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A Week of Cookies from The Gourmet Cookie Book, The Final Day (And Your Fifth Chance to Win a Copy)

Editor’s note: We’ve reached the final day of our week of Gourmet Cookie Book stories and giveaways. Please welcome Anne Woodard, the mastermind behind the event, who really knocks it out of the park with her Almond Bolas (Portuguese Almond Cookies) from her own birth year, 1975. Find the recipe on page 76 of the book. And don’t forget: between now and December 31st, read and comment on all five posts (find Day 1 here, Day 2 here, Day 3 here and Day 4 here) and join the Umami Girl facebook page for six (six!) chances to win a copy of the book. Anne, thanks for inviting me to be part of this inspiring event. Go get ’em, girlfriend.

A Cookie for Your [insert your wish here]?

It was December 2009, two months after the nearly 70-year-old Gourmet magazine closed, six years after I joined its staff. I was meeting a client to convince him the Gourmet brand could live without the magazine. For this occasion, I baked a fresh batch of Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Coconut Cookies from the newly released Gourmet Today cookbook.
A cookie for your conviction?

It is one year later, and I’m now the only remaining staff member from the magazine. I have this grand idea of having Gourmet Cookie Book spokesperson and adored chef, Sara Moulton, along with her mother and daughter, bake the cookies from their birth years for a broadcast news segment. Not only will it bring to life the depth, diversity, and deliciousness of this book, but it will spotlight the unique historical context of each cookie. The book will certainly fly off the shelves!
A cookie for your commitment?

When I realized I don’t work in PR for a reason, I took matters into my own hands. After distributing a first-bound copy to each of my closest and dearest Gourmet cookie fans, I requested they each (1) bake the cookie from their birth year, (2) write an essay about their experience, and (3) photograph the outcome (or, in one case, have her twins doodle a drawing, since all cookies were consumed before the camera was found). And I then called dear friend and favorite food blogger Umami Girl.
A cookie for your time?

The very first thing anyone does when they hold this book in their hands is flip to their birth year cookie recipe. What beautiful concoction represents me? Does it spotlight a spice, a nut, or an ingredient that I most adore? Does it remind me of my childhood, or of who I am today? Is it particularly unique like me?

Well, 1975 here I come … Almond Bolas, a Portuguese almond cookie. Hmmmm. I do love almonds, although I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten what the recipe calls for—blanched almonds. And what’s with the bread crumbs and no butter? Not to mention the fact that my cookie requires the use of a food processor, since ‘75 was the year that particular gadget was first introduced. I love my Cuisinart; in fact, it was a gift from Gourmet in 2007. But I have to admit, when baking, I try to avoid all mechanical intervention—I still make my chocolate chip cookies with a wooden spoon and a bowl. Not sure I have what it takes to make this cookie.
A cookie for your bravery?

When I first started grinding the nuts, I nearly fell backwards. How could this be right? It seemed like I was grinding a handful of stones. I first Googled “blanched almonds.” Did my husband buy the wrong kind of nuts? I then Googled “food processor.” Is this machine supposed to grind whole nuts? When it appeared all was in standard food-processing order, I stood back as far as I could from the machine and let it maniacally crunch through a pound of nuts (silently swearing to myself that I’d wear earplugs the next time, all the while reassuring myself that the ears on the baby in my belly were protected by many layers of flesh).

Now, on to the eggs. Whipping the egg whites brought me straight back to my mother’s kitchen, where she used to make lemon meringue pie for our neighbor. What a beautiful and instant evolution—and to think my husband had never seen “stiff peaks” before! It wasn’t, however, until I started making indentations in each dough ball to “fill them with beaten egg yolk” that my husband got out the camera. It was then that we realized I was definitely in uncharted waters, and I officially thanked Gourmet, once again, for teaching me new and exciting ways to cook.

After worrying about the bake time—opening and closing the oven door at least ten times for each batch of cookies—we took our first bite … a bite that instantly reminded my husband of his Aunt Mary’s pignoli nut cookies … a bite that made me proud.
A cookie for your reflections?

What is it about baking cookies that touches us? Is it the process or the outcome? Is it the drive down memory lane? Is it the sense of accomplishment after mixing, rolling, grinding, baking, cooling, and packaging? Is it the simple fact that with less than $20 and a little bit of elbow grease, you can give someone an incredibly delightful, personal gift?

As I packaged up the cookies for my grandma’s Christmas gift this year, I was reminded that despite the many years between us, the unique taste of each special creation transcends our generations. And despite the many miles between us, she will feel my love—my warm hug—the moment she opens the tin.
A cookie for your love?

I was determined to finish this project before my third child was born. Thankfully, I’m due one week from today, and no such introduction has been made. Whew! I also thought this project might help me bid farewell to Gourmet as a staff member. Another example of perfect timing — last week ended my seven-year stint. And as I hold this cookbook in my hands, I am certain that Gourmet will live forever as I continue to grow in my cooking and baking explorations. What I didn’t realize though was that this project would ignite a heartfelt sharing of stories about childhood memories … about our mothers, or being mothers … about community … about the trials and tribulations of being outside our comfort zone.

