Baking cookies for the holidays is not exactly a regionally-specific activity, but the Rust Belt does have its own special cookie traditions–including the “cookie table,” which, as it sounds, is a table full of cookies. Bonnie Tawse is the editor behind The Belt Cookie Table Cookbook, which elaborates on this popular Mahoning Valley custom with forty-one classic cookie recipes from the many cultures that make up this part of the country.
“Baking cookies during the holidays was a low-key affair in my family growing up, as my mother was a nurse and worked the night shift,” Tawse told us. “So in our house, making Christmas cookies was kept intentionally simple: sugar cookies that we decorated with the sparkling sugars in red, green, silver and gold. Now that I have children of my own (and don’t work the night shift!) I enjoy making a few different kinds of cookies around the holidays– especially old fashioned gingerbread, Italian biscotti from a dear friend’s recipe and good old sugar cookies with the sparkling sugars. One of the reasons I am so in awe of the Cookie Table tradition is just the sheer volume of cookies these folks make for holidays and celebrations.”
If you’re still looking for a treat to add to your cookie table this year, consider this twist on the winter-favorite Snowball cookie.
(recipe by Amy Sopko, reprinted with permission from The Belt Cookie Table Cookbook)
½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 teaspoons almond extract
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl combine powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla. Blend well. Stir in flour, nuts, and salt until dough holds together. You may have to finish by using your hands. Scoop or shape the dough into 1-inch balls; place on ungreased or parchment paper-line cookie sheets.
Bake for 18-20 minutes until set but not brown. Immediately transfer cookies to wire racks. Cool slightly for 3-5 minutes, and roll in powdered sugar. Put back on the racks, allow cookies to cool completely, then roll one more time in powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container.
Makes approximately 48 cookies.
Enjoy! And happy holidays from all of us at Belt Magazine. ■
Cover image by Raechel Anne Jolie.
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