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Joni Woolf: Christmas cookies are for sharing

There’s nothing quite like a homemade cookie to satisfy that desire for just a bit of something sweet. Of course, one cookie leads to two, then to three — but what are cookies for? It’s the time of year to make them and then share them. Share them with family, with friends, with the person who trims your lawn, or delivers your mail, or the shopkeeper who is always gracious (even when you don’t buy a thing) — those fine folks you see almost daily and whose services inspire gratitude. The following are easy recipes to follow; they store well and last several days. Of course, who ever saw a tin of cookies last several days …
Virginia Willis, who grew up in Southwest Georgia and is a classically trained French chef, has authored many cookbooks, all of which are fine. In “Bon Appetit, Y’all” she offers her mother’s French Butter Cookies, which are simple — and simply delicious.

Mama’s French Butter Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup solid vegetable shortening (preferably Crisco, at room temperature)
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a bowl, sift together flour, salt, soda and cream of tartar. Set aside. In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, cream the butter and shortening on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and continue beating on low until well combined. On low speed, slowly add the reserved dry ingredients. Beat until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap. Transfer to refrigerator and chill until very firm, at least 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using an ice cream scoop or a melon baller, take some of the dough and shape it into small 1-inch balls. (Keep remaining dough in refrigerator for it must be kept chilled.) Place the dough balls on an ungreased baking sheet and press with the tines of a fork to flatten. Bake until pale golden, but not brown, 10 to 12 minutes.  Cool slightly on the baking sheet on a rack. Then, using a spatula, transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely.
I first chose the following cookie recipe because of the name (my youngest grandchild is named Grace). As it turned out, the cookies were so good, we have made them over and over, and shared the recipe with friends who make them as often as we do. They are called —

Amazing Grace Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup oil
1cup quick-cook oatmeal
1 cup crushed cornflakes
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix. Add oil and mix. Add oatmeal, cornflakes, coconut, and nuts. Mix well. Add flour, soda, salt, and vanilla. Mix well. Form into balls about the size of a walnut, and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten with fork dipped in water. Bake 12 minutes, until beginning to brown. Cool. Yields approximately 5 dozen. Sometimes I add a heaping teaspoon lime or lemon zest for a different taste.
An old Macon friend, Carlene Massey, offered this recipe in “Gracious Goodness,” and it has stood the test of time (the cookbook was published in 1981 — a long time ago). These are a special treat at Christmas.

Jam Bars
1 cup butter
¾ cup sugar
3 egg yolks
3 cups cake flour (if using regular flour, subtract 2 Tablespoons each cup)
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
1 10-ounce jar strawberry jam (or more, to taste)
3 stiffly beaten egg whites
Cream butter and sugar, then add egg yolks, flour, baking powder, and vanilla. Mix well and pat dough lightly into 10- x 12-inch pan. Spoon jam over dough. Lightly sprinkle with flour (about 1 tablespoon), then cover with ½ cup chopped pecans. Cover this with the 3 stiffly beaten egg whites, and top this with ½ cup more nuts. Bake at 325 degrees F. for one hour. Cool and cut in bars.

Pack a few of each of these in a small tin and share with a friend or neighbor or perhaps with someone beyond your immediate circle. It’s almost Christmas. Open your heart. And your cookie jar.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net