After reading the essays from my friend and family, I was so deeply touched. It was one beautiful story after another. Most of us boastful about the outcome; one of us not! Nonetheless, I couldn’t believe how unique each experience was, and yet, how connected they all were … Connected through conviction, commitment, time, bravery, reflections, and love!

What is your cookie for?

Comments

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  1. Hi Joan, the entry period closed on 12/31, and I’ll announce the winners in my main blog post later this week. Looking forward to it!

  2. Joan Holliday

    Do we know who the winners of the Gourmet Cookie Book?—January 4, 2010

  3. What a wonderful essay, touched my heart. cookies are lovely and hold such memories and tradition, I wonder what my birth year cookie is..

  4. Mary

    Anne- a fantastic ending to a wonderful collection of essays! Your writing was truly beautiful and really made me think of cookies in a whole new light. Congratulations on such a fabulous ending to your Gourmet years, you should be so proud of yourself. Wishing you and your family the best in the New Year!!
    Missed visiting with the Hollidays this year 🙁 hopefully, Joan and Bob, I can sample some of these delicious cookies next year!!!

  5. Kathleen

    I. Love. Almond cookies. Will DEFINITELY have to try these!

  6. I will try to find and buy this book. I was relying on recipes here and there, for my cookies, but a book will make things easier

  7. Lisa

    Anne – what a wonderful project and way to complete your amazing contributions to Gourmet. They were extraordinarily lucky to have you! Loved your essay, and all of the touching thoughts on the experience of crafting the cookie from each author’s birth year. Genius – and you’re exactly right, the historical context and personal connection places this in another league of cookbooks. Wishing you and your expanding family all the best for a happy, healthy 2011! Congratulations! Love, Lisa

  8. W

    nice article, cookies are instant magic

  9. Roya

    Lovely Anne…truly lovely..!

    I hope almonds are involved in my birthday year! Have to look it up now. No wait, gingerbread. Yes, by far the best childhood cookie memory! I still crave them every Christmas. It takes me back to Vienna. In fact I asked my childhood friend to bring me those specific gingerbread cookies from Austria, if he was to visit :))

    For now, I dream about those perfect delights.

  10. fatima

    this was lovely to read

  11. anne

    Thank you ALL for sharing in on this very fun, very fulfilling experience. I will never look @ a cookie the same way ever again. (: Carolyn, having Umami Girl as my guide and inspiration for so many recipes beyond cookies is what keeps me having fun in the kitchen. Thank you so very much for all that you have taught me and continue to teach me–from friendship to food. Merry Christmas everyone.

  12. Anu

    That was a lovely article.

  13. Kim Demopoulos

    Anne – this was lovely and so are you. Thank you again for including me in this project. And thank you, Carolyn Cope, for posting these and creating this “cookie community” at just the right time of the year. Bravo to all and Merry Christmas!

  14. Joan Thompson

    What a grand finish for a wonderful, fun and oh so holiday themed blog. I enjoyed everyones input. Good luck with the birth of # 3 and have a Merry Christmas!

  15. Joan

    To the latest Replyer—You are welcome any time to the Holliday household, and I would venture to say, you would always have some goodie to share with the family—the freezer has a reserve. Thanks for your appreciation of our work and family—-it in turn helps us realize our blessings! Joan Holliday

  16. e

    I didn’t grow up in a house that was full of cookies, but reading these essays all week has made me wish I did–preferably in close proximity to the Holliday family. What a collection of great writers and apparently of excellent bakers! It’s been a pleasure to read each morning. I can only hope the Umami girls will reinvent this model in a few years!

  17. Riptide

    As someone who who grew up with Gourmet I found this a very touching story. Oh, and I love Sara Moulton!

  18. Joan Holliday

    Anne, I KNOW these cookies are fantastic, because Dad and I have already tasted the ones you sent us for Christmas—-I think it could be a favorite—so moist, chewy, and flavorful! It is like a nut-macaroon!
    Thank you for applying your marketing gift, your love of family and friends, and your creativity to come up with this great project! I loved being a part of it!
    Can’t wait for that baby to arrive! And, what cookie would this child be “for”?

  19. Cynthea

    A cookie for connection?

    I feel enormously connected. Oh Anne, this was one of the loveliest writing, photographing projects I have ever read (and feel so connected too). While I didn’t cook w/ my mom (as I noted in my last post), I have so many cookie memories associated with lovely ppl. Thank you, thank you, thank you for distilling all of my feelings in this one, last post. The cookie is so powerful. It’s so small, and cute, and adorable and delicious, but has the power to convey so much meaning. They can be elegant and make me feel like such a grown-up when my hands crafted that elegant piece of heaven. They can be so childlike and innocent and fun, and make me giggle when I put them all together and serve them.

    So thank you. Thank you Anne, and your family and friends and most importantly, thank you Carolyn for posting all of this wonderful writing.

    p.s. My favorite part of this post was “A Cookie for Bravery” I think we all should get cookies for bravery at some point in our lives.

  20. Sara

    A cookie made with bread crumbs and no butter! Now you have my attention. I am not sure I could do it but glad they turned out well!

  21. Cope

    A cookie for your genius, Anne.

    What a lovely piece, idea and book.

    Congratulations to you on what you’ve finished and accomplished.

    Best wishes for what you begin next and to the little one you welcome next.

    From our family to yours Merry Christmas and Love,

    Jon