Altina heard the bells and ran for the stairs. “I told you,” she whispered to Martine, her nanny, who held her back just as they reached the railing. “I told you they’d come.”
And come, they had. They had outdone themselves, in fact. Every inch of the house, it seemed, was covered in holly and bows. The air, which usually smelled like musty leather, thanks to her grandfather’s extensive collection of antique volumes, now bloomed with the scent of forest pine. Altina’s eyes widened as she took in the juniper in the foyer, wrapped in silk ribbons and its leaves aglow from the candles balanced there. And underneath it, presents. Presents of all sizes and shapes and wrapped in glossy red and silver paper, she’d never seen such paper, and she knew without taking a step that they were all for her.
Martine reached up with wonder and touched the nose of a St. Nicholas figurine that had appeared in the corner nook overnight. Martine had only been with them for five months and had never seen their Christmas. She looked around, almost frightened. “Your parents do all of this.”
Altina nodded, so swollen with pride that she practically bounced. “They come in while I’m sleeping,” she said quietly, so as not to wake her grandfather. “And they decorate the whole house. And they put up the tree and place my presents. And oh! Come!” She pulled Martine down the stairs, so quickly that the poor girl almost tripped out of her slippers, and she pulled her toward the kitchen.
“Look,” she breathed out and Martine gasped. The counters, which had been clean and scrubbed and bare when Altina had drunk her warm milk the night before, were covered wall to edge with platters of cookies and warm breads and rolls, bowls of oranges and cranberries, tarts and pies. The air smelled like heaven. “They do this too,” she whispered. “They travel the world, you see, and know all of the best things to eat and they bring them home here, to me. And then they’re gone. I’d like to see them, just once,” Altina said. “But Grandfather says that this is their gift to me and it’s their magic to give me so I can’t see them, even if I wanted to see them more than presents or trees or bows.”
Martine had been staring hard at the cakes and pies. Now she looked at Altina. “Oh?”
“No. But it’s all right,” Altina said and she patted Martine’s hand, because she gazed at her with such quiet eyes. Altina leaned over the counter and picked up the prettiest cookie, pale with an amber center. She breathed it in, the smell of Christmas, the smell of magic and love.
I so very badly wanted to make these cookies. Aren’t they pretty? They taste just as good as they look too.
When I was a girl, my mother would stop in the bakery before a holiday or a family party (or sometimes, just because) and she’d let me pick out a cookie. And I always, always went for Linzer Tarts (because they were the biggest and filled with raspberry jam and powdered sugar and also they were the biggest, did I mention how big they were?) When I saw these, I knew I had to have them, all crinkly and pretty and touched with jam. I picked a plum jam for mine and the tartness of the jam cut right through the sweetness. During the holidays, you’ve gotta have cookies with a little sparkle to them, don’t you think?
The SKS Cookie Collection
S’more Cookies | The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies | Snowball Cookies (Foodie.com) | Cookie in a Skillet | White Chocolate Peppermint M&M Cookies | Hot Cocoa Cookies | Shortbread Cookies Filled With Caramel | Crisp Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies | Bourbon Balls | Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
Beurre and Sel Jammers
Make ahead alert! Dough will need at least 2.5 hours of resting time
You will need: a 2″ cookie cutter, standard cupcake or muffin tin
1 Cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 Cup of sugar
1/4 Cup of powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 Teaspoons of fine sea salt
2 Large egg yolks, room temperature
2 Teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 Cups of all-purpose flour
Streusel and assembly:
3/4 Cup of all-purpose flour
1/3 Cup of sugar
1/4 Teaspoon of fine sea salt
5 and 1/2 Tablespoons of chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 Teaspoon of vanilla extract
3/4 Cup of thick jam (lingonberry, apricot, plum)
For cookie dough:
1. In a large bowl, beat butter with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.
2. Add both sugars and salt to butter; beat until well blended, about 1 full minute.
3. Reduce speed to low and beat in egg yolks and vanilla.
4. Add flour and mix JUST to combine. Dough will be soft and slightly sticky.
5. Divide dough in half and place each half between sheets of parchment or waxed paper.
6. Roll dough into disk until 1/4″ thick. Freeze dough until firm, at least 2 hours. (Dough can be made 2 days ahead, just cover and keep frozen.)
7. In a small mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar and salt.
8. Using your fingertips, rub butter and vanilla into dry ingredients until no large lumps remain and butter is well incorporated. Streusel will be sandy and hold its shape when pressed between your fingers. Cover and chill. (Streusel can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.)
9. Arrange rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F.
10. Using a cookie cutter, cut out rounds of frozen dough from freezer and place rounds in bottom of muffin cups and gently pat to flatten.
11. Once muffin tin is full, cover with foil and chill until dough is firm, about 30 minutes (up to 2 days).
12. When ready to bake, spoon 1 teaspoon of jam into center of each dough round.
13. Sprinkle streusel around jam, carefully.
14. Bake cookies, in batches, until sides and streusel are golden, about 20 to 22 minutes.
15. Let cool in this for 15 minutes. Run a small knife around edges of muffin cups and let cool completely on a wire rack.
Cookies can be baked 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.