Lately I’ve been brooding on participation in traditions. These days, making Christmas happen is my job.
Having my own Christmas tree has until now been one of those things where you think about it for so long that the time passes you by. On the one hand, decorating the Christmas tree is a big deal in my family. It goes up on the last weekend of November and everyone goes home to help decorate it. My mother makes a family party out of it, with eggnog and small plates. But on the other hand, I just didn’t know. There have been so many excuses: no money; we won’t be home on Christmas morning anyways; the dog might chew it; we don’t have any ornaments; etc. And so until now, Michael and I have always settled on a pine wreath for our little transient apartments, preferably with a tacky red Christmas bow on it, to hang in the hallway.
This is the first year that I have put up my own Christmas tree. It’s real and I lugged it home myself and that felt awesome. I’m no longer just looking back on how I used to do that with my parents, but rather actually doing it myself.
The situation wasn’t idyllic. I did buy it, lug it home, and decorate it by myself. I wanted to surprise Michael after I had been away for a week. A touch of Christmas felt right. Next year we’ll do it together. And then maybe the year after that we’ll throw in some eggnog and small plates.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Sweet Pretzel Butter Cookies
*recipe adapted from Saveur
7 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 egg, plus 2 yolks
2 cups flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
⅛ tsp. kosher salt
zest of 1 lemon
white sanding sugar, for garnish
water, as necessary
Place butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment; beat until fluffy. Beat in vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Add egg and 1 yolk; mix until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add dry ingredients; beat until a smooth, stiff dough forms. If the dough is too dry, drizzle in water by the spoonful until it comes together.
Form dough into an 8” long tube, about 1¾” thick; wrap dough in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Heat oven to 350°. Unwrap dough; cut dough crosswise into twelve ½” pieces. Working with one piece dough at a time, roll dough into a 9” rope, about ½” thick. Transfer rope to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and keeping the centre of the rope on the paper, pick up both ends, cross one end over the other, and twist; attach each end to the sides of the pretzel.
Whisk remaining yolk with ½ tsp. water in a bowl; lightly brush cookies and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake cookies until golden, 12 minutes. Let cookies cool completely before serving. Makes about 1 dozen cookies.