KERRY HUBARTT: Sugar cookies are a staple of Christmas celebrations

Kerry Hubartt

Kerry Hubartt

One of my fondest memories of the Christmas season (that I hope is never ONLY a memory) is of Christmas cookies.

The earliest I remember is sugar cookies — cut in the shapes of bells and Christmas stockings and snowmen and Santa Clauses and sprinkled with colored sugars. Those were the holiday features of my mom’s and grandma’s kitchens. And I enjoyed both watching and helping them make cookies when possible. And eating cookie dough, too. Wow, what a treat!

Sugar cookies are a staple of Christmas celebrations, sprinkled or frosted. There are so many different recipes. But the best ones to me are soft and melt in your mouth. I just had my first Russian tea cake of the season this week and my first bourbon ball and gingerbread man cookie, thanks to my daughter Emily. Very tasty. Spritz, raspberry bars, jam thumbprints, Hershey kiss cookies, toffee bars — those are some I remember most and that my wife Beth and others have baked through the years from recipes handed down through both her family and mine.

I have low resistance to Christmas cookies. I can’t be satisfied with just one. I will agree, however, that overindulgence or long-term indulgence of cookies might have health consequences.

In an article on weightandwellness.com, Leah Kleinschrodt, a nutritional weight and wellness dietician, says some Christmas cookie ingredients stand out to her as immediate warnings, such as artificial colors (synthetic dyes have been linked to allergic reactions, exacerbating asthma and behavioral problems in children, she says); margarine or Crisco, she says “are harmful trans fats that we don’t want anywhere near our cells and brains”; and, of course, there is the sugar. Christmas cookies are all about sugar, and it’s not just the sugar you add to the recipe, but the frosting or jam or even the flour used can all add to the total number of grams of sugar per cookie. And how about the sugar sprinkles?

And that leads to another caution to consider. The Food and Drug Administration has been warning consumers for years that silver-covered decorative sprinkles are not approved as an edible food item. “Silver dragées” have, reports the Los Angeles Times, “been on the FDA’s naughty list since 1906, when silver was banned as a food additive. In the 1970s, the culinary world caught on to the use of silver to decorate food and began coating sprinkles in a very thin layer.”

Even so, silver-colored decorative sprinkles are sold in 49 states, prohibited only in California, which banned the sprinkles in 2003 following a lawsuit that showed they were harmful if ingested. I remember eating silver sprinkles long, long ago. So, OK, I’ll avoid them if I see them in the future. And I also understand my wife’s concern for my overall health and weight (as well as her own), so I can see why she doesn’t bake as much as she did in the early years of our marriage.

But it’s Christmas, after all! I’ll try to use some amount of discretion. But the holidays just wouldn’t be the same without those great cookies.

Kerry Hubartt is the former editor of The News-Sentinel.

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