Around the time of five holidays each year, I crave my Grandma Helen’s sugar cookies so much that I can actually taste them. Those five times of the year are Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter and my favorite: Halloween.
Around each of those holidays, Grandma would spend a day mixing, rolling, baking and perfectly frosting silhouettes of the seasons. At Thanksgiving there were turkeys, Christmas had Santas and bells, Easter had cute pink bunnies with white cottontails and my favorite: Halloween had plump orange pumpkins with green stems.
As a way to use all of the cookie dough efficiently, Grandma cut out and baked what she called “dots.” They were little bite-sized cookies cut using the middle of a donut cutter.
We loved the dots. Grandma hated them.
The dots were just a whole lot of extra work. Grandma occasionally complained about those tiny little things, but then she saw the look of joy on the faces of those who enjoyed the dots so much.
Just before Halloween, those yummy cookies popped into my head and I couldn’t get them to leave. I had all of the ingredients, including a big slab of butter.
So I looked through the cookie cutters. There was Santa, a bell, a Christmas tree and a lone bunny. I don’t remember investing in Halloween or Thanksgiving cutters, but I was shocked that I didn’t have any in my stash. I checked a few stores that I thought certainly would have Halloween cookie cutters. No, no and no.
I drove the few blocks to a local cake and candy store and as I walked in, I became overwhelmed. After looking around at a variety of dies, molds and cupcake wrappers, I found the Halloween isle. I picked through some cute cookie cutters and there, on the top shelf, was the best treat of all: a Wilton cookie cutter set for $10.49, which included 18 shapes. Yes, 18. Grandma never would have gone for those, but I did.
As I was about to walk away I saw that Wilton also had a miniature version of the set with 12 mini cookie cutters. For only five dollars more, I could transform the “dots” into witches’ hats, ghosts and baby pumpkins. Sold. Grandma never would have gone for those either.
I got home and got to work. The dough mixed together fast and it went into the fridge to chill for an hour. In the meantime I whipped up some of Grandma’s famous powdered sugar frosting in purple, orange, white and black. I figured if one teaspoon of white vanilla was good, then three would be even better. I operated the same with the butter. And then I waited the last quarter of an hour for the dough to chill.
Soon the baking sheet was covered in ghosts, brooms, pumpkins, bats and mini versions of each. I could hardly wait for them to cool before frosting them. I tried the long, skinny bat first and plopped a large blob of black frosting right on top. Yikes. That didn’t look good, those bats were tough to frost – and so were all of the mini cookies. The knife seemed too big and I didn’t feel coordinated enough to make them look just like Grandma’s creations.
Once I got to the second half of the never-ending naked cookies, I got better at clothing them in frosting. I stepped into a rhythm and a devised a game plan. “Never making bats again, never making witches’ hats again.” I understood why Grandma made the shapes she did and why she hated the dots.
In the middle of the cookie project, my friend Lisa stopped by to fill up a plate. She looked over my shoulder as I was frosting one and gasped with excitement, “Oh, is that a mustache cookie?!”
“No,” I said. “It’s a bat.”
Never making bats again.
I watched the joy on Lisa’s face as she admired all of the miniature cookies and listened to the approval in her voice after she vaporized the bite-sized ghost.
That’s why Grandma made the dots.
Once I got some practice with frosting the cookies, it became much easier and I actually caught myself giggling at how cute they turned out to be.
Later that night, Lisa sent me a text message to inform me that her plate of cookies was gone and that the “mustache bats were delicious.”
I know Grandma never would have made mustache bats, but I think she would approve of my creations with a little laugh and a shake of her head.
Maybe the bats will fly again next Halloween.