I was looking for Christmas cookies the other day — you know — something to put on a plate when the neighbours drop by, over the holidays, looking for a free coffee? OMG, what a total lack of imagination! They’re all boring sugar cookies with green tree icing or candy cane stripes or something that vaguely resembles a reindeer — except it’s really a rodent with blobby ears and a red sprinkle nose. What did they do? Just scrape the pumpkins off the leftover Hallowe’en cookies and start again with Santa?
Old man nostalgia in 3…2…1.
Back in the day, we had all kinda baked goodies at Christmas. Stuff that was exclusive to the holiday. Stuff that was handmade and squashed with a fork. Stuff that was saved in Tupperware — for months. Stuff that was trotted out for guests and late night movies. Stuff that still smells like Christmas whenever I run into it all these years later. Whatever happened to that stuff? Well, I found it! I’d like to say I spend months in old bookstores, library archives and university basements looking for old cookbooks and Good Housekeeping from 1931. I’d like to say I travelled to the villages of Great Britain, carefully recording the reminiscences of their oldest residents. Nah! All I did was phone my sister and brother-in-law.
Over the years, all my sisters baked at Christmas (in fact, I think they were once collectively sued by the Keebler Elves) but these days, Bonnie and Jim Vandale are the keepers of the Fyfe Christmas flame. So here are three recipes from the archives and one more that I didn’t even know they had.
UNBAKED CHOCOLATE OATMEAL COOKIES (we had a ruder name for them)
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
Bring to a boil. Boil one minute, then add
3 1/2 cups oatmeal
5 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
Mix well. Drop by teaspoon onto wax paper. Let them stand until they harden. You can use 1 cup of coconut in place of one cup of oatmeal if you want. (My family doesn’t like coconut, so I just use the oatmeal.)
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 or 2/3 cup raisins
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 eggs ( 1 if syrupy filling desired)
Melt butter, add all ingredients except eggs. Mix thoroughly, let mixture cool and add eggs. Beat just enough to combine yolk and whites. Pour into pastry-lined tart tins.Bake on lower rack for 15 – 20 minutes at 400 degrees F.
SAUCE FOR CAKE (This can be used over any cake you want. I use it with Plum Pudding or Ginger cake.)
1 cup brown sugar
1 large tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
About 2 cups water
1 tbsp cornstarch
Combine sugar, butter, vanilla and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and thicken with 1 tbsp cornstarch.
And finally, my mother’s shortbread sucked, so my sister’s skipped a generation on the recipe — although I thought this had long since been lost.
GRANNY FYFE’S SHORTBREAD
Cream together well:
1 lb. butter
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 cup cornstarch
3 cups sifted flour
Mix thoroughly. Chill dough. Knead the dough until it is soft and smooth. Roll into small balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press the ball of dough down with a fork (put some flour on the fork so it won’t stick.)
Bake at 300 F for 20 – 25 minutes. If the bottom of the cookie is golden brown, your shortbread is done.