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3191 Miles Apart | 19 December 09 • MAV

19 December 09 • MAV

My Grandma A. always laid out a ‘sweet table’ at Christmastime. She would put it up a week or two before Christmas Day carefully covering each item with plastic wrap every night and removing the covers every morning upon waking. This was not a table she had up in her house regularly, mind you, this was a fold-out table which she had my Grandpa bring up from the cellar and the kitchen furniture was rearranged for the occasion.

Most items on the table were Italian bakery-bought favorites (my Grandma A. was not much of a baker) mixed in with tins of other friends goodies and shinny wrapped holiday chocolates. Many times I helped her lay out the treats one by one in fancy Santa-adorned plates or multi-leveled glass platters. I remember she would have friends drop in throughout the holiday and they would sit at the kitchen table chatting for hours over goodies with coffee or a little wine. The ‘sweet table’ was my Grandma’s way of welcoming her friends and family; it was her way of giving love (something she was very good at).

In my mind and in my heart there has never been a better holiday tradition and once I have my life sorted out just a bit more (um, when will that be exactly?) I will start having a ‘sweet table’ in my home every year. The only difference being that I will likely bake most of my treats as opposed to buying them (we’re a little short on Italian bakeries here in Maine anyway). Below you will find two of the cookie recipes that will be found on my ‘sweet table’. I hope you enjoy these family recipes and as ever I wish you a sweet holiday season.

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Grandma V.’s Italian Pizzelle
Makes about 18 pizzelle

3 eggs, room temperature
3/4 C natural cane sugar
3/4 C unsalted butter, melted
1 C unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp pure anise extract

Sift dry ingredients together (except sugar). Beat eggs, sugar and melted butter together. Add dry ingredients. Drop by tablespoon-full onto center of preheated grill. Close lid and bake for roughly 3 minutes. Remove with fork and straight to a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar once cooled if you like (I usually don’t). Store in an airtight container.

Cook’s Note: You will ruin the first 4–6 pizzelle (see above) so just plan on it. The best part of that mess is that you have a recipe with built in ‘crumbs’ for the baker to snack on while she/he is making the rest of the cookies. Yumm!

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Aunt Polly’s Italian Chocolate Cookies
Makes about 48 cookies

Cookies
1 C unsalted butter, melted
1 C natural cane sugar
6 T unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp clove
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
4 C unbleached all purpose flour
1 C milk

Frosting
Aunt Polly’s recipe calls for 2 C of icing sugar to 2 T of milk but I like the icing a bit thinner. Play with it!
1 C icing sugar
2 T milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC. Sift dry ingredients together (except sugar). Add sugar and melted butter to a mixing bowl and beat until blended. Add flour mixture and milk alternatively until dough starts to get very thick (you will likely have one addition of the flour mixture and one addition of the milk remaining). Remove the bowl from the mixer and use your hands to blend in the last of what remains. Roll small pinches of dough into tight balls (about 1 inch in diameter) and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10 minutes (do not over-bake these cookies!). Let the cookies cool completely and then dip them in the frosting letting it pour down the sides as it sets. Store in an airtight container.