18 December 2010

Weekend Cooking: Cookies and Holiday Memories

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


Today's Weekend Cooking post is an adventure in sharing--of friendship, blogging events, childhood memories, and holiday spirit.

Until I was nine years old, my family lived in one of those typical 1950s neighborhoods in which everyone knew everyone, all the kids played together after school, all the parents helped each other out, and we even had block parties. One great tradition was that every mom baked holiday cookies and shared them with all the other families on the street.

My mom and our next-door neighbor would always choose the same Saturday night to bake. Mrs. T was a widow and a grandmother, and her house was the one that the kids would run away from home to when they got in trouble. She would invite you into her kitchen, give you milk and cookies, listen to your troubles, and send you home in time for dinner.

Anyway, on baking night, my mom would send us to bed early and she would stay up all night baking apricot balls, rum balls, cream puffs, pinwheel cookies, chocolate mint cookies, and thumbprint cookies. There'd be about 3 dozen of each kind. My dad, who is not a kitchen kind of guy, would stay up with her, helping out and keeping her company.

From our beds, we could hear them talking softly and smell the wonderful scents of baking cookies and perking coffee. Throughout the night, my mom and Mrs. T would take breaks in each other's kitchens and at dawn they'd sit down to share a last cup of coffee and help make up the cookie plates they'd take around the neighborhood later that afternoon.

When we woke up in the morning, the entire dining room table would would be covered with the cookies ready for delivery. And just that one time, my mom would let us eat cookies for breakfast.

For more Virtual Advent Tour posts, please visit the dedicated blog. Thanks to Marg and Kailana for hosting this wonderful annual event.

Here is the recipe for the apricot balls. I remember these as one my favorites of my mom's cookies, but I haven't eaten them or made them years. I baked them last night, and I can tell you they are very rich and very sweet, but we still ate several with our after-dinner coffee.

The lighting in my kitchen is not great, and I didn't like the way the photos came out. If it's sunny today and I remember, I'll take some outdoor pictures and post one (but no promises). For more Cookie Swap! recipes, please visit Dawn at She Is Too Fond of Books.

Apricot Balls
Makes about 80 cookies
  • 1.5 pounds apricots, ground (yes, dried apricots)
  • 1.5 pounds shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease your baking sheets (or line with a silicone mat).

I used the grinding attachment on my mixer, but you could use a hand grinder or your food processor. Anyway, mix the apricots, coconut, and sugar together in a large bowl. The best way to do this is with your hands. Break up the clumps of fruit and mix well.

Add the vanilla and condensed milk and mix well. (again with your hands -- yes it's sticky).

Form the mixture into one-inch balls and place about 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheets. You might want to rinse your hands under cold water every so often -- it helps with the stickiness. Believe me, you don't want big cookies, they should be one-bite size. The balls don't spread when they bake, so they can be fairly close together on the sheets. Bake about 5 minutes just until slightly dried and the coconut barely takes on a bit of color. Do not overbake, the bottoms will burn long before the tops look brown.

Let cool for a couple of minutes in the pan and carefully transfer to a wire rack. The cookies firm up as they cool. Enjoy! Note that I cut the recipe in half last night. They are good, but sweet!

For more Weekend Cooking posts, be sure to visit the linked up posts below.


bermudaonion 12/18/10, 7:20 AM  

It sounds like you got your cooking talent from your mom!

Meghan 12/18/10, 7:30 AM  

What lovely memories! My family never did any sort of cookie swap - my mom hates baking - but I love baking up little lovely stacks, wrapping them up, and giving them to people I care about.

Beth 12/18/10, 8:24 AM  

What a lovely memory! My mom was never much of a baker, but I remember going to the neighbor's house after school to try to get cookies from her!

Mary (Bookfan) 12/18/10, 8:28 AM  

Thank you so much for sharing this memory. It just makes me so nostalgic for similar times in my childhood. Seeing the sweetened condensed milk made me smile. There were a few recipes with that ingredient in my mom's repertoire!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 12/18/10, 8:39 AM  

What a fantastic memory Mrs. T sounds like a delight, the house you could run away to :)

Did you tell you mother you were digging up the apricot recipe from the archives? They're dried apricots, right? I could use the 'chop' option on the food processor?

Beth F 12/18/10, 8:46 AM  

Yes, dried apricots -- I just edited the recipe. I don't see why the food processor wouldn't work.

I did tell my mom, and she commented on how much fun it was to bake back then. Neither of us had made apricot balls in *mumble* years.

Julie P. 12/18/10, 9:21 AM  

I've never tried an apricot ball. They sound yummy!

