This Christmas will go down in history as one of the strangest ever. Instead of families gathered around the tree, many will be zooming on the internet. But there's one thing that will be happening regardless, Santa Claus will be zooming himself — across the sky and down your chimney to place presents under the tree come Christmas morning. All that work will make him hungry, so he'll be looking for that one thing to satisfy that hunger and his well-know affinity for sweets — his plate of cookies.

This recipe is one I got years ago from a friend, Mary Beth Biederman, in Huntington, West Virginia. Mary Beth had a cookie swap every holiday season, and these cookies were one of my favorites. I'm not sure who brought them, but I did come home with a plate full of cookies of all shapes, colors and sizes, and one recipe only — this one for Holiday Cherry Cookies. The recipe card is a little tattered around the edges, but I've made it so often, I really don't need it.

The cookies start out as shortbread cookies but are then transformed into colorful Christmas cookies with the addition of finely chopped maraschino cherries to the dough. After baking, each cookie is dipped halfway in melted white chocolate and sprinkled with red sugar crystals. The result is cookies that look like Christmas ornaments — beautiful and yummy.

Though I haven't returned to Huntington or seen Mary Beth in more than 30 years, I can see her face when I make these cookies and treasure her friendship. Merry Christmas to you all.


Holiday Cherry Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar, divided

1 cup ice-cold butter, cubed

1/2 cup finely chopped maraschino cherries, patted dry

12 ounces white baking chocolate, finely chopped, divided

1/2-3/4 teaspoon almond extract

2 teaspoons shortening

Red sugar crystals

In a large bowl, combine flour and 1/2 cup sugar; cut in butter until crumbly. Knead in the cherries, 2/3 cup white chocolate and extract until dough forms a ball.

Shape into 1-inch balls, and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets lined with parchment paper, if desired. Flatten slightly with a glass dipped in remaining sugar. Bake at 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until edges are just lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

In a microwave, melt shortening and remaining white chocolate; stirring until smooth. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate. Place on wax paper or parchment paper; dust with red sprinkles and let stand until set. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 4 dozen cookies, or enough for Santa and you, too.

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