I took Friday off and went home to bake cookies with Mom and Grandma. I’d had a jones to make an old Christmas cookie recipe that the three of us have been making for decades, but that we hadn’t done together for a couple of years: Almond Wreaths.
I dug my copy of the recipe out of my circa-1990 recipe box (a wedding shower gift). It’s in Mom’s handwriting; smudged with years of use. Grandma, in fact, hauled out her 1950s-era copy of the Betty Crocker Cookbook and found the original recipe for Almond Wreath cookies (see photo). Our version is slightly adapted.
They’re a royal pain to make; clearly at least a 2-woman (if not 3) job. The cookie dough itself is easy; even making the delicate wreath shapes using a cookie press isn’t taxing. No, the problem is the decorating: cutting stickystickysticky red and green candied cherries into tiny bits and then deftly placing said bits on the cookies to resemble holly and berries. Did I mention sticky? These things stick to your fingers, to the knife … to everything EXCEPT the cookie you’re decorating.
Still, they’re beautiful. And delicious. And a wonderful tradition in our Letterman/
Millholland/Mooth family. So we made them. A double batch, even. And when we were done, our feet tired from standing in the kitchen and our backs sore after bending over the counter cutting up those cherries (did I mention STICKY???), we tasted them, and they were magic. Just like always.
almond wreath Christmas cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup Crisco
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk (retain white for decorating)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
red and green candied cherries and silver dragées for decorating
Blend butter and Crisco; add whole egg, egg yolk and vanilla and stir to blend. Add powdered sugar and stir to combine, then add salt and flour and blend until well-combined. (A Kitchen-Aid stand mixer makes quick work of this.) The dough will be soft. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, cinnamon and almonds for topping.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place half of dough in a cookie press fitted with the star tip. Press dough into a circular wreath, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. When you’ve pressed out a tray full of cookies, brush them lightly with the beaten egg white. Sprinkle with cinnamon-almond sugar. Cut candied cherries into tiny bits and place on the cookies to resemble holly and ivy. Or, use green or red cherries and a silver dragée to resemble a bow and silver bell. Bake for 10 minutes, until set and beginning to lightly brown.
Note: Mom’s 1963 Mirro aluminum cookie press did the job far better than my new Pampered Chef plastic model (which, to my chagrin, didn’t even include a star tip!). I’m definitely going to search eBay for an older model. That, and an old aluminum swirl mixer.