My Christmas Cookies

Olga S. Hardman

I have to conclude that the Good Lord did not put me on earth to bake cookies. Despite the fact that most females in the world seem to bake some kind of cookies, especially for the Christmas holidays, this has caused me great consternation for many years. While my own children were growing up and they had grandmothers to bake cookies for them, it wasnít such a paramount concern. I simply told them that I didnít make cookies at Christmas time, I made music, and after all, you canít do everything. I hoped that would justify my guilt feelings about not baking cookies. After all, music also brings great joy into the lives of other people.

I even got away with this with my grandchildren, since they liked to hear "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "Rudolph, the Red-nose Reindeer." However, in the back of my mind, I was still plagued with guilt about baking cookies.

This year, as I approached my 70th birthday, that old nagging guilt reappeared. I decided that I didnít want it stated on my tomb-stone that this grandmother NEVER baked cookies for her children or her grandchildren. After all, my uncle, who is 103 still bakes cookies for his family. So, armed with my butter, eggs, flour, and sugar, I went over to my uncleís for assistance in putting my cookie dough together. Since my grandmother brought the recipe for our traditional Christmas cookies from the north of France in 1888, I decided to use her recipe and bake galettes.

On rare occasions during my childhood, my mother baked a small, thin, crunchy, galette - rather unlike the ones she made most of the time. I finally realized why they appeared only rarely. My grandmother had also brought from France the iron required for baking thin, crispy galettes. The one for thin galettes was made of iron and weighed at least 6 pounds. Since the iron had to be held over the heat on the stove and turned for baking the opposite side, the wrists of the baker were swollen and aching after three hours of baking. So my mother usually opted to bake the larger galettes on an American-made aluminum iron which was quite a bit lighter.

When I got this inordinate desire to become a cookie baker, I decided it was all right to be modern and order an electric galette iron. When my 103-year old uncle found out that I had paid $47.50 for the iron, he was in shock since he paid only $3.00 for his aluminum one in 1940.

The big day dawned and I took my new electric iron over to my Uncle Dantonís to bake the galettes. Since Uncle Danton had overseen the mixing of the batter, the cookies turned out beautifully and the new electric iron worked like a charm. I even proudly sent some to my grand-daughter who e-mailed me back that they were so good, she even ate them for breakfast.

Now I have a tendency to believe that I can always improve things with a little effort. So during the baking of this batch of galettes, I determined that I could make them healthier if I baked them with whole-wheat flour. You bakers out there probably know what happened. After I dumped the whole batch down the garbage disposal and it chewed and chewed and ground and spewed, I was certain I had ruined one of my most prized kitchen appliances. It has recovered, however, thank God.

Since I did not have a mixer and Uncle Dantonís was of the 1940 vintage, I decided that what I really needed was a good mixer. Needless to say, when I saw a $169.00 mixer on sale for $100.00, I knew that was the answer to my problem. So, on the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day in the whole year, I trudged out to the mall and got my prized mixer. I even justified the expenditure of $100.00 just to bake cookies once a year, by thinking that since I had come from the same gene pool as Uncle Danton, I had a good thirty more years to bake cookies.

The very next day, I assembled ingredients once more and began mixing. Just about half-way through the procedure, the brand-new mixer stopped - never to turn again. After washing all the parts and getting it all packed back in the box, except for one piece, I trudged back to the store. I simply told the sales-clerk that I just didnít want a mixer that only lasted 24 hours, since I intended to mix cookie dough with it for the next thirty years.

The next day, I went over to Uncle Dantonís and borrowed his mixer. The stand for his mixer came from one his wife had purchased in 1940 and the motor and beaters came from a later model, purchased for him by his cleaning lady at a yard sale. Needless to say, the mixing process was a bit difficult, but I persevered. Since, I was exhausted by this time, I put the bowl of batter in the refrigerator with the intention of baking my glorious bowl of cookie dough on the morrow.

I donít know why, but the new electric iron didnít function as well as it did the first time. Every cookie stuck to the grids on the iron and I spent the whole afternoon trying to scrape little crumbs of black "stuff" from the grids. Things got a little better with time and once more, I persevered. I baked a whole batch of cookies with interesting little black specks all over them.

By now, I was really determined to bake the best galettes anyone in this family had ever made. So I adapted the recipe slightly, added a little more flour, and mixed another batch (again with Uncle Dantonís recalcitrant mixer.) I ensconced myself at the kitchen table, laid clean towels on the table for the cookies to cool, and fired up the iron. Everything clicked this time. It was just after cookie # ten that I stretched my arm forward to place a cookie to cool, when I baked a good portion of my right forearm.

If you didnít receive any of my galettes this Christmas, do not despair. Actually, the thin, crisp, hard ones donít travel very well. You probably would have received a whole tin of delicious crumbs.

But I am sending some galettes to several members of my family. I only hope they realize they are eating the most expensive galettes on record. They must also know that they are eating the only ones Iíll ever bake. I am going back to making music for Christmas.

© 1998 Olga S. Hardman