My late mother, Paula Tucker, was well known for her baking. While my sister and I were growing up, our elementary school would have bake sales to raise money. People would call the school well in advance of the sales, asking to have put aside anything that my mother made (without even knowing what it might be!). She baked cheesecakes, cream puffs with smooth custard and a made-from-scratch chocolate sauce, light meringue shells, and – once a year for my father’s birthday – a 16-layer torte. But what I remember best is her Christmas cookies. The first week of every December, my mother would begin her cookie preparation. She would make a list of every teacher, neighbor, and delivery person who would be lucky enough to receive a box of her 12 kinds of homemade treats. Then she and I would be off to the market, filling the cart with nuts, flour, sugar, and eggs. I never understood how she could take such everyday foods and mysteriously turn them into melt-in-your-mouth delights. I would come home from school every afternoon to a different cookie cooling on racks on the dining room table. Every holiday season, I continue to try to duplicate my mother’s wonderful confections. – Barbara L. Claflin, Providence, Rhode Island
Crush vanilla wafers into fine crumbs. Melt chocolate in double boiler; remove from heat and add corn syrup, nuts, confectioners’ sugar, rum, instant coffee, and the wafer crumbs. Form into 1-inch balls and roll in sugar colored with red or green food coloring. Store in airtight container.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream butter with nuts and 1 cup sugar. Sift flour with salt and add slowly to butter mixture, mixing well. Dust pastry board with flour and pat out a small piece of dough; cover it with waxed paper. Roll out to ¼-inch thickness. Cut rings with doughnut cutter. Lift rings with spatula and place on greased and floured cookie sheet. Repeat until all the dough is used up. In another bowl, fold remaining ½ cup sugar and the vanilla into the stiffly beaten egg whites. Place a ribbon of meringue or rosettes of meringue around each cookie ring. Bake 12 to 15 minutes.