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A Week of Cookies from The Gourmet Cookie Book, Day 4 (And Your Fourth Chance to Win a Copy)

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.)

Photograph: Kelly Holliday

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!


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  1. […] 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, […]

  2. Thank you for sharing this with us. Wish I can read more from you in the future.

  3. Kathleen

    Greek food has never let me down, and I love plain butter cookies – may have to try these!

  4. Roya

    I actually LOVE butter cookies…the simplicity of flavor, somehow very comforting.

  5. Cynthea

    So, I hate to confess this, but I have never baked w/ my mother. We’ve never coked together either (although, she IS the consummate Jewish mother who wants to feed you until you can’t move). And, um, it’s really ok. However, all of these posts make me want to cook and bake and go through the process w/ the children I don’t yet have. I really love your reflection though on the cookies reflection of us. My sister and I cook together, or really, we cook the same things in separate houses and then gush over the process together. She would LOVE the sentiment of how the food is a reflection of us and I can’t wait to tell her your thoughts about the cookies.

    I am a butter cookie. Butter and shortbread are my favorite. (So is however, a dulce de leche cookie, dipped in caramel on one end, chocolate on the other, and sprinkled w/ something crunchy and nutty. I’m a woman of extreme contrasts. I wonder what cookie could capture that?!)

  6. TC

    yeah, I made some nutmeg cookies recently, and they were not nutmeg-y enough and I thought that they were boring butter cookies. sometimes you just can’t quite guess correctly what the final flavor will be.

  7. Sara

    Now you have me intrigued to find out what cookie is the year I was born and what it means about me!!

  8. Zarpandit

    thanks for giveaway..i hope i win this ..i love cookie

  9. fatima

    maybe I’m just a huge sap, but the bit you wrote about every cookie we bake being a representation of our mother made me shed a few tears; I might even have started bawling unabashedly if I wasn’t at work right now. my mother has never been big on baking, but she has taught me a lot about cooking, so I can relate.

  10. Joan Thompson

    Enjoyed your thoughts on butter cookies. I love them but to be truthful so many cookies have such great flavor that the butter cookies pale in taste. I just happen to love all things with butter and sugar so I’m lost in any kind of cookie. Love all the comments and look foreward to reading each day.

  11. Enjoyed your post… makes me wonder what cookie they have showcased for my birthyear! :o)

  12. Anne

    Kelly – I love when you say “the truth is that if any of us were lucky enough to have spent time baking with our mothers, we know …that every cookie we ever bake is a representation of her.” When we were making our cut outs this year, I found myself saying, “Well, mom would say don’t use too much flour or the dough will get tough …make sure you roll it thin so the cookies turn out crispy.” Every cookie I bake I hear her in my head (and I think that’s a good thing, by the way)!

  13. Anu

    one can never have too many cookies 🙂 Thanks for having the giveaway.

  14. Joan Holliday

    Kelly, what a nice reflective process you encountered, while engaging the cookie making process. You were a beautiful bride, so you must have made the right dress choice for you! Do you think after the cookies “sit” for a bit, the flavors will permeate?
    Mama#2

  15. Rachel

    A fun and thought-provoking post – makes up for what may be lacking in the cookie.

  16. Riptide

    Thanks for these posts. Each one makes me want to either win or buy this cookbook.