When I was growing up, the arrival of the Christmas season wasn’t official until my cousins and I had decorated homemade gingerbread cookies at my Grandmother’s house. To this day, just the smell of cloves baking in the oven can instantly make me feel like I’m eight years old again. Though our grandmother, Gram, has since passed away, we take it upon ourselves as cousins to continue the tradition annually. This year my sister, Blythe, baked the cookies at her home in Portland, Maine, and all of the cousins gathered in Cambridge to decorate. We discussed which David Foster Wallace book I should read, the fashion of the Flying Burrito Brothers, and who is watching Jessica Jones on Netflix. For me, the highlight of the gathering was watching my own children participate in this now longstanding family tradition. So, without further ado:
Gram’s Christmas Cookies
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 ounces of citron, ground fine
2 1/2 cups of flour, not sifted
1 tbs backing powder
juice + rind of 1/2 a grated lemon
2 tbs milk
2 Egg Whites
1tsp lemon juisce
2 cups of powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Add sugar to honey and cook on stove top at low heat until sugar dissolves.
Add spices to flour and the mix. Mix all ingredients together to make a dough. Use extra flour to handle. Roll dough out until it is 1/8 thick, cut with cookie cutters.
Bake for 8-10 minutes.
*Note from Gram (caps and all): This sounds simple enough but it is incredibly messy. You ALWAYS have to add more flour so you can roll it and it sticks UNMERCIFULLY. Keep lots of flour around and a spatula (like for flipping pancakes) to lift the cookies off the table onto the pan. Keep flour on the edges of your cookie cutter. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of time.
Beat Egg white until frothy, then sprinkle lemon juice and gradually beat in sugar until stiff enough to spread. Divide into 5 custard bowls and food coloring.
To decorate, use popsicle sticks or painbrushes. Let cookies sit overnight for icing to harden.