Friday Favorites: {Guest Post by Elaine}

Friday, December 14, 2012

Elaine is a competitive cupcake-baking school librarian who enjoys foreign films and world music. Her gorgeous confections can be seen here

I grew up with stories about my Nana’s cookie trays.  Apparently, they were renowned. Epic in fact. They began weeks in advance and filled shirt box after shirt box with pounds of cookies, pastries, and something called “sludge” (possibly fudge), which apparently had so many fat-laden ingredients, it probably turned to sludge in your arteries. In addition to Nana’s cookies, our family tradition always included baked goods from Villa Italia Bakery, located in Schenectady, NY.

In my family, I am the person to pass on the holiday cookie tradition. On my sixteenth birthday, I received my first pizzelle iron. The pizzelle iron by Villa Ware was the one my Nana used.  It must be the polished metal plate (NOT NON-STICK) to produce light and crisp cookies almost every time.  Both our irons have been well-seasoned over many Christmases.  (Finding my iron online was difficult, but a simple search for "pizzelle iron" will give you a good selection to choose from.)

Today, cookie platters and other food gifts are still popular, and a very personalized gift that shows love. Not many things these days require so much of our time as preparing homemade food gifts. It’s a chance to share our heritage and ourselves with those that mean the most to us. When putting together a cookie tray there are two things to consider: selection and presentation

For cookie selection, variety is best. This is also a chance to show off your favorite and most loved cookies! Try including cookies or treats that feature chocolate, fruit, nuts, mint or peppermint, sugar, butter, gingerbread, coconut, decorations, drop, no-bake, and meringues (for your gluten-free friends).

For presentation try using boxes, bags, plates, tins, buckets, baskets, jars, etc., even wreaths and cookie towers make unique and memorable cookie displays and gifts. And don’t forget the cake ruffle (it even comes in different colors). You can find many packing selections at craft stores, like Micheal’s, local bakery supply shops, and online.

You may also decide to choose a theme for your cookie plate. This year my cookie tray (which is virtual right now, since I had an unfortunate accident with my KitchenAid attachments this week), is developing a nice French-Italian theme.  It includes: traditional anise pizzelles, Italian fig cookies, nougat candy, or torrone (both French and Italian varieties). In addition, I am going to experiment with the pizzelles and try a orange-pistachio pizzelle, inspired by the mustard I picked up while visiting Paris earlier this year. The macaroon will also be making an appearance on my platter, because well, everybody loves them. And I’ve been working hard on perfecting the recipe—including taking a macaroon pastry class at La Cuisine Paris and hand-carrying baking ingredients home with me.  Given my choice though, I would roll everything in pistachios. Hopefully 
you'll take this holiday season to experiment with something new! 

Click here for festive cookie recipes. 


  1. Elaine, this is great! I wish I had a great family food tradition. We have a few recipes passed down of course, but both of my grandmothers were sort of notorious for their lack of culinary skills! Our traditions are more cultural and ethnic (great Norwegian, German and even British foods) rather than familial. You've definitely got the skills to make this work :)


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