I enjoy looking at those glossy photos of the bright, sprinkle-laden Christmas cookies shaped like angels or whatever that are lately gracing the covers of a bunch of food magazines, and would surely enjoy eating them if the editors had the idea of shipping me a box. There’s only one problem: most of those cookies can’t possibly carry out the two traditional tasks I’ve come to expect true Christmas cookies to perform. Which are:
- They have to go well with beer. You’ll have your own treasured Yuletide memories; for me, an awful lot of them for some reason involve sitting up with family and friends until 2:00 a.m. or so over a long Christmas weekend, shooting the breeze, swilling beer—and eating one Christmas cookie after another until they’re just about gone. Sorry, but the traditional star-shaped sugar cookie that’s been dusted with red and green sprinkles, so favored by food-magazine photo editors, just isn’t up to the job. Too cloying. If the Christmas cookie makes the beer taste funny or vice versa, it’s an impostor, no matter how good it looks.
- They must be able to be consumed in large quantities at a single sitting. Rule of thumb: if a cookie is so sweet that you can’t keep eating one after another of it during an entire viewing of, say, White Christmas, it’s failed you in a very basic way. To some of us, watching old Christmas movies while endlessly stuffing our gullets with tasty, non-nutritious food is what Christmas is all about. Chocolate-covered snowflakes may look pretty, but you’ll be sick of eating ’em even before Bing and Danny’s drag duet rolls around. Trust me. I’ve tried.
Given this, not every holiday cookie recipe the Journal featured over the weekend qualifies as a True Christmas Cookie, but the biscotti-style cookies included in the list certainly do. I’m not much of a baker, but the recipe is so easy I was able to get through it with a minimum of crises and came up with a delicious result. And they go great with beer! Also, highly substitutable. I used pecans instead of walnuts and Amaretto instead of Nocino. Worked out fine. . .