Christmas was cookie time when I was growing up. Actually, there were always cookies in the Rang household, but Mom made extra batches of cookies for the holidays, so I think of that season as cookie time.
Starting in early December, she made oatmeal raisin cookies, peanut butter cookies, Grandma Rang’s date cookies, Grandma Hopp’s gingerbread cookies , sugar cookies, and spritz cookies. There were others I’m sure, but mostly I just remember that there was never a shortage of cookies in the house, and there were more choices around Christmas than at any other time in the year.
Today Jerri and I bake most of our cookies around the holidays. One of our favorites is made with a recipe using yeast dough that Jerri found a long time ago. We like these cookies because they are not overly sweet and have a wonderful yeasty flavor.
Jerri has made them many times for the Christmas holidays. This recipe is great for introducing young children to the joy of cooking and turning them into creative bakers. They can help by shaping the dough into candy canes, snakes, snowmen, cats, Christmas trees and lots of other things you may have never heard of.
Usually I think of cookies as a dessert for lunch or dinner, but these holiday cookies are great for topping off a breakfast too.
For the dough:
4 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 eggs at room temperature
1/3 cup softened shortening or butter
For the fruit and nut mixture:
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped mixed fruitcake fruit
1/2 cup sugar.
Put a pinch of sugar into the warm water in a cup. Stir in the yeast and let stand a
few minutes until it begins to foam.
Measure the sugar and salt into a mixing bowl, and add the yeast mixture. Mix in half of the flour and beat until smooth. Beat the eggs in a small bowl until they are lemon colored. Stir the shortening and eggs into the batter.
Mix in the rest of the flour one or two tablespoonfuls at a time until it is well blended. Scrape down the dough from the sides of bowl, cover the bowl with a damp towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size. This can take anywhere from thirty minutes to over an hour, depending on the temperature.
While the dough is rising, chop the nuts and fruit very fine, ideally into a 1/8 inch dice. Mix the fruit and nuts with the sugar in a shallow pan and set it aside. Preheat the oven to 375º.
If you have some young helpers, this is a good time for a lesson in handwashing.
After the dough has risen, drop it by heaping teaspoonfuls into the fruit mixture. You can drop in 3 or 4 spoonfuls at a time. Take each piece in your hands and work in some of the fruits and nuts, then stretch the dough into pencil-like strips. Shape it into snails, twists, candy canes, knots, or figure 8’s.
Place the shapes on lightly greased baking sheets and let them stand ten to twelve minutes. Set the pans on the middle rack in the oven and bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool them on a rack. You will have two dozen large or four dozen small cookies.