Well, they're not particularly CHRISTMAS - they are just cookies, but I did make them, and it IS nearly Christmas, so that makes them Christmas cookies so there.
Why these? I hsven't a clue. For some reason their name popped into my head, that's all - and it is a name which hasn't been given actual form for some time. I remember eating these things - called "vanil krancle", pronounced roughly "vanill kratzler" - as made by my Grandmother, wayyyyy back when I was a little girl. In essence you toss in a handful of ingredients, you knead it all into a dough, you roll out the dough with a rolling pin (does any modern household even OWN a rolling pin these days?), you cut out shapes with a cookie cutter (Gran had a small round one with a smaller cutter in the middle so you wound up with an almost doughnut shape, a cookie with a central hole), you bake them, and then you end up with half the cookies that you baked because the idea is to take a pair of them and sandwich them together with apricot jam and roll them in icing sugar dusted with vanilla powder.
I have my grandmother's old recipe book, hundreds if not thousands of recipes handwritten in her neat and almost schoolgirlish handwriting. In all this, I knew exactly where to go looking for the recipe, even though I hadn't glanced in the notebook for YEARS.
Which is where I encountered a tiny problem or two.
I had TWO recipes. Not one. They were sufficiently different to give me pause.
Both recipes shared a call for lard instead of butter. I wasn't quite certain how the two compared and what quantity of butter I should substitute to achieve an acceptable result.
Both recipes listed *the ingredients*. That is ALL. Bless you, my beloved grandmother. HOW LONG DO YOU BAKE THESE THINGS, AND AT WHAT TEMPERATURE????
I consulted more experienced bakers, as well as the Internet, on the lard/butter question, and in the end decided to go pretty much with a straight substitution (although I put in a SMIDGE more butter than the amount of lard the original recipe called for. Just seemed to me that I needed to compensate just a little for the fact that lard is a heavier fat than butter...) The resulting dough looked okay, although it was a little crumbly, but I don't remotely remember what the dough for the original cookies looked like so I had no real basis for comparison. But it rolled out okay, with a pinch of flour it wasn't too sticky, and my cookie cutter had no trouble cutting out circles (no central hole. That one's long gone. This one is just a circle...) I stuck it into the oven at a conservative temperature, but upon further consultation was informed that I was erring on the low side and if I wanted these things baked before actual Christmas I needed to turn up the heat. So I did, and then hovered, watching, until I saw them start to turn golden brown on top and the whole thing started smelling finished. Took them out of the oven, smeared apricot jam where it was called for, rolled the cookie sandwiches in the required castor sugar and vanilla.
They're upstairs right now. My Christmas cookies. The house smells of apricots and vanilla and baking. It smells like my grandmother's house used to smell once upon a time when I was a little girl and that house was the whole world to me.
They're not "Christmas" cookies in the sense that they're trad Christmas fare. But they bring back so much to me, so many memories, so many ghosts of Christmas past, all of them good.
They turned out okay. They were baked with a bit of blunder, a bit of instinct, a bit of cross-generational confabulation, and a lot of love and memories. When I bring them out on Christmas day for my family to share, they will taste of all that.
And I am gently and quietly happy.