When Ken and I married four years ago this past October, we had a small wedding. And while we’d asked that guests “just bring yourself” – discouraging any gift-giving – my bff and her partner showed up with a ginormous, need-a-forklift package, which, when I unwrapped it the next day, began howling with laughter.
“You said that when you moved to the country, you were going to bake,” Mish said with a giggle when I called her. “So get to it.”
For the girl who hated measuring, hated wiping up flour (the fact there was so much flour to wipe up speaks to my culinary competence), and spent the majority of her life in congested North Jersey with an Italian bakery on every corner anyway, I was now the owner of a steel-gray industrial/professional standing mixer in my kitchen in Upper Bucks County, which compared to congested North Jersey is the country.
This behemoth couldn’t even fit in the pantry, and I didn’t want to disrespect Mish and Cat by relegating it to the basement, so with a one, two, three…HOIST, I shoved it into the corner of the counter. After a few days, I draped a pretty dishtowel over it. When in the world would I use this thing? I wondered. The answer came on a mid-December Saturday when my teenage stepdaughters decided today was the day to bake Holly’s Holiday Almond (but mostly Butter) Cookies.
Holly would have been my mother-in-law; she left us before I joined the family. But I knew her. Ken and I go way back, first as dating partners then friends, but spent almost a quarter of century leading separate lives; so, of course, during those intervening years, Holly had been absent as well. I know her now only through a boatload of stories and adages, and, pertinent to this particular Saturday morning, by way of a handwritten recipe – yellowed and anointed with greasy fingerprints – for her family-famous cookies, which the Odells traditionally bake together.
My standing mixer had a maiden voyage, which would turn out to be the first of many baking journeys, as I’ve taken on lots of personal cooking challenges since. But as the winter holidays approach, and in honor of Bake Cookies Day, which is…TODAY, I am honored to share Holly’s Holiday Almond Cookie recipe, and a picture from last year’s bake fest. Enjoy!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium bowl, cream unsalted sugar (you can use a mixer on low speed for this). To the bowl add:
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. almond extract
1 lb. confectioner’s sugar
Beat together and transfer all to bowl larger than beater bowl, then slowly add and hand turn:
10 cups pastry flour (8 cups if not pastry flour)
When well incorporated, roll into logs no longer than 1 foot; cover in plastic or wax paper and refrigerate for 2 hours. Cut into 5/8-inch slices. Decorate with glitter and pop ’em in.
Watch carefully. Average bake time per batch is about 8 minutes. Bottoms should be golden.