, as family lore has it, had to go to Vietnam just to get some peace and quiet. So I'm pretty sure my dad cherished those quiet hours alone in the kitchen. Who knows, he might have even sipped a beer or two while he baked.
Did I mentioned my dad had seven kids?
After my dad finished a batch of cookies, he would put them in an empty, 5-pound coffee can lined with parchment paper, cover the can and hide it in our house. On Sunday, I called my dad, who lives in Florida, to chat with him about his baking days.
"You had to hide those cookies from us, didn't you?" I asked him, referring to myself and my brothers and sisters.
"No, I had to hide them from your mother," my dad said.
I also asked how long all of those cookies and the fudge and divinity would last once he opened them on Christmas.
"Two or three days," he said.
Most of my dad's cookie recipes call for lots of butter and sugar. Most also were decorated with various frostings that my dad would whip up, and all of them pretty much shouted out Christmas.
Years ago, my older sister Mary compiled a small cookbook of sorts featuring many of my dad's recipes. That's where I got the Christmas tree recipe. I decided to try that particular recipe because it appeared to be the easiest. Basically, I creamed some butter and sugar, added flour, salt, eggs, baking powder, nutmeg and some milk. Then I refrigerated the dough for a few hours and then rolled the dough out, and Emma and I started to cut out Christmas tree-shaped pieces of dough.
Unfortunately, our cookies didn't look much like Christmas trees. Instead they look like badly mangled, Christmas shrubs. They didn't look very appetizing, so we used a different cookie cutter and tried to cut out snowman-shaped pieces of dough. Unfortunately, our snowmen looked like they had been run through a wood chipper.
"Just bake them," Emma said. "And I can fix them with frosting and sparkles."
So that's what we did. And I have to admit they actually taste pretty good.
As long as you didn't look at them.
Don Pound's Christmas tree cookies
1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs well beaten
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon milk
Thin frosting and colored sugars for decorating
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add eggs and beat well. Add dry ingredients and milk and mix well. Chill several hours, or until firm. Then roll out on lightly floured board to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with floured 2 1/2 inch Christmas tree cutter (or any other shape). Bake on cookie sheets at 325 degrees for about eight minutes. Cool on racks. Decorate. Store in airtight container.
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