Kathleen 12/18/10, 10:19 AM  

Wow you managed to get three different link ups in one post. Those Apricot balls sounds pretty good, but I don't think I'd make 80!

caite 12/18/10, 10:21 AM  

gosh, I actually have all the ingredients for those. And I would love to use up the dried apricots I have left from my Christmas Cake, the coconut in the freezer..
as soon as I get my tree finished.

Margot 12/18/10, 10:30 AM  

That was a wonderful holiday memory. I wish every child could grow up in a neighborhood and family like yours. What a great heritage you have. No wonder you're a foodie. The Apricot Balls look delicious and unique.

Beth F 12/18/10, 10:49 AM  

Margot, when I was talking to mother yesterday about this post, we both commented on how lucky we were to live in that neighborhood. When we moved, it was just a mile or so away and in the same village & school district, but it was a different neighborhood and times had changed -- we moved the spring after JFK was shot.

Vasilly 12/18/10, 12:01 PM  

What a great memory. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Anonymous,  12/18/10, 12:56 PM  

What a wonderful and yummy memory. You know, I just made my first thumbprint cookie this year. I don't know what I was waiting for because they are delicious.

Anonymous,  12/18/10, 1:00 PM  

My favorite was always the Mexican Wedding Cakes. Or Russian Tea Cakes. Or whatever they're called...they're yummy by any name!

Michelle 12/18/10, 1:08 PM  

I'm gaining so much weight with all these awesome cookie posts popping up!

Heather 12/18/10, 1:21 PM  

what a wonderful memory. Those balls sound tasty. I' will note them down, though I don't know If I'll get to make them as it might be too late to find coconut in the store. The one I was at yesterday was all sold out.

Chrisbookarama 12/18/10, 1:21 PM  

Wow, a whole night of baking! That's ambitious. Very nice memory.

Ana S. 12/18/10, 4:33 PM  

What a lovely memory! Also, I wish I'd had a Mrs T in my life.

The Apricot Balls sound delicious except for the coconut. I wonder if they'd work without it?

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 12/18/10, 9:09 PM  

The Christmas cookies bring back nice memories. My mom loved to bake her cookies... and we loved to eat them.

nat @book, line, and sinker 12/18/10, 9:45 PM  

such a sweet story! i never did much baking before this year but my little sister coerced me into a weekend baking extravaganza. i can't say no to her--she's feeling great and loves christmas.

hope you have a great holiday and nice weekend. :)

Marg 12/19/10, 4:24 AM  

I can't remember my mother ever baking cookies. Reading your post it seems that I have missed out! I would say I would try to do something similar but I like my sleep far too much!

Thank you for participating in the Virtual Advent tour this year!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 12/19/10, 8:28 AM  

Sadly, my mom has decided this year that she no longer has the strength to bake her traditional Christmas cookies. We offered to come together to bake them for her, but she did not feel she was even up to that. A sad thing.

sprite 12/19/10, 3:12 PM  

What a great memory! I love that they stayed up all night to get it done.

Beth Hoffman 12/19/10, 3:58 PM  

Wonderful post of a lovely memory! There's a short story here just waiting to be written.

Peaceful Reader 12/19/10, 9:02 PM  

Lovely post. We've always made Christmas cut-out cookies and this year I'm trying to make fudge. I've had one batch fail but I plan to try again this week.

Caroline 12/20/10, 6:28 AM  

This sounds mouthwatering. My mum used to produce charcoal like cookies, very yummy. I am joking, of course, they were horrible. She really couldn't bake. I am not much better at it...

Jenn's Bookshelves 12/20/10, 8:28 AM  

What a fantastic memory! Baking cookies was a big deal in our house, too...one that I've tried to continue but this year I've failed miserably.

Unknown 12/20/10, 3:58 PM  

What a wonderful memory! I bet it you couldn't wait to wake up and eat cookies for breakfast.

Lisa@ButteryBooks 12/20/10, 9:01 PM  

What a great post! I loved listening to my parent's muffled laughter in the den as I fell asleep in my cozy bed. I have never tasted these cookies but will have to give them a try.

Heather 12/21/10, 10:21 AM  

Yesterday i was doing some baking for a neighbour who lost her little girl to a drunk driver at the end of October. They are gluten intolerant at her house, so one of the recipes I made was this one. I had to recalculate the amount to use the 10 oz tin of milk and they turned out wonderful. This will now be one of Christmas recipes. I also made a corn flake bar topped with chocolate and a batch of Buckeyes. I'll be taking most of it over to my neighbour, but will keep some behind for my sister who also has to avoid gluten. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

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