Spanish Roscos

roscosChristmas is one season that is filled with traditions.

My dad’s family had a tradition that was handed down from one generation to the next for oh, maybe a few hundred years, give or take.  It was a recipe is for small round donut-shaped cookies called Roscos (with long “o’s”) that are the traditional Spanish cookie for Christmas.

While other Spanish families have similar recipes, even calling them by the same name, our recipe is special and, as I’ve mentioned, a closely guarded secret. 

You could have asked my mother.  Mom begged for the recipe for over 25 years, but all she could get were the cookies.  She finally put her foot down and demanded the family recipe.

oh, but of course you can have the recipe.

Sometimes you just have to shake your head at family dynamics.

Mom promptly tweaked the recipe just a bit, making the cookies oh so incredibly light, flaky and delicate. The rest of Dad’s family begged for her recipe.  Uh huh. I was the only one who got her recipe, although she delighted in giving the rest of the family buckets of her cookies.

Handing out boatloads of cookies was actually fairly easy.  One batch makes about 400 cookies.  Mom and I both used turkey roasters to knead the mountains of warm dough, while the aroma of sweet wine and anise seed filled the air.

It used to be a family event, waiting for the warm dough to chill overnight before my brothers and I got to help mom roll out the dough and form them into rings to be baked. We were serious about ten minutes.

oh look at mine.  It has to go on a diet.

oh no, this one has been sick.

this one has eyes!

And so it went, with mom rolling the vast majority of the cookies while trying to keep some semblance of order, and my dad sitting nearby, pretending to read his paper but smiling all the time.

I realized much, much later, as my two young children cracked the same jokes that my brothers and I had, Dad must have been thinking back to his mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens and the bantering between he and his sister as they rolled out the dough into the Christmas Roscos.

Later, my brothers and I would wait for the golden cookies to come out of the oven and be immediately plunged into cinnamon and sugar until each cookie was fully covered in the rich mixture. Then, the sweet torture of waiting a few days for the cookies to season before they were ready to be gobbled down or given to friends.

When I was teaching, I used to have my students write about a holiday tradition, and then tell them the story of our tradition before letting them take a Rosco or two as they walked out the door to the Christmas holidays.

Even though the cookies take two afternoons to make, and admittedly leave the kitchen in sugared chaos, I had hoped the tradition might take hold with my children. 

My son and his children are the only ones that occasionally do still make the delicate cookies. I like to think that Dad is still watching over them and smiling at the bantering, joking and memories.

It’s a funny thing about traditions, even at Christmastime.  Skip a generation, maybe two, and those traditions and memories are so quickly lost forever to the ages.