Baking huge quantities of Christmas cookies is a new tradition for me. The first year I did it, I severely sprained my ankle while running down the stairs to let guests (helper elves) in. That year I learned the joys of being whisked through the airport in a wheelchair and bypassing security lines owing to my handicapped status.
This year, on my way to pick up the necessary butter, sugar and eggs, I was approached while driving by a minivan topped with a gigantic orange menorah, full of fresh-faced young boys. They motioned for me to roll down the window. “Are you Jewish?” they asked. “No,” I said. “Well, do you have any Jewish friends?” “Yes!” “Do you want a menorah?!” “YES!!!” They attempted a baton-pass but I couldn’t reach, so I proposed that they lob the package through my open window. “HAPPY HANUKKAH!!!” they yelled, roaring off in their beige minivan to spread more holiday cheer to unwitting drivers. It made my week, in spite of the fact that not 10 minutes later my car began to dangerously smoke and I wound up having to be towed home. What can I tell ya? Me and cookies, we like melodrama.
I have my roommate Lizzie to thank for introducing me to rosemary sugar cookies, which, with a little square of dark chocolate on top, are such an unparalleled combination of flavors that I spend about six months of the year craving them. It’s been well established that savory and sweet together is a magical synthesis, and these cookies reinforce that in spades.
The cardamom cookies with chocolate and orange marmalade on top are, according to a coworker, a party in the mouth. There is undeniably a lot going on, what with the interplay of bittersweet marmalade, intensely dark chocolate and the spicy undertones of cardamom, but who wants a boring old sugar cookie for Christmas?
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons rosemary
2 teaspoons orange zest
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
Combine flour, cornmeal, rosemary, orange zest and salt in a mixing bowl. Separately, whisk together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, and beat together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until combined.
Divide dough in half and shape into 5-inch disks. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. May be chilled overnight.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
On a floured surface, roll dough to thickness of 1/8 inch. Use 1 or 1.5 inch round cookie cutters to cut dough into rounds. Dip the cookie cutters in flour if dough sticks.
Grease an 11×17 baking sheet and arrange cookies. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, turning the sheet halfway. Cookies will be ready when the edges have browned. Keep an eye on them – they’ll go from perfect to burned pretty quickly!
Yield: roughly 5 dozen