I know I am not alone in loving the traditions that are so ingrained in this time of year. This year, we missed some because of family members who couldn’t join us and added others, such as a bunch of Zoom calls across states and generations. And judging from the social media posts that keep popping up featuring treasured meals and treats, food is a big part of holiday cheer for just about everyone.
This is one of the things I love most about cooking and baking and using the kitchen as the heartbeat of our house. So many family memories and traditions – the things that will link one generation to the next – are the meals and goodies we make at this time of year. The girls always decorate holiday cookies.
They have definitely gotten better as they’ve gotten older, inspired by some of the cookie decorating competitions we have watched together, but – alas – no less messy. We always have Challah
and latkes with homemade applesauce for Chanukah (delayed this year because the girls weren’t home in time) and we always have spaetzle (a Swiss dumpling featured early in this blog) for Christmas Eve dinner and Aebleskiver (filled Danish pancakes) on Christmas morning (thanks to a tradition our former neighbors Juli and Willy introduced to us years ago) and Chinese food (ordered in this year rather than enjoyed in a restaurant) on Christmas Day. The foods are delicious, to be sure, or we would not continue to make them, but they also conjure up so many memories of past years and times together. That aspect of food binding us and reminding us of holidays past was all the more important this year when we couldn’t celebrate with everyone we wanted and thee were empty chairs at our holiday tables, with the cookies and traditional fare providing an extra dash of comfort and nourishment. I also think holiday fare reinforces what I love most about cooking and that is the communal nature of it. Making things together or sharing what you’ve made with others is a win for all involved.
I tried a few new recipes this year, which is also part of the equation. Some you like but they don’t rise to the level of keepers, while others get saved for inclusion the next year because they were that good. So I leave you with one of those, one of the cookies I baked for the cookie trays I made this year for friends and frontline workers. It comes from the December issue of Bon Appetit and it is not the most traditional holiday cookie, but it will definitely be adorning many a cookie tray moving forward. The good news is that it does not have to be relegated to holiday baking. You can make and enjoy these cookies any time, which is true of all good food. You don’t need a special occasion or reason – just whip some of these up and share and that will create its own smiles all around celebration.
Pretzel and Potato Chip Moon Pies
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces
1cup lightly crushed small pretzels
1 cup lightly crushed potato chips
½ cup (100 g) sugar
½ tsp. kosher salt
1¾ cups (219 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
18 large marshmallows
4 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, bars, or wafers (disks, pistoles, fèves), coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. refined coconut oil
Pretzel salt or flaky sea salt
Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 350°. Pulse butter, pretzels, potato chips, sugar, salt, and 1¾ cups (219 g) flour in a food processor until clumps form. Turn dough out onto a surface and knead gently to bring together.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured sheet of parchment to just under ¼” thick. (If it feels very soft, cover and chill 20 minutes before proceeding.) Punch out rounds with lightly floured cutter. Transfer rounds to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 1″ apart. Gather dough scraps and repeat rolling and cutting process until no dough remains (you should get 36 rounds). Divide remaining cookies between 2 more parchment-lined baking sheets.
Working in batches, bake cookies, rotating baking sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through, until golden brown, 10–12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer half of the cookies to a wire rack. Let cool completely.
Meanwhile, turn over cookies remaining on baking sheets and top each with a marshmallow, flat side down (make sure marshmallows stand up evenly or sandwiches will be crooked). If your oven has a convection fan, turn it off and bake cookies until marshmallows are softened and beginning to puff but not brown, about 4 minutes. Remove from oven and top with cooled cookies, letting weight of cookies gently push marshmallows to the edges. Let cool at least 1 hour.
Melt chocolate and oil in a small heatproof bowl set over a small saucepan of barely simmering water (do not let bowl touch water), stirring occasionally, or melt in a small microwave-safe bowl in a microwave in 20-second bursts, stirring between bursts. Dip half of each sandwich cookie in chocolate, then sprinkle top of chocolate sides with pretzel salt. Chill cookies 15 minutes to harden chocolate before serving.
Cookies can be made 2 weeks ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.