Holiday Sweets

There’s been lots of cookie talk around here lately, which is always a good development. We should talk about cookies all the time, not just the holidays.

Between all the cookie talk, and a friend asking me if I’ll be baking for the holidays, I got to thinking about what I bake and when. It occurred to me that, other than the pumpkin pies I make for Thanksgiving (not making them would be grounds for divorce), the “what and when” barely applies. I bake when I feel like it, and I bake the same things.

Regular readers won’t be surprised to learn that everything I bake is easy and simple – Tollhouse cookies, brownies, chocolate chocolate chip cookies and poundcake. I have nothing against fancy, pretty holiday sweets. I usually try a few of them. But I contend that, between a specialty item and a simple one, the simple one generally wins out.

Maybe it’s because people prefer to stick with what they know. In my case, it’s just because I’m picky. I don’t like cookies with jam in the middle or glaze on the top. Sprinkles are pretty, but I don’t see the point. I don’t even like those cookies topped with a Hershey’s Kiss. Maybe it’s the cookie itself. They usually taste like dust to me.

I admit that, when it comes to baking, I’m a bit lazy. I want to make something I can do in my sleep. I’m also cheap. I don’t use recipes that require lots of ingredients I don’t already have or don’t regularly use.

For me, simple and classic is the way to go. What qualifies as a classic? There’s no debate over the status of the Tollhouse cookie. Brownies and poundcake are classic, but they can be all kinds of gussied up. And there are holiday classics – gingerbread (which I’m currently eyeing up, even though I’ve already had a piece), the aforementioned pumpkin pie, fruitcake (if only to pass on to an unsuspecting friend or relative).

Families have their own classics. My mother used to make mincemeat pie every year. I think she was the only in the family who ate it. She still makes chocolate truffles for Christmas, and it wouldn’t seem like Christmas without them. She also makes a traditional New York style cheesecake. No topping. A cheesecake should stand on its own.

I know that eating something you only get once a year can be a bigger treat than having something familiar. But I will always prefer the fabulousness of a simple, unembellished cookie to one with bells, whistles and sprinkles.

What do you bake for the holidays, and what are your favorite things to eat?