I can remember spending many happy hours poring over my mom's copy of the Betty Crocker Cooky (yes, cookY) Book circa 1963. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a cookbook more, and I've enjoyed plenty. Happily, my own kids have followed suit. I can't count the number of times my seven year old son Harry has brought it to me, always open to the page displaying Candy Cane Cookies, with a suggestion that we make dessert together.
Harry is a chef in the making. He's always up to help in the kitchen. If it includes cracking eggs, his favorite part of the cooking process, all the better. If it weren't for Harry, I might also weigh less. You see, there is no day that passes without the loaded question, "So, dad... What's for dee-ssert?" An answer better be forthcoming, and it also better be something good... and homemade. Tuesday night is probably his least favorite night in the week. You see, Tuesday evening is $1.50 scoop night at the local Baskin-Robbins. Now, Harry considers ice cream to be a perfectly acceptable snack or lunchtime dessert, but certainly not a suitable end to the evening meal.
The Betty Crocker Cooky Book is filled with over 450 cookie recipes. Some delicious, some not so appealing - I'm not sure what it was about dates that made them seem so appealing in the early 1960's. Growing up, just about every Christmas cooky my mom made came from Betty's book - Thumbprints, Petticoat Tails, Spritz and, best of all, Candy Canes. Oddly, although Candy Cane cookies are made to look like the confection from which their name is derived, they are flavored with vanilla and almond extracts. One of the reasons for their popularity was the work that it took to make them - tedious rolling and braiding strips of red and white dough together... dozens and dozens of times. Now, years later, I can completely understand why my mother grimmaced each time I requested them. But, like I do for my kids now, she obliged and made batch after batch throughout the holiday season.
These holiday treats were only the tip of the iceberg when it came to the delights contained within the Cooky Book - Shamrock Cookies, Tiny Fudge Tartlets, Cream Wafers, Empire Biscuits - the list goes on and on. Perhaps the most sought after items were the Merry Maker Cookies. These cookies were a Technicolor tribute to the beauty of baking. Buttery sugar cooky dough divided and then brightly tinted into several shocking colors - blue, green, red, yellow, pink, orange and purple. Each color was rolled thin and then cut into many shapes, layered together to make beautiful designs. My mother, bless her, was never willing to tackle the Merry Makers, and believe me, I begged. My sister, on the other hand, made them for me... once.
And, now, I've decided to take the plunge. I'm going to make those Merry Maker Cookies myself. Not only am I going to make the Merry Makers, I am going to make the Indian Jumanas, the Vermont Maples, the Love Letters... I'm going to make as many of these cookies as I can in the next year. And... I'm going to tell you all about them.
So, cooky lovers, stay tuned for reports and updates. I'm doing this... for you.