The only part of Christmas that really gets to me is making cookies. I find the rest of it easy enough. Cards I write out in front of the TV. The tree is fun to put up (okay, I have a Martha Stewart like obsession with hanging the tinsel just so, but that’s just my own neuroses at work). I hate shopping, but usually once you get away from the mall, the insanity fades away. No, it’s the cookies.
I blame my late grandmother for that. Grandma made fantastic Christmas cookies. Every year she’d produce multiple types of cookies. My mom is an excellent cook. She excels at dishes that need to cook for a long period of time. Cookies? Not so much. Inevitably, it got to be too much for my grandmother to bake. I wanted to keep up the tradition. Reader, I volunteered.
As my former middle-school science teacher once instructed the boys in our class, never volunteer. He also advised them to screw up dinner if ever asked to help with that. “Mess it up,” he said, “and you’ll never be asked to help out in the kitchen again.” But I digress.
I volunteered and surprise, surprise, I was successful at it. So successful that every Christmas whenever I try to scale back on the holiday baking, I get “Oh, you’re going to make the Mexican Wedding Cakes, aren’t you? I love those.” Or, “Your uncle loves those chocolate spice cookies” and “Rum balls, make rum balls.”
The problem with all of these damn cookies is that most of them are multi-step. Or they require me to encase my fingers in dough to form them. I never do the ingredient shopping correctly. Invariably I have to make emergency trips to the store for things like ground clove, but still end up with extra bags of confectioners’ sugar and baking chocolate. Every bowl, measuring cup, and cookie sheet have to be cleaned over and over again. Don’t even get me started on the kitchen floor or my aching back.
Anyhow, the rum balls are done. They’re the easiest of any of the cookies I make and they are yummy. Here’s the recipe. I got it from my mom, but it no doubt originated elsewhere.
1 cup vanilla wafer crumbs
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
1 1/2 tbsp white corn syrup
1/4 cup *rum
Mix cookie crumbs, nuts, sugar, and cocoa. Add corn syrup and rum and stir until combined. Using your hands, shape into small balls. Roll cookies in additional confectioners’ sugar. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes 2 dozen.
These can be made a week ahead of time.
*Can substitute bourbon in a pinch.