Cinnamon, almond, and vanilla scent the air of my Christmas kitchen. As the fragrance lodges in the olfactory bulb of my brain's limbic system, memory is awakened. I roll the Ginger Sparklers in a plate of sugar just like I did as a child helping my mother. Sugar cookies, crisp and barely golden. Butter tarts - the only way I will eat cooked currants. Melt-in-your mouth shortbread. My mother made (and still makes) a consistent core of recipes each year, but she also tried new recipes that would fall in and out of favour as the season came and went.
So pleasant were my memories of baking with my mother that when I had children, I could hardly wait until each one was old enough to stand on a chair beside me at the counter top. Great clouds of flour rose up as little hands poured, mixed, rolled and cut. To my own family's repertoire of baking I added Morkakor, a tender almond flavoured cookie topped with meringue, from my husband's Scandinavian roots.
The years roll on. Most of my baking is solitary as my children are grown and bake on their own, filling their own kitchens with cinnamon, almond, and vanilla. Other little hands pat the dough (and sneak a little to eat raw). Nana invites them to bake, although she hasn't done so yet this season. The tins pile up on the counter and are taken to the freezer to pull out and enjoy with a cup of tea or as a bit of dessert.
Yesterday I took a tray of baking to school to share with my colleagues. Cranberry Orange Shortbread, Chocolate Mint Sandwiches, Pecan Toffee Bars, Almond Cheesecake Squares, Ginger Sparklers, and Rugelach. And marshmallows.
A snow storm of icing sugar on Saturday resulted in pillowy, white, vanilla-flavoured square marshmallows. This is my new recipe for this year. Sweet and delicious. Just one is enough. I'm looking forward to popping one into a mug of hot chocolate. I used Martha Stewart's recipe, available by clicking on the link.
I'd love to hear about your Christmas baking traditions. Do share.