The holiday season brings back remembrances of all sorts of foods. One of my childhood memories is of making cheese ravioli on Christmas eve with my family, then storing them on baking sheets in the cold garage overnight to cook on Christmas day. It’s something my mother did as a child growing up in Brooklyn. We hadn’t made them in decades. Last year, I finally introduced Cy to the ravioli tradition. It turns out he’s a natural at making them!
But most of my Christmas food memories are about sweets. My mother has made amazing cookies every year for as long as I can remember, and my sister and I helped (or “helped,” depending on our ages) for many of our formative years. The repertoire of cookies has changed since I was a kid, but she still makes two that I remember from childhood.
One is jelly wreaths, which are really a decorative delivery system for large amounts of butter and strawberry jam. The other is Viennese Walnut Crescents, basically Mexican Wedding Cakes or Russian Tea Cakes shaped into crescents. What sets them apart, though, is that they’re rolled in confectioner’s sugar that has tiny pieces of vanilla bean in it. In the days before getting a food processor, this was done by mom chopping the vanilla bean with a knife, and then my sister or I pounding it with the sugar in a mortar and pestle. A perfect job for kids, as long as you don’t mind getting sugar all over the place. Whenever I smell vanilla beans, it takes me right back to those days of vanilla-scented flying powdered sugar.
Out on my own, I’ve continued the cookie tradition. Especially since Cy and I have now been having our annual eggnog party for nearly two decades. We make three different kinds of eggnog all without booze, and then let our guests add their libation of choice into their cups of eggnog. There’s pretty much no cookie or holiday sweet that doesn’t benefit from a little eggnog alongside.
But we also serve wine for the nog-averse. And for people who have had just a little too much fat and sugar as the evening goes on. None of our guests has ever complained about eating cookies with wine. And sometimes white wine is a good pairing for cookies, especially if it’s a white with even the tiniest bit of residual sugar. But Cy and I had been looking for a treat that would go well with both red wine and eggnog. Last year, we finally found one: Dorie Greenspan’s Rosemary Parm Cookies.
I’ve written about Dorie Greenspan a few times in this blog, and was fortunate to interview her about wine last year. She’s one of my favorite cookbook authors, and I know that giving her cookbooks as gifts is a sure-fire way to make friends. As part of her publicity tour for Dorie’s Cookies, released in October 2016, she did a cookie-filled event at the National Press Club here in DC. It was my introduction to the world of savory cookies, since the evening started out with wine and a selection of savory treats from the book.
Even though they’re called “savory,” they still have some sugar in them for texture and flavor. And that bit of sugar makes them excellent accompaniments to both eggnog and wine without being sweet enough to make the wine taste bitter. I tried the Rosemary Parm Cookies last year, and they were a huge hit – I’m making even more of them this year so we don’t run out. I asked Dorie for permission to reprint the recipe here, and she graciously gave it.
The recipe is completely self-explanatory, so I won’t go on about it here. Except to entreat you to weigh your ingredients, in grams, as directed. Volume measurements may be the stuff of our childhoods, but traditions deserve tweaking when something better comes along. And if you don’t have a good kitchen scale, well, then it’s something to put on your gift wish list.
As usual, we’ll be putting out a whole bunch of wines at the party. But there’s one I think will go especially well with the cookies. Château d’Assas Réserve ($18) is made from Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre, and as I’ve written before, is part of my own family history. So it makes this new holiday tradition fit right in.
Enjoy your holidays, whatever and wherever you celebrate. And thanks to you all for another year of reading my blog musings!
From Dorie’s Cookies, by Dorie Greenspan. Reprinted with the author’s permission
Makes about 60 cookies
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups (272 grams) all-purpose flour
½ cup (60 grams) toasted pecans
1/3 cup (30 grams) lightly packed grated Parmesan
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 sticks (8 ounces, 226 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
Working in a small bowl, rub the sugar and chopped rosemary together with your fingertips until the sugar is most and aromatic and maybe even tinged with green.
Put the flour, pecans, Parmesan, salt, and rosemary-sugar in a food processor and pulse to blend. Drop in the pieces of cold butter and pulse until the mixture turns crumbly. Add the beaten yolk a little at a time, pulsing as each big goes in, then continue to pulse until you have a moist dough the forms clumps and curds. [Although the recipe doesn’t specify it, you can add up to a tablespoon of water if it seems too dry and doesn’t clump together when you squeeze some of it in your hand.]
Turn the dough out and divide it in half. Pat each half into a disk. Working with one disk at a time, place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll to a thickness of ¼ inch. Slide the dough, still between the paper, onto a baking sheet – you can stack the slabs – and freeze for at least 1 hour.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. [You can also use one of the pieces of parchment from rolling the dough.] Have a 1-1/2 inch-diameter cookie cutter at hand.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, peel away the top and bottom papers and return the dough to one piece of paper. Cut out as many cookies as you can and put them on the lined sheet, leaving about an inch between them. Gather the scraps, then combine them with the scraps you got from the second sheet of dough, re-roll, freeze, cut, and bake.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the midway mark, or until they’re golden and set. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cook completely.
Repeat with the remaining dough, always making certain you start with a cool baking sheet.
Storing: The rolled-out dough can be wrapped well and frozen for up to 2 months, cut and bake directly from the freezer. The baked cookies can be kept in a covered container for up to 1 week at room temperature.