Bringing Neighbors Together

Have Yourself a 70-Proof Merry Christmas

by Elaine Macko

My sister is a baker. Around this time of year I can walk into her house and the smell of muffins in assorted flavors or little quiches fills her home. She’s big on making beautiful cookies as well. She likes to get up early when no one else is around and a few hours later her kitchen looks like a wonderful patisserie on some side street in Paris. My sister is a great baker because she is precise. She’s the type that when she brings home something new, she takes out the directions and actually reads them first. Baking requires precise measurements and the reading of a recipe. There’s no a pinch of this, a bit of that in baking.

I’m not much of a baker. I’m a really good cook, but baking, not so much. I don’t have the precise gene. When I buy something new I skip the directions altogether and go straight for the plugging in and pushing buttons method. I like cooking because if you prepare a soup and toss in the sage and the rosemary but forget the thyme, does it really matter? But try making a pumpkin pie, and oh, let’s say you omit the sugar. What you end up with is a concoction that even the dog won’t eat. Really. My parent’s dog would not eat my misguided attempt at trying to have a healthy holiday. Dogs will eat anything, even, well…, anything, and this dog took one whiff of a sugarless pumpkin pie and turned up his nose.

But for some unknown reason, my mother passed on the recipe for traditional anisette cookies to me. It is my job to bake these cookies, which will be devoured while we open up our gifts. On Christmas Eve morning I awake at an ungodly hour to produce about 20 dozen of the things for seven people. We are ruthless when it comes to these small Italian lumps of dough and even my 12-year-old nephew can’t get enough. So tossing in a bit of this and a pinch of that just won’t work. I have to be precise.

I meticulously set out all the ingredients, the measuring utensils, and set the oven for 425. I measure and mix, tasting a bit of dough as I go along. But when it comes time for adding the tablespoon of anise extract, 70 proof in case you wanted to know, the most important ingredient of all, I happily revert back to my most un-precise nature and toss in the entire bottle. And then I open up another and in it goes. By now the licorice fumes make me giddy with anticipation of devouring these delectable little cookies with their red, white, or green icing. And what about the icing? I can rationalize the insane amount of anise I pour into the cookies telling myself that it will burn off in the baking process, but the icing doesn’t get baked and at least one more bottle of extract gets tossed into it.

The more I think about it the more I’m sure my mother knew exactly what she was doing having me bake the cookies. My sister would have measured out that one tablespoon of extract with the precision of a NASA scientist mixing the rocket fuel.

Christmas morning at my sister’s home is a happy and giddy time. Eating dozens of cookies with 70-proof icing will definitely put a smile on your face.

Happy Holidays!

click  here to visit more of  Elaine's blog.

In the 1980s, bored with life in general, it was time to change direction. Signing up for a six-day vacation to London and Brussels in the dead of winter, Elaine found time to meet and fall in love with a local Belgian man and extended her trip to last 12 years.  With a love of writing always lingering on the back burner, she decided to try her hand writing a mystery and after several months, completed a draft of her first book, Armed, and moved on to three other books in the series.

Elaine never forgot her New England roots and centers her books in the fictional town of Indian Cove, Connecticut. Each book includes a European connection bringing together her love of both places.

All residents are invited to be part of the blogging community on Glenbrookenews.  Just email your piece or blog to  If you have any questions  give me a call 647-6594.





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