The father and daughter have been making ginger snap cookies every Christmas for the past dozen years.
“We’ve been doing it since I was 5,” said Nicole, who is now 17 and a senior at Jacksonville High School. “Every family has a tradition, that little thing that’s always special to them. This is ours.”
Trent got the recipe about 16 years ago from a co-worker, Richard Box, who used to bring in ginger snaps baked by his wife. “Richard knew how much I loved the cookies, and he knew I liked to cook, so he brought the recipe to me,” Trent said.
“I sort of got myself in the habit of making a batch just before Christmas, and when Nicole got to where she was old enough, she wanted to help me bake them one time ... and the tradition was born,” Trent said.
After 12 years, the Pennys pretty much know the recipe by heart. “Add the first five ingredients, and sift three times. That’s my job,” Nicole said. “It’s so annoying. It takes forever. Once you’re finished, though, they’re amazing cookies.”
Nicole admitted she’s not that precise when it comes to other baking projects. “I don’t measure it out. But when it comes to these cookies — they’ve got to be perfect.”
When the cookies come out of the oven, Trent and Nicole always split the first one. “Then we have four each after that,” Nicole said, before the rest of the family is allowed to have any.
This year, Trent was afraid Nicole might have gotten too old to want to make Christmas cookies. “But she’s the one who asked me, ‘Dad, when are we going to make cookies?’ … I know one day she won’t want to anymore, but this is one Christmas tradition that I will always cherish and remember forever.”
Ah, but Nicole said she’ll always want to bake cookies. “It’s funny. He thinks I don’t want to do it. But even when I’m 20, I’ll still want to do it,” she said. “I want to carry it down to my family. It’s like your grandmother’s ring — one of those things you want to keep in the family, one of those traditions you want to keep going.”
Next fall, Nicole will be headed to college at Wallace State, where she’s been awarded a volleyball scholarship. But she’s already got her holiday plans worked out. “It’s only an hour and 45 minutes away. I’ll come home for Christmas. We’ll still be able to do cookies.”
GINGER SNAP COOKIES
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
Sift first 5 ingredients together 3 times, returning to sifter. Beat shortening until creamy. Gradually add cup of sugar; continue beating. Beat in egg and molasses. Sift 1/4 of flour mixture over molasses mixture. Stir and repeat until all flour mixture is used. Shape dough into large marble-sized balls. Roll balls in extra sugar and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 12 minutes at 350 degrees until rounded and crackly. Cool on wax paper. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.