My grandmother had two recipes that were obligatory at Christmas, and you had to make both of them because one of them used four egg whites and the other used four egg yolks. Let's talk about the yolk side of the aisle first.
They're called S cookies because the traditional preparation is to roll the dough into finger-size snakes and then form them into S shapes.
But when my boys were little, the one whose name didn't start with S often wondered why his brother, whose did, got cookies named after him. So sometimes we would make M cookies along with S cookies.
One year I got a brilliant idea. We could use metal type to imprint letters into the cookie dough. And since then we have rarely made the traditional S shapes. The new way is easy enough for a four-year-old, who proved to be an excellent helper.
I don't usually either collect or cook from recipes, preferring the improvisational approach to life, but you can't do a lot of improvisation when baking (except for getting your Ss via letterpress instead of sculpture). So here's the recipe:
1/2 pound butter
2 1/3 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
rind and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp lemon extract
4 to 4 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
Cream everything together in electric mixer or cuisinart.
For traditional cookies, form dough into rolls about the size of your pinkie and bend them into Ss. Bake on parchment paper; leave space between the cookies because they will rise and spread a bit.
For non-traditional cookies, use a bit more flour; form dough into rolls about 1 1/2 inch diameter, wrap in plastic and chill in refrigerator overnight. Cut 1/4 inch slices off the roll and imprint with type, buttons, chopsticks or any other tool you like. Bake on parchment paper; leave space between the cookies because they will rise and spread a bit.
Bake 13-14 minutes at 350°
Cookies will not get brown, except on the bottom; they will be a little wiggly when you take them out of the oven but will firm up as they cool.
at left, type cookies; on the right, traditional S shape, for demonstration purposes only