My daughters are here today, the kitchen is a mess, Christmas music is playing, and that means one thing…baking day is here.
I’ve always liked to bake and I tend to do it when I’m at my most stressed out. The control I exert over flour and sugar and butter will calm me in ways nothing else can. I don’t know what it is exactly, but there’s something very Zen about cookie dough.
My Aunt Catherine was a baker as well. At the holidays there were dozens of treats in her house, many of them traditional Italian cookies. Struffoli, anise drops, and pizzelle were my favorites and when I was writing my Christmas novella, This Christmas, my heroine Sabrina’s mother, Enza, also infused their home with Italian Christmas treats.
Over the past few years, I’ve been learning the art behind some of the Italian cookies my aunt used to bake. First, I bought a pizzelle iron. It took quite a number of batches to get the temperature and batter consistency correct, but my daughters and I finally did it. This year I conquered anise cookies. Last year my cousin and I made Struffoli, also known as honey balls. Each time something new is brought into my baking repertoire, I not only feel wonderfully happy, but I feel like I’ve kept a piece of my heritage, which is becoming diluted as years pass, from slipping away.
It was important to me to keep these Christmas traditions alive for myself and for my family. We have our own traditions, like Christmas Day brunch and cinnamon rolls on holiday mornings, but I’ve been feeling the need to reconnect with different parts of my heritage.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. Maybe it’s because the people who introduced me to these traditions are no longer around and I want to keep them with me. Whatever it is, Christmas has become a little warmer, and less about things, since I started introducing these treats.
I don’t fully understand it, but maybe there really is magic in cookie dough.