Stephen Fries: Cookies and holidays a delicious pair

It was back in 1987 that Dec. 4 was designated as National Cookie Day, the day cookie enthusiasts across the United States celebrate this favorite treat. It is celebrated in many ways, including that people get together and each bake a couple of different types of cookies and then mix and match their creations. Cookie swaps also are popular and during them each person brings their already baked cookies in a large enough quantity to swap, sample the treats and exchange with others, and often package them in nicely decorated boxes. Every Dec. 4 bakeries offer free or discounted cookies. For example, Whole Foods offered a 50 percent discount on their in-house bakery cookies.

National Cookie Day could not be celebrated on a better date, as it is the time avid bakers and those “once a year” bakers dig out their cookie-making gear, those tattered and food-stained recipe cards and clippings, light up the oven and begin their non-stop cookie baking. Of course, with some holiday music playing in the background to add to the mood. The results; fun times with family and friends, and of course, the tantalizing aroma freshly baked cookies.

This year I chose some older cookie cookbooks (mostly out of print, but available used online) from my collection and share a few of my favorite recipes from them. One, a recipe pamphlet published in 1952, “Aunt Jenny’s Old-Fashioned Christmas Cookies and Other All-Time Favorites,” features the use of Spry. Some of you might remember Spry, a brand of vegetable shortening founded in 1936. It disappeared from the supermarket shelves in the 1970s. Vegetable shortening can be substituted for Spry. Fans of ginger will enjoy the cookies from the recipe below.

A cookbook I enjoy, “Cookies: Food Writers’ Favorites,” is a collection of recipes from food writers and editors across the country who contributed a cookie recipe. Macaroons are a favorite of mine, and so is the flavor combination of chocolate and orange. What could be better? The recipe below for Coconut Chocolate Chippers, submitted by Toni Burks, who was food editor of the Roanoke Times & World News when the book was compiled in 1991, has become a favorite. A batch is actually in the oven as I write this column. Ah, the aroma of them!

“The Joy of Cookies,” by Sharon Tyler Herbst, published in 1987, will become your go-to cookie book with cookie recipes from all over the world. The “what went wrong” section is quite helpful. What holiday cookie tray doesn’t have something made with rum, or a version of a cookie-ball? Check out the yummy and easy recipe for No-Bake Rum-Raisin Balls below.

I am sure one or all of these will be added to you cookie recipe repertoire. Now, get baking!

From: “Aunt Jenny’s Old-Fashioned Christmas Cookies and Other All-Time Favorites”

Note: vegetable shortening has been substituted for Spry

Combine and beat thoroughly the shortening, sugar, salt cinnamon, ginger and buttermilk. Add the molasses and blend. Sift the flour with the baking soda and then add to the shortening mixture and blend. Measure out level tablespoons of the dough and place on a greased baking sheet. Flatten dough by stamping with a flat-bottomed glass. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Makes 6 ½ dozen cookies.

From “Cookies: Food Writers’ Favorites”

In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on low speed, beat eggs until foamy. Gradually add sugar; continue beating until mixture is quite thick and lemon colored. Fold in flour and butter. Stir in coconut, chocolate chips, orange peel and vanilla. Drop mixture by teaspoonfuls onto greased and lightly floured baking sheets. Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven 10-15 minutes, or until firm to the touch and lightly golden. Let cool slightly on baking sheets, then use a spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Note: These cookies freeze well. Makes 3 to 3 /2 dozen cookies. The headnote says, “Chocolate and orange are delicious partners, and they’re showcased nicely in this macaroon-style confection. These cookies are crisp, not soft, and a bit chewy. Don’t worry about them baking into irregular shapes. A few lopsided cookies are a good indication that they’re homemade.”

From “The Joy of Cookies”

In a large bowl, combine rum and oats; cover and set aside for an hour. Add all remaining ingredients except granulated sugar; stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for an hour. Roll teaspoons of mixture into 1-inch balls. Place sugar in a small bowl and roll balls in sugar, coating each generously. Store for 24 hours in an airtight container at room temperature before serving. May be stored airtight for 10 days; freeze for longer storage. Makes about 3 dozen. The headnote says, “My friend Rhoda Harwood brought me this recipe from Christchurch, New Zealand. Unlike American rum or bourbon balls, these are freighted with raisins and coconut, and don’t use ground cookie crumbs as a base. Orange juice can be substituted, but the flavor of the rum is surprisingly subtle. Rum-raisin balls must be made a day in advance to let the flavors mellow and to allow the cookies to firm.”

Take the cookie challenge:

1. What cookie was introduced by Nabisco in 1902 and was the first commercial cookie to be mass-produced in the United States?

A. Oreos B. Chips Ahoy C. Fig Newtons D. Animal Crackers

2. The average American eats____ cookies in a lifetime

A. 10,000 B. 35,000 C. 50,000 D. 55,000

3. _____ percent of the cookies baked in American homes each year are chocolate chip.

A. 15 B. 25 C. 50 D. 75

4._____is a Eastern European cookie that is made with a cream cheese flavored dough that is cut into triangles and rolled around a filling to form a crescent

A. Biscotti B. rugalach C. drop cookie D. spritz cookie

5. What cookie was the first cookie associated with Christmas?

A. Thumbprint cookies B. German gingerbread cookies (lebkuchen) C. spice cookies D. Santa Claus cookies

6. The official state cookie of both Massachusetts and Pennsylvania is the _____cookie

A. Peanut butter B. chocolate chip C. macaroon D. sugar

7. In what country are fortune cookies little heard of:

A. United States B. United Kingdom C. China D. Japan

Answers: 1. D 2. B 3. C 4. B 5. B 6. B 7. C

Send us your requests: Which restaurant recipes or other recipes would you like to have? Which food products are you having difficulty finding? Do you have cooking questions? Send them to me.

Contact Stephen Fries, professor and coordinator of the Hospitality Management Programs at Gateway Community College, at or Dept. FC, Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven, 06510. Include your full name, address and phone number. Due to volume, I might not be able to publish every request. For more, go to