It’s been a sweet Christmas, y’all. I spent the season surrounded by loved ones, mangy poodles in desperate need of a groom, and goodies upon goodies upon goodies (cue outdated Ciara song that’s only listenable the more you imbibe). Earlier this month, my parents visited me in Honolulu, and together we traveled to the Big Island, where I renewed my spirit with some of the most naturally beautiful vistas in the world. And when I returned, the BTC dove headfirst into a private catering gig that both exhilarated us while pushing our limits. And, finally, I rang in Christmas by eating foods one should probably only eat once a year unless she asked Santa for a Lipitor scrip. It all left me feeling like a very fortunate girl.
I have to remind myself not to hoard these feelings and flavors simply because they come around once a year: that’s what makes them so special. Just like the annual flu, which reminds you how much you love Sprite and the cool tile of your bathroom floor. Or wait—is that the New Year’s Day hangover? Regardless—some feelings (and flavors) deserve to be shared, like this cookie I make every December. It’s not especially holiday-y, in that it doesn’t mine classic Christmas flavors like cinnamon or molasses, nor is it punched out in the shape of an old sock or tree. I guess the only reason it’s my favorite Christmas cookie is the saccharinely sweet cherry adorning it, and—oh, yeah—the fact that I only eat it at Christmas. This is a family recipe, and I take comfort knowing that my dad or any number of siblings might be whipping these cookies up at the same time as I am (some real Fieval teas for your nerves, henny). The tradition is as indelible in my memory as squabbling with my sisters over who gets to sing the harmony in “Christmas Waltz.”
This is a great little cookie to gift to friends and family—it holds up well, is easier than pie to make (we should revisit that expression because so many things are actually easier than pie, which—to my mind—is at least moderately difficult to execute well), and is one of the more special snowflakes you’ll spot at a work potluck or cookie exchange. We gave them out to our best Hawaii people this year, sharing the love one nut-covered cookie at a time. Don’t look too closely for the innuendo.
If these appeal to your sweet tooth, don’t wait until next Christmas to make them—they work great as a New Year’s or Valentine’s Day treat (you could call them Auld Lang All-Mines or Stupid Cupids. Just spitballing here). Force them into any holiday where you may want to eat them, and you’ll have a new tradition worth harmonizing to—looking at you, Ciara.
- 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 egg, separated
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cups finely chopped walnuts
- Candied cherries, halved
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese together with the egg yolk. Add the sugar, vanilla and salt, and mix until combined.
- In ½ cup increments, mix the flour in until combined. Fold ½ cups of the nuts into the cookie dough. The dough will be a bit sticky.
- In a small bowl, beat the egg white for a few seconds with a fork. In a separate bowl, add the rest of the nuts.
- Line two large baking sheets with parchment. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, dip one end into the egg white and then into the chopped nuts. Line them on the baking sheet approximately ½ an inch apart. They can be fairly close together, as they don’t spread much in the baking process.
- Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottoms. Once you remove the cookies from the oven, press the candied cherry halves into the center of each cookie while still soft and warm.
- Store in an airtight container for up to a week.