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Giving the Gift of Cookies

Little helpers will enjoy making these three recipes.

There isn't a more perfect holiday treat than a cookie. From the decadent to the delightfully simple, a batch of homemade cookies brings a smile to nibblers both young and old. Not only do they satisfy the sweet tooth, but the aroma of freshly baked cookies can stir fond memories.

When I was growing up, I knew it was Christmas time when my mom started making the gingerbread dough. We'd put on our aprons, with mine dangling around my ankles, and roll up our sleeves. I got to stir and measure, tasting as I went along.

When the dough was chilled, the fun really began. I was allowed to throw flour all over the counter and help roll out the dough. Then, the cutting. I still have the dented and partially rusted old tin that has always held our cookie cutters. One look at the shapes and I'm right back in that kitchen with my mother.

But as time rolls on, families begin new traditions. So although I pull that tin out once a year to share with my children, they also have their own favorites that make Christmas special. And each year, I begin to hear the clamoring just after Thanksgiving. They want to make the cookies.

In addition to the classic gingerbread cookie, here are three recipes that never fail to send my kids into a flutter of expectant activity in the kitchen. From gathering ingredients to measuring teaspoons to rolling and shaping the dough, these cookies are delicious and almost seem to call out for an assembly line of little hands to help.

One of our favorite cookies is the Pecan Lace Sandwich Cookie. Originally, this recipe called for orange buttercream filling. But this foodie household prefers a vanilla buttercream, so we omit the orange and substitute pure vanilla extract.

These delicate cookies have to be treated with care when they are being filled, so the older kids enjoy putting these together. But when they are finished, the cookie sandwiches are durable enough to package in a tin, if they make it that far.

The next cookie is a bit more sophisticated but is the most fun to make. Hazelnut Shortbread Sticks are fancy enough to box and give away, but alluring enough for children to enjoy.

After shaping and baking the shortbread, these sticks are dipped in melted chocolate and rolled in toasted hazelnuts. The presentation is beautiful, with that end of chocolate dressing up an otherwise simple shortbread.

The Chocolate Crinkles recipe is a classic that I found in another classic: Betty Crocker's Cooky Book (yes, that's the way it's spelled). First published in 1963, this baking book was republished in its original form and given to me as a gift.

The introduction shows its age by saying, "happy is the home with a full cooky jar." Although that might seem a bit simplistic today, there is a grain of truth to it. A homemade cookie (or anything else, for that matter) means that someone has taken the time and thoughtfulness to create something good, something to be enjoyed by others.

As we count down the days to Christmas, we've come up with a series built around the idea that sometimes food make the best gifts. Check back for recipes and tips on how to make sweet rolls, holiday candies and package them up for the season. We'll also give you ideas on last-minute gifts you can buy.

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