I knew it was close to Christmas when my grandmother would start chopping walnuts.
One of the ingredients in my favorite cookie, the walnuts had to be so finely chopped that even a bag of already-chopped walnuts were entirely too big.
The walnuts are the important, final step of a vanilla cookie dipped in chocolate and walnuts, providing that perfect moment when sweet meets salty.
It's a simple recipe, but for years my mother and I couldn't find it. It seemed as though it had died with my grandmother in 1998, and I started to accept I would never again have my favorite cookie.
But in 2008, my mother surprised me by bringing out several dozen log cookies on Christmas Eve. I joked that it took me giving her two grandchildren before she was willing to dig through my grandmother's old recipes, and my father quickly reminded me it takes her 10 years to do anything.
Biting into one of those cookies was to relive a part of my childhood, but it wasn't until I was an adult that I realized why I loved logs so much.
It wasn't the vanilla, chocolate or two sticks of butter in every recipe.
It was that baking meant my grandmother was OK.
Never defeated: She had a number of health problems, including chronic infection, muscular disorders and debilitating arthritis. Individually, those ailments might have been easily managed. When combined, they caused her to spend most of her adulthood in a hospital bed. And for the last five years of her life, she was completely bedridden.
Though she couldn't walk, she was never defeated. Her can-do attitude kept her baking, cooking and crocheting through the last days of her life.
My mother and I would carry ingredients to her, and she would cook on a side table by her bed.
In those moments, my grandmother wasn't sick. She was a great baker. She was happy. She was well.
When I made seven dozen logs with my children on a recent weekend, that's what I remembered. I told my kids stories about the great-grandmother they never met, and I could hear her sternly reminding me to fold in the flour with a spoon.
My cookies were not as good as hers.
My cookies are not worthy of being a favorite.
But if I'm lucky, my children and grandchildren will one day believe otherwise.
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt
2½ cup sifted flour
1 36-oz. package semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 8-oz. package chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease cookie sheets.
2. Cream butter and gradually add sugars. Beat in egg yolks, vanilla and salt.
3. Blend in flour with a spoon until dough is soft and pliable.
4. Take small pieces in hand and roll logs the size of a small finger.
5. Put logs on greased cookie sheets and bake about 10 minutes at 350.
6. Use food processor or chopper to grind walnuts into tiny pieces. Use double boiler to melt chocolate (1 cup at a time).
7. Once cookies are cool, dip the ends in chocolate and walnuts. Place on wax paper to set. Makes about seven dozen cookies.