Baking for comfort, baking for memories: Why these cranberry cookies remind me of my mom

Can you smell the cookies? Yes, it’s happening: I’m baking! It’s 86 degrees in here, very humid, and the air conditioning is on. The noise of the hood is cutting through the heat, yet – thankfully! – the little one is sound asleep on the silky brown carpet. I’m baking not because I’ve been craving cookies, nor because I enjoy sweating next to the hot oven, but because I need to feel that, somehow, my mom is  still with me.

My mom went back to Europe last month, and we did several rounds of baking just before she left. We looked through her old recipe notebook – a bunch of butter-smeared and cocoa-dusted pages barely hanging in there – and found culinary gems we had long forgotten. We shared memories about the loved ones who are no longer with us, and my mom’s eyes often grew sad as her mind revisited the past. We spoke, baked and remembered, and traveling through time provided comfort and a bitter-sweet, almondy sense of happiness. Isn’t this what baking is all about? That’s what I think, anyway 🙂

This is one of the recipes we revisited before my mom left for Europe. If I were to describe it in a few words, I’d say it’s “old school with a twist.” Old school because it is straightforward and economical, uses few ingredients, and overlooks the spices – which is exactly how baking used to be in my home country before the fall of communism. The twist comes from the inclusion of dried cranberries, which cut through the buttery richness of the dough to bring a touch of tartness. Back in the day, the go-to option was raisins, not cranberries. However, raisins were very difficult to find in stock at the grocery store, and my mom would often cut off the raisins from the ingredients’ list, and just use more flour to thicken the dough.

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar + extra for decoration

1/2 cup ground walnuts

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 sticks unsalted butter

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Preheat the oven to 350F.

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix with a blender at low speed until well combined. For a more traditional approach, use your hands 🙂

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I made small rounded cookies out of the dough, but you can use cookie cutters if you wish.

Place the cookies in a baking pan lined with parchment paper, leaving approximately 1in distance in-between the cookies.

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Bake the cookies for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Take the cookies out of the oven and let them cool. Once cool, you can arrange them on a serving plate.

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Serve the cookies with powdered sugar sprinkled on top.

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Hmmm, that’s one seriously good-looking batch of cookies!

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These cookies get moister and more flavorful as the days go by. I usually store them in a plastic container on the counter, and take a few to work to share with friends. As the buttery cookie melts in my mouth and the sour cranberries deliver the finishing texture touches, I start to plan my next baking adventure – and I continuously think of my mom, and how much she means to me.


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