Hazelnut, Milk Chocolate, and Cherry Icebox Cookies / JillHough.com

Cookies for angels

I’ve never been much of a holiday baker. There’s been the occasional batch of brittle or granola here and there. And there was one time when I participated a cookie swap and blew everyone away with these checkerboard butter cookies. But an annual holiday cookie tradition, with icing and dragees and flour and sugar everywhere? Not so much.

That is, until someone close to me started needing 24-hour caregivers.

That was a couple of years ago. A couple of months later, it was the holidays and I panicked. How do you thank those who take care of a loved one?

I mean, these people are angels. Patient. Cheerful. Creative. Adept. Reassuring. In the face of all manner of stresses.

(They’re pretty inspiring.)

I wanted to give them $100 each. $200. But, with over twenty staff members, that’s not really a possibility.

So I did something that came from my heart. I made them food. I became a holiday baker.

Hazelnut, Milk Chocolate, and Cherry Icebox Cookies / JillHough.com

I try to make the best, most indulgent cookies I can, cookies that will make them feel special and treated. Last year, it was Lavender Butter Cookies and Chocolate Tahini Cookies. This year, it’s Hazelnut, Milk Chocolate, and Cherry Icebox Cookies.

A very slight adaptation of a recipe from my amazing pastry chef friend Brigid Callinan, Hazelnut, Milk Chocolate, and Cherry Icebox Cookies are super buttery, almost a shortbread, and jam-packed with chocolate, fruit, and nuts. Brigid used to vary the add-ins—dark chocolate and pistachios for one batch, milk chocolate and hazelnuts for another, white chocolate and macadamias for another still—and you can, too. But hazelnuts and milk chocolate strike me as appropriately comforting and indulgent for my very special recipients. I added the cherries to make them one step more so.

As wonderful as these cookies are, I know I’ll still be a little embarrassed offering them. They feel puny, inadequate at expressing my deep appreciation, and hardly commensurate to what these caregivers provide for our family.

But I don’t know what would be. So until then, it’s cookies.

Do you make something special for someone special during the holidays? I welcome your ideas.

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