Editor’s note: It’s Day 4 of our week of stories and cookies from The Gourmet Cookie Book. Please welcome guest contributor Kelly Holliday, who baked the 1974 Kourambiedes (Greek Butter Cookies) for the year of her birth. Fittingly, you can find the recipe on page 74 of the cookbook. If you’re just joining us for the series, get the lay of the land here. And don’t forget, you can enter up to six times for a chance to win a copy of the book, by leaving a comment on each of the five days’ posts and by joining the Umami Girl facebook page between now and December 31, 2010. Find Day 1 here, Day 2 here and Day 3 here. And now, without further ado, take it away, Kelly!
The new Gourmet Cookie Book has a sweet conceit: showcase one cookie for each year of the magazine’s publication and arrange the recipes chronologically. When my copy of the book arrived, I was first arrested by its striking images, with geometric arrangements of scores of perfectly baked cookies. After oohing and ahhing at the beautiful photos, I turned immediately to the page celebrating the year of my birth, 1974. A white and golden bowtie shape of sugar-dusted snowball cookies greeted me: the kourambiedes, or Greek butter cookie.
The narcissism that led me to turn first to my birth year also caused me to reflect on what I found there: Is this cookie representative of me, or of my mother? Does it reflect the person just starting out in life, or the person in the full swing of her life, embarking on the adventure of motherhood? Upon first glance, it was clear that this cookie was about me. It is a butter cookie, simple and understated. My mother, on the other hand, likes a lot more flamboyant spice in her life. This plain white ball of butter and flour would never fit in to my mother’s culinary repertoire. “Where is the pizzazz?” she would ask. (This clear difference in aesthetics almost resulted in fisticuffs the day we shopped together for my wedding gown.)
Maybe these cookies are more representative of my mother than I first thought. I guess the truth is that if any of us were lucky enough to have spent time baking with our mothers, we know that those techniques, skills, tips, and tricks she instilled in us will ensure that every cookie we ever bake is a representation of her.
After tasting the cookie, however, I changed my tune again. While delightful in texture, the cookie was sorely lacking in flavor. Where was the almond, clove, or orange? I tasted only slightly sweetened flour and butter. I even went back and read, and reread, the ingredients to ensure that I didn’t miss anything or skimp on the aromatics—to no avail. With this result, I can only say that I hope this cookie represents neither my mother nor me. Although, after the wedding dress incident, I fear my mother might attribute it to my boring tastes.
As I conclude this project, I can’t help but take a peek at the cookie from the year of my daughter’s birth, the 2009 Grand Marnier-Glazed Pain d’Épice Cookies. The name alone makes clear that this cookie does not fit my understated aesthetic. Not to mention the page-long list of ingredients, which includes freshly ground allspice, candied orange peel, and gold luster dust…gold luster dust! All I can say is, wish us luck when the time comes to find her wedding gown!