When I was younger, holiday time meant snow days, snow forts, an obscenely long break from school, maybe a family vacation somewhere and eight great night of Hanukkah. Light the candles, break out the dreidel, and make the all important decision that will have future implications for days to come... open all of your presents on the first night in a wrapping paper shredding, starry eyed haze with visions on latkes dancing in your head, or show some willpower and open one on each night. Let me tell you, the willpower of an average eight year old is similar to their attention span... short and fleeting.
As I got older, the holidays meant the ending of another semester, cramming for finals, celebrating being done with finals, then packing up the car and heading home. Mom's cooking and being able to unabashedly veg to my heart's content were palpable luxuries that college did not allow for. Getting back in touch with hometown friends and reminiscing about old times and new adventures was a given. The Hanukkah candles were still lit, but it was less about the presents and more about spending quality time with family, including but never limited to standby Jewish holiday traditions of skiing, movies or chinese food on Christmas day.
There has been a constant through the years that I have sought out, searched for and looked forward to each year. They hold great significance and have grown to be something I looked forward to and loved. Sadly, that constant is no longer with us this holiday season.
Is it a certain person, tradition or event that makes the holidays?
A recipe, dish or meal that ensures a blessed holiday season?
Nope, none of the above.
Its a cookie.
Perhaps the buildup was a tad dramatic, but all aforementioned statements are true. I've loved these cookies for as long as I can remember, and sadly, are no longer commercially available. Archway's Holiday Nougat Cookies, in their trademark red packaging, have been unceremoniously absent for the past two holiday seasons. Last year, I cast an inquisitive gaze at the supermarket end-caps and displays, thinking perhaps I'd just missed them. This year, I'd nearly forgotten about them until last week, and began my pursuit. After going 0 for 3 at the local markets, an investigation was needed. Turns out Archway has been a victim of the economic downturn, their less than profitable cookie crumbling into Chapter 11. Thankfully, this recipe provided the holiday constant that I'd missed for the past two years.
Archway Holiday Nougat Cookies
1 cup butter, unsalted
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups finely chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans or cashews)
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Sift flour and salt, and add to butter mixture until mixed. Add nuts and mix well. Shape into 1 inch balls and place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for minutes, making sure cookies do not brown. Cool cookies and roll gently in confectioner’s sugar.
The trick with these guys to replicate the buttery, crumbly, melt in your mouth texture is cooking them through without them browning. They are fairly spot on for flavor and consistency, and have saved another holiday tradition. Happy Holidays to you and yours!