“Don’t touch it; it’s very delicate.” My mother warned as my three-year old eyes took in the miniature Christmas tree glowing with tiny red, green, blue, and yellow lights.
“But mommy, it’s so pretty!”
“Yes, it is, which is why you need to look with your eyes, not with your hands.” My mother firmly pushed my little arm down.
But as soon as mom left the room, Grandma came over and whispered, “you can touch, but just be careful. I made this tree just for you. This tree is just your size.”
I smiled, and with the knowledge that this was something I had to be VERY careful with, I gingerly pulled one of the mini lights out of the green ceramic tree, and gasped in wonder at the circle of light that beamed from that tiny hole.
Looking back, that is one of my fondest memories of spending Christmas at my grandmother’s house. Every year, she brought out the ceramic, 18-inch Christmas tree, covered with dozens of tiny holes. Of course, she didn’t make that tree for me, but rather for all of her grandchildren. She’d always let whoever was at her house at the time place the colorful, peg-like lights in the holes and share in our wonder when she flipped the switch and the lightbulb inside illuminated all the “lights” like tiny glowing stars.
My family has had many Christmas trees over the years, always covered with an assortment of handmade and store-bought ornaments, but that little ceramic tree of my grandma’s will live in my memory as something special.
Christmas cookies were always a special tradition at my house, too. Each year, still to this day, my mom bakes up a whole cookie jar (or two or three) full of Christmas cookies: snickerdoodles, peanut blossoms, spritzer cookies, sugar cookies. I’m sure she’ll get a kick out of decorating the sugar cookies this year with my two nephews, ages one and two.
Since I officially moved into my first house this fall, I decided to start making my own Christmas cookie tradition. A friend of mine at work made these cookies last year, and after one bite, I immediately requested the recipe. I made them for the second time this weekend, and they are, to put it bluntly, divine. Especially if you like chocolate, and let’s be honest, it’s downright inhumane NOT to like chocolate.
(Note- These are called Chocolate Sugar Snaps, but there is nothing “snappy” about them at all. More like warm, chocolately pillows that melt in your mouth. Mmmm…)
Chocolate Sugar Snaps
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly firm (I used the Blue Bonnest stuff in the fridge, which I have no idea if it it unsalted or not)
2/3 cup sugar (for baking)
1/3 cup sugar (for rolling dough balls)
1/2 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
10 ounces fine quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted (I use Ghiardelli’s)
- Mix together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy and lightened in color. Add 2/3 cup sugar. Add brown sugar and mix until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time. Blend in the vanilla and melted chocolate.
- Add the dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Cover with plastic wrap and chill 30-40 minutes. (DO NOT SKIP CHILLING DOUGH.)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Line jelly roll pans/cookie sheets with parchment paper. If using air bake pans, this is not necessary.
- Place remaining sugar into a bowl. Shape dough into walnut size balls and roll in extra sugar to coat. Dough will be sticky, so I chill the excess while baking.
- Bake 8-9 minutes for chewy cookies, or 10-11 minutes for crispy cookies (seriously, who likes crispy cookies?)
- Remove from oven and let rest in pan for several minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.