Sorry Santa, the cookies are for the neighbors

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Amanda Miller
Columnist
Lettuce Eat Local

‘Tis the season! For so many things, including, but not limited to, cookies. 

I’ve had more interaction with cookies in the last few weeks than I have perhaps the entire rest of the year, and I don’t see that trend slowing down anytime until 2024 rolls around. First of all, having a baby made more show up here than is usual. I had made “breakfast cookies” to aid in my constant prenatal snacking, and then when a friend asked what she could do, I unabashedly said, “Make me your thin mints.” My mom and Benson made some together while she was here, and last week a friend brought a box of personalized heart-shaped “Kiah” cookies. 

Secondly, I’m sure Christmas and cookies have a statistically significant correlation. Anyone with experience in statistics can tell you that correlation does not equal causation, but that relationship does cause me to wonder. We know that cookies don’t cause Christmas (or do they? what if we made a whole bunch of holiday cookies in the middle of March — would Christmas trees and carols somehow reappear?). But does Christmas cause cookies? It does seem like they magically materialize just about everywhere this time of year.

Either way, Christmas cookies are a thing. My family’s home was one of omnipresent cookies: my dad didn’t ask for much in the culinary realm, but he did need cookies available. That particular creak of the freezer lid downstairs is embedded in my memories, since I heard it every day of my young life as Dad got a frozen cookie out of that often-replenished Tupperware. (I specifically made sure I saved a few out of my not-so-frequent cookies to stash in preparation for him visiting at Thanksgiving.)

In fact, I didn’t voluntarily make cookies for probably a couple years after moving out, in response to what I felt was an exorbitant amount of batches required of me throughout childhood. The endless scooping and arranging on the baking sheets…I know, I had it rough. 

Even so, December brought a superfluity of cookies in excess of the standard supply. Chocolate crinkles, monster cookies, decorated sugar cookies, molasses crinkles. We ate some of these (especially right out of the oven, of course), but the majority were destined for the neighbors. Giving out plates of cookies is a delicious combination of many of my favorite things: tradition, community, baking. 

I so appreciate that my mom put in the work to make that tradition happen, because it isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Deciding recipes, making sure the ingredients are handy, finding time to actually do them, cleaning up afterwards, getting organized enough to deliver them. Throw in an overzealous “tookie”-loving two-year-old and his newborn baby sister, and if I didn’t have a history of doing this, I wouldn’t. 

And honestly, I haven’t every year, and this year it’s going to be pretty basic, both in scope of cookie variety and amount of neighbors gifted to. Some of them might not look quite so basic, with the addition of aforementioned Benson’s particular talent in shaping and decorating….

Yet I’m making cookies because I want to. Partially because I have these naive sugar-plum visions of blissful kitchen memories with my son (emphasis on naive), but mostly because cookies are important — important for helping us remember that Christmas is better when it’s shared, even in the small, sugary ways. 

 

Moch-otta Cookies

These chocolatey, coffee-y cookies are bolstered with creamy ricotta, so you oughta have a lotta. I modified a recipe from a cookie cookbook by Dorie’s Greenspan, a baking “culinary guru” — mostly just upping the flavors a little, because you can never have too much chocolate or coffee (unless, of course, you read about my kids’ cupcake incident). Crispy on the outside, chewy in the center, and simple to make, this might become a new favorite recipe; I might add some chocolate chunks next time. They’ll be a great complement to the spicy peppernuts, fudgy brownies, and whatever else we can pull together for our cookie plates. 

Prep tips: Benson made these without pants on, but that’s not necessary (nor recommended). This batch makes about 40 cookies, so depending on how many neighbors you have/how many you eat in the process, you might need more. 

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 ounces butter, room temp

2 ounces coconut oil, room temp

1 cup white sugar

1 ½ tablespoons instant espresso powder

a good splash Mexican vanilla

1 egg

⅔ cup ricotta

In a medium bowl, mix flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and cinnamon. Then in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and coconut oil until creamy. Cream in sugar and espresso, then thoroughly beat in vanilla and egg, then ricotta. On low speed, mix in that bowl of dry ingredients just until incorporated. Using a medium scoop, dollop out onto parchment-lined baking sheets with about 2” in between. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes, then cool on racks. Sorry Santa, the cookies are for the neighbors

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