Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Memory Lane Is Made from Lemon Squares…and other Sweet Nana Notes

Last Friday, I pledged to fill decorative holiday plates with a menagerie of sugary goodness. I was on the fence about what to make and ultimately decided on Scottish-Style Shortbread and Chocolate Lovers Turtle Brownies; these were homemade, and they were supposed to even out the selections on the plate that were—to me anyway—“cheating”.

Confession time: I used a few Peel and Bakes and lemon squares from a box. But these weren’t just any lemon squares, and if I hadn’t just confessed to using a mix, you’d never have known….cause, PsstKrusteaz makes the best lemon bars I’ve ever tasted. After I write this post, I’m going on their site to congratulate them on the perfection of this recipe because it reminds me of the lemon squares I remember looking forward to as a child.

We had a neighbor who baked like Buddy Valastro, (Cake Boss). Around mid-December she’d drive her jalopy over to our house and surprise my family with two or three tins of different homemade confections. I vaguely remember something called a “buckeye” and nutty white dollops of Danish wedding cookies, but what I vividly recall are her lemon squares. And I can tell you that all these years later, it comes as a sweet surprise I can get the same flavors from a box. I’d have never known about Krusteaz if not for a wedding I attended where I found them on the dessert buffet. The bride confided that she used…gasp…”a mix!” I only know because I approached her for the recipe.

I didn’t mean to tangent here—just wanted to remind everyone of the refreshing and welcome sight lemon squares are on a Christmas cookie platter. I “cheated” so my young grandchildren could get involved; the tried and true “from Scratch” sweets come from my book, At Home in the Kitchen. Look to my entertaining blog in the coming days to get my most historical cookie recipe: Big Fat Ginger Cookies. This is a time of year when folks like to share stories about what their grandmothers made for the tree trimming, snow sledding and other ice-capades; my Nana just happened to make what amounted to—in her turn of the century domestic career—literally thousands of these particular cookies.

I’d like to pose a question to my Nana Network before I go. What makes a Christmas cookie? By that I mean, what are an ideal holiday confection’s characteristics that make someone remember it the way I do my neighbor’s lemon squares? Is it the expectation that every batch comes out perfectly—with a “never-lets-you-down” predictability in the sweetness, texture and yield? What is your favorite cookie to bake? But more importantly perhaps, what is your favorite cookie to receive?

I got to thinking why cookies are such a popular item this time of year, and decided that—no matter what kind it is—a cookie is the perfect go-to treat between Christmas activities. “Hon, will you bring me a cookie?” is a phrase I’ve heard husbands mutter a thousand times over after the X-mas lights go up.

“Sure sweetheart. I’ll bring you a cookie. What kind ya want?”

Have a chewy holiday everyone!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This article made my heart "warm" and has prompted me to double up on my baking this year. Can't think of a better way to show someone you're thinking of them than to take them a plate of homemade goodness!

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