The Drawl

What Your Favorite Holiday Cookies Mean to Their Bakers

The stories behind the sugary treats.

By Timothy Malcolm November 26, 2018 Published in the December 2018 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Few things are more wonderful than sugary, buttery, irony-quenching cookies baking on a December day. Below, local purveyors share what their favorite treats mean to them.

(Spoiler: It’s all about friends and family.)

Ginger Molasses Cookie | Ooh La La Sweets

Whether round or shaped like a gingerbread man, these chewy, sugar crystal–topped delights remind pastry chef/owner Vanessa O’Donnell, a relatively new mom, of her own busy single mother, Janet, who didn’t bake from scratch but always made sure O’Donnell and her sister got to make holiday cookies—even if they were from a box. “She would make this powdered sugar icing and  put it on the cookies,” says O’Donnell. “I applaud her for her efforts. Being a mom, I get it.”

Peppermint Tree Cookie | Michael’s Cookie Jar

Baking these Tannenbaum-shaped, chocolate-dipped, peppermint-flavored cookies, chef/owner Michael Savino thinks about his grandmother, a perfectionist who, during his youth in Rochester, New York, baked Italian goodies like mostaccioli, ciambella, and struffoli and passed them out as presents. “Hers were always the nicest,” Savino remembers, “and she took a lot of pride in that.”

Dreidel Cookie | Three Brothers Bakery

Co-owner/fifth-generation baker Bobby Jucker remembers dizzying holidays baking up massive amounts of goods for Houstonians, including the traditional Hanukkah doughnuts known as sufganiyot and, of course, all kinds of cookies. It meant being in close proximity to his family all the time. “The thing I enjoyed most was working at the bread table with my dad and uncles, when they were alive,” Jucker says. “That’s when stuff got discussed. That’s how I learned.”

Grinch Cookie | Paulie’s Restaurant

Becca Qian, who is Chinese-American, and Sara Kim, who is Korean-American, grew up cooking dumplings and rice cakes, respectively, with their families over the holidays. But the two bakers did make sweets at friends’ homes, and whipping up Paulie’s famous cookies reminds them of  those good times. “I think that’s why we took these positions,” says Kim. “It brings back these things that we saw as a privilege when we were kids.

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