by Jordan Danz
The holidays are all about tradition. Some traditions date back many generations, some we begin as new people come into our lives, and some develop out of convenience or compromise. Whatever traditions you have, one thing is certain — at the holidays, we want to be with the people we love the most. That can mean traveling across the country, staying home with your significant other or switching where you celebrate each year.
Growing up, my favorite tradition of the holiday season was spending the night at my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve. We celebrated with the whole extended family the next morning, but I would always stay over with them on Christmas Eve. I would help lay out presents and help my grandma bake her world famous crescent cookies. We looked forward to these cookies all year. A riff on a shortbread cookie, covered in powdered sugar and shaped like a crescent moon, those crescent cookies were the greatest treat on earth to my siblings, my cousins and me. Grandma would make the dough and I would help her shape them into crescents. Once they were baked, it was my job to put them in a bag with powdered sugar to coat them. She also let me eat a few, just to make sure they were all right to serve the next day.
Now that we are all older (don’t tell them I said that), the tradition has changed. I no longer live in the same city and cannot make it home for every Christmas. My Grandma also doesn’t make the cookies anymore. Her daughter, my aunt, has taken on that role so we are not without them for the holidays. I thought as a way to honor these important memories, I would share the recipe for the cookies. Maybe they can become a tradition for someone else. Plus they are absolutely delicious!
Betty Meltzer’s Famous Crescent Cookies
1 cup butter (room temperature)
½ cup powdered sugar (plus extra to toss cookies in)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sifted flour
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream the butter. Add the powdered sugar and mix. While mixing, add the salt and vanilla. Add one-fourth of the flour at a time, mixing until the flour is incorporated. Form into crescent shapes and put them on a sheet pan to bake for 12 minutes. They do not spread out much so you can pack them fairly close.
Once the cookies are out of the oven, and while still hot, shake a few at a time gently in a bag with powdered sugar.
To go with the cookies, I like to serve a warm holiday beverage:
Maple Honey Mulled Cider
1 gallon apple cider
½ cup real maple syrup
¼ cup honey
3 cinnamon sticks
10–15 slices of fresh ginger
In a large pot or slow cooker add the cider, maple syrup, honey, cinnamon sticks, cloves and ginger. Remove the peel from the orange and lemon, avoiding as much of the white pith as possible. Cut lemon and orange in half. Add peels and halved lemon and orange to the pot. Heat over low to medium-low heat and let warm for at least an hour before serving.
Optional Adult Beverage: Add 1.5 oz. of your favorite bourbon or spiced rum for a delicious holiday cocktail (that’s how Betty Meltzer would do it).
Jordan is a home cook based in Minneapolis. He enjoys cooking, eating and spending time at his local food co-ops and farmers’ markets finding new flavors and ingredients to experiment with. His passion for fresh local ingredients inspires his belief that food has the power to bring people together.