When I was growing up, we had a next-door neighbor named Mary Smith, who hailed from Thunder Bay, Canada. My mom has an amazing ability to form close bonds with just about anyone in record time. Mary and my mother became fast friends and would have "tea" every afternoon at around 4pm, when they would gossip, gossip, gossip the afternoon away. This happened every single day without fail. Every year Mary would dazzle us with a dozen different cookie recipes, all expertly executed. What she lacked in housekeeping skills (her home was filled to the brim with an assortment of crafting supplies, chachkies, spoon collections, coupons, and miscellany) she more than made up for in the baking department.
I love this sort of friendship that seems so old-school...the type of friendship where you literally live next door to someone and see them everyday for conversation and the ritual of tea. During the holidays, I look forward to reconnecting with friends and filling up my social calendar. In this, the age of Facebook and texting, where we seem to have shorter and shorter attention spans for connecting to those we love, the traditions of gathering to visit and share baked goods are more meaningful than ever.
The Cherry Chews were my favorite Mary Smith recipe and are my favorite holiday cookie recipe... period. I like to call them Brownie and Blondie's prettier and more interesting cousin...they are technically a "bar" and if you make them, you will love them, as long as you love: Maraschino cherries, coconut, pecans, almond, butter, and sugar.
My husband loved tasting my progress as I made my way through the recipe and it even prompted him to inquire why I don't bake (allowing him to taste) more. That's easy: these are very, very good...and that would be very, very bad for my waistline. I think we will just carry on the tradition that Mary Smith started and make these at the holidays for our special friends and neighbors for years to come.
Cherry Chews (adapted from Mary Smith's recipe)
Bottom Layer: Mix them all- then add butter with form & fingers until crumbly
1 C Flour
1 C Oats
1/2 C Brown Sugar
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 C Butter
Press into bottom of a greased 13 x 9.5 x 2" pan
Bake at 350 for 10 minutes
Topping: Stir together
2 eggs (beat)
1/2 C Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Almond Extract
Mix the following and add to egg mixture:
2 TB Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C Sweetened Coconut Flakes
1 C Maraschino cherries (drained and cut into pieces-- SAVE cherry juice for icing)
Pour topping over baked bottom layer
Sprinkle with 1/2 C chopped pecans
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes
6 TB soft butter
4 C confectioner's sugar
2 TB cherry juice
1/4 tsp almond extract
Spread icing (to the thickness you desire) and cut into squares!