Holiday Baking: Thumbprint Cookies, Dream Bars, Bourbon Balls, Double-Chocolate Biscotti and Ladies' Thighs?

Visions of Sugarplums by Mimi Sheraton ©1968, 1981

Although Farmer Bob is the head cook in our kitchen, I like to bake cookies, especially at Christmas. It doesn't happen every year, but whenever the Christmas Cookie Monster attacks, I embrace the sweet mood. Maybe it was the early snow that prompted me to haul out my holiday cookbooks and ingredient-spattered recipe cards. Or that this is the first Christmas without my Mom, who always enjoyed the plate of cookies I sent home with her after Christmas Eve dinner.

Whatever the reason, I've already put two batches in the freezer: Thumbprint Cookies and Dream Bars. Next up on the list are Bourbon Balls and a recipe for Double-Chocolate Biscotti that sounded so yummy, I'm making them instead of Mary See's Fudge. 

Several holidays ago, Farmer Bob jumped into the Christmas baking, contributing a cookie with a somewhat unusual and exotic name, Ladies' Thighs. I ran across the recipe in Visions of Sugarplums, which author Mimi Sheraton describes this way: 
Ladies Thighs (Switzerland and Alsace): Called Schenkele (Shanks) in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and in Alsace, and Cuisses des Dames (Ladies' Thighs) in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, these deep-fried cookies keep for months and are excellent with wine, coffee or frozen desserts. 
Not only did Farmer Bob have fun making them, they'r totally tasty, so they're back on the baking list this year. Ladies Thighs are the perfect ending to a holiday meal and also yummy for breakfast with my morning cappuccino!
Farmer Bob's Ladies' Thighs

Ladies' Thighs

1/2 cup (1/4 pound) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp almond extract 
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp kirsch
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or blanched almonds
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 - 4 1/2 cups flour, as needed
Vegetable shortening or oil, for deep frying 
Confectioners' sugar (optional)

Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in almond and vanilla extracts, kirsch, lemon rind, nuts, baking powder and salt and beat thoroughly. Gradually sift in flour, beating between additions, until batter is too thick to stir. 

Turn out of bowl and knead in as much additional flour as necessary to make a dough that is smooth but pliable. Pinch off pieces of dough, each about the size of a small walnut. Roll, between floured hands, to a cigar (or shank) shape, about 3 inches long and 1/2 inch at the widest point in the middle -- tapering down toward both ends. Place on a platter or board covered with floured waxed paper. Set uncovered in a cool place (not the refrigerator) overnight. Fry a few at a time in deep fat heated to 365 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel. 

When all are fried and cooled, store in covered tin box in which you have pinched a few holes. The flavor of these cookies improves enormously after 24 hours and many people swear they are better yet after a week, if they are not all eaten long before then. They may be sprinkled with confectioners' sugar just before serving. 

Makes about 6-7 dozen cookies

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