Cookie baking has never been more fun than it was this weekend. Our 10 year old nephew Gino came down from North Jersey to spend the night with us and learn how to bake some of the traditional family cookies. There is absolutely no better way to get into the holiday spirit than to spend it baking with an enthusiastic kid!

From the onset, Gino approached this seriously. He definitely wanted to learn how to make them. But he also approached it in fun. Cookie baking is never supposed to be a chore. If you can’t have fun doing it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

We had quite a list of cookies we wanted to get made, and started in as soon as he arrived. The first thing we made was the dough for Aunt Emma’s Apricot Cookie. It really should refrigerate overnight, so we wanted it in the ‘fridge fast.

Next up was Nonna’s sugar-free batch of biscotti. We guided him along, but this was Gino’s baby from start to finish. He did all the measuring, mixing, forming, baking, slicing, second baking… The whole shebang. they came out great. Nonna said they were the best ever – and when it comes to her cookies, she never lies!

Next were Uncle Rudy’s Biscotti. These are the traditional anise cookies. We take the same basic recipe and make several variations. This year it was Orange and Apricot Macadamia. Both dipped in chocolate.

Then we started on the thumbprints. We made the Vanilla Almond dough and a variation of hazelnut and chocolate. (Changed the nut to hazelnuts and added cocoa powder). We filled them with Aunt Emma’s apricot filling, and some with blueberry and some with cherry. These are melt-in-your-mouth butter cookies, and the chocolate version this year is really rich and fudgy. We took a bit of the dough and made logs – which were then dipped in chocolate. One of the great things about the nut cookies is their versatility. One dough can make several different cookies – all unique.

Leah and Ross, Nonna and Elizabeth came over with Pizza and we took about a 30 minute break from the baking to get something other than sugar into our systems. The upside (and the downside) of cookie baking is eating cookies non-stop all day long!

Pizza cleared up, visitors gone, it was back to cookies. It was time to roll out and fill Aunt Emma’s. Gino and I took turns rolling the dough paper thin, and then it was cutting, filling, folding, crimping and froming. It’s quite an ordeal for such a small cookie, but tradition is tradition – and they are worth every minute spent making them!

By 8:30pm we had the last of the cookies in the bins and were ready to put our feet up. We had been at it for hours and the cookie bins are looking great. We aren’t making as many as we have in the past, but this year what we lack in quantity, we’ve definitely made up for in quality.

Thanks, Gino!