19 December 2006

Hanukkah 1: Cookie Factory

We have a tradition in our family called the cookie factory. It started when our kids were little. Every year before Hanukkah, we would mix up a batch of gingerbread cookie dough and bake cookies cut into many traditional shapes – a shofar, stars, dreydls, an oil jug – as well as a gingerbread boy and a cow. (I got the cow cookie cutter at a dairy convention once. I told the kids that the cow is an essential shape for any kind of cookie baking. Because, of course, the cow produces milk, and we make butter from the milk, and how could we bake cookies without butter?)

As our kids got older and eventually left home, we started inviting my nieces and nephew to our kitchen to continue the cookie factory tradition. During this time, the tradition took on a new twist. The kids started decorating the cookies with unusual combinations of colored icing and with modern-art styles, so some of our cows and gingerbread boys started looking pretty bizarre. They also started cutting their own cookie shapes freehand using a knife instead of a cookie cutter. Very creative.

This year was a milestone. We had our 4-month old granddaughter here for the cookie factory. Of course, she couldn’t help decorate; she couldn’t even enjoy the cookies. But it marked the beginning of the transition to a new generation.

Over the years, I’ve tried several different recipes for the cookie dough. But I always come back to an old standby. It’s just the gingerbread cookie recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook. I bought this cookbook when I moved into my first apartment as a student at the University of Minnesota. I’ve had it for more than 30 years. I bought a copy for my daughter when she got her first apartment. It’s a great, reliable reference.


Below is the recipe from my cookbook. I looked up the recipe as it appears in the new cookbook. It appears as though they reduced the amount of butter or shortening and increased the amount of molasses. No thanks. I’ll stick to my old standby.

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