Family & Friends · Food & Drink

The Warmth of the Season

This holiday season, we asked our writers to share with us ideas around “The New Christmas” — how they are reinventing the holiday season in new ways, in personal or public rituals, with new traditions or with a return to long lost ones, with broader definitions of family and community. We asked them to share with us how they are moving away from the “consumerism” culture of the season, what “shifts” are happening in the ways they celebrate the season, and how they are engaging their friends and family in these new traditions. — Eds.


7115018647_4ba28220fc_zDried Cranberry/ White Chocolate Biscotti. Photo by etringita via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

When my children were young, I baked gingerbread men and women cookies to decorate the Christmas tree.  The youngsters iced them and I threaded a ribbon through the top, and together we all decorated the tree. This tradition came to a rapid halt the Saturday we returned from an afternoon at the movies to discover that Pinkerton, our Bloodhound, had helped herself to the cookies. The tree was upended on the floor; prized decorations were in ruins. The dog, bloated and guilty-looking, moaned her discomfort. There was not a cookie in sight. Knowing we couldn’t protect the tree from Pinkerton, we quit making the gingerbread cookies until she passed on. By then the kids were off on their own, busy with college and their own families. And so the cooking-decorating tradition also passed away.

Today, in an effort to avoid the mass consumerism that has overtaken the holiday, I still bake, only now it’s biscotti for friends. While this twice-baked delight is a great deal of work, the smells that permeate the house let us know that the holiday is near. Paired with a special bag of coffee, which I purchase on sale, the biscotti make a special gift for the postal person, the propane-delivery man, and the secretaries at the college where I teach.

While I make chocolate biscotti as well as hazelnut biscotti, by far, the consensus for the favorite is the cranberry/white chocolate. For those avoiding chocolate, these taste as good without the extra sweets. (My husband stands around in anticipation, hoping I burn a batch, as that leaves more for him.)

I have no idea how many batches I make; I start early in December. Baking when it’s raining or snowing adds a certain dimension to the festivities: we’re inside with good smells. The warmth of the woodstove, the cats jockeying for a position before it, the cookies baking in the oven, Christmas music playing on the stereo, who could ask for more? (As someone who breaks out in hives at the mention of a ‘mall,’ this to me, is a perfect entre to the season: no crowds, and no presents purchased that will be forgotten come February.)

One year, we vowed to exchange only handmade gifts, which proved far more problematic than it sounds.  My first try at crocheting, I made the world’s first baby blanket in the shape of a parallelogram. (The good news was the baby didn’t care.) I also crocheted Christmas stockings for each grandchild, and even if they’re a bit lopsided, the kids still love them as they are huge and hold a lot of goodies, biscotti included.

Back to the cookies: These biscotti freeze well, so after cooking and cooling and freezing, it’s just a matter of removing them from their airtight containers, bagging them up, and delivering them when the time comes.

In my hope that readers start their own holiday traditions to spare them from the rampant consumerism that attends the season, I am sharing my recipe for my cranberry and white chocolate biscotti (inspired by an old recipe I found in Bon Appetit magazine by Andrea M. Daly from Plymouth, Mass).  Your children and grandchildren will long recall your efforts to create a ‘home-made holiday’ long after the batteries fade on their latest toy.


Recipe for Dried Cranberry/ White Chocolate Biscotti

2 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 ½ cups sugar

½ cup butter, room temperature

2 eggs

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ cups dried cranberries

6 oz. of white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Spray large baking sheets with baking spray.  Using a mixer, blend the butter, eggs, vanilla, sugar until well-mixed.  Add the baking powder and flour a half cup at a time.  Blend well.  Add the cranberries.  Add the white chocolate chips to the batter.

Divide the dough into four parts.  Shape the pieces into long, 2 inch wide pieces. (These will spread during the first baking so leave room so they can spread.)  Cook about 35 minutes, but watch them so they don’t burn on the bottom.

Remove from oven and cool. Using a sharp knife, cut the biscotti on an angle.  Arrange the slices, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Return to oven and bake 5 minutes, watching them so they don’t burn.  Turn to other side and bake as well until brown.



Start the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.