I suppose it’s weird that I’ve celebrated Christmas every year of my life, even though we’re Jewish. Everyone gets a Christmas tree, too. We never thought anything of it other than an excuse to spend time with family and exchange presents. So the fact that my very Jewish grandmother makes 4,000 Christmas cookies every year for the entire family (and has for as long as I can remember) was just another one of those things that we assumed was normal. For the past few years, I’ve taken off the first Friday in December to bake with her. We make around 8 batches of her signature sugar cookies, and get green dough all over my aunt’s kitchen. My cousins and I contend that even though the batter is the same, the green cookies taste totally different from the plain batch or the ones with red food dye. It’s a hot-button issue in our family. We’ve even had blind taste tests and have all been able to identify her classic green Christmas trees.
My mom-mom uses the same cookie press she’s had for at least 30 years. It’s almost like a caulk gun, with interchangeable shapes you put on the bottom. We like trees. My aunt, mom-mom and I always find a really good assembly-line rhythm, which makes the 6 hours we spend on our feet baking go a lot faster. Someone is in charge of stamping out the shapes, someone is in charge of decorating, and someone monitors the trays in the oven and puts the finished cookies on cooling racks. We all take turns eating the rejects.
This is my favorite family tradition, and I look forward to her green cookies every year. My mom-mom is probably my favorite person on earth. She’s so sassy. My aunt sent me the recipe, but warning, it is not for those of you on a diet. But it’s the holidays, isn’t that to be expected?
Christmas Butter Cookies (or Mom-mom’s Green Trees)
1/2 lb. softened butter
3oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. sifted flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter until whipped. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth. Mix while adding sugar. Blend egg and vanilla. Add food coloring if desired (pretty much mandatory). Slowly add flour, with mixer on lower speed. Use cookie press and decorate. Bake 10 min, until bottoms are light brown.
Enjoy with a nice cold glass of cranberry juice, because milk is gross.