Although this scene from Millie Marries a Marshal (from the book two in the Brides with Grit series) is not a Christmas scene, it reminds me of my favorite Swedish cookie, “Kisslings”, which I’ve made every year for Christmas since I was in grade school.
I grew up near the Swedish settlement town of Lindsborg, Kansas, also known as “Little Sweden USA” so our Swedish heritage, and Christmas baking is an important to our community to this day.
Please enjoy this 1873 scene between town marshal Adam Wilerson, mail-order bride Millie Donovan and her two-year-old nephew, Tate—and try this simple cookie recipe too!
Millie Marries a Marshal
Millie heard Adam come in late last night, because she and Tate were in the room across the hall from his bedroom and she was wide-awake, still thinking about his statement that he wanted her “upstairs”…and how she wished she could be “upstairs” enjoying being his wife.
But then thoughts of why they were upstairs, because Tate was in danger, killed the mood. Now she had breakfast ready and he was stalling coming downstairs.
Millie heard Adam’s boot steps come down the steps and enter the room, but didn’t turn to look at him until Tate screaked in terror. She spun around then stopped, looking at Adam’s bruised chin. His face had been a target for someone’s fist last night.
“Tate, it’s okay, Adam just has a boo-boo on his face. He doesn’t even need a bandage.”
“Why is he so upset?” Adam asked above the child’s screams.
“Think about it, Adam…” Millie knew when Adam realized Tate had seen—and felt—bruises before.
Adam crouched down to Tate’s height at the high chair. “Oh, no. I’m okay, Sweet poo-Tater, I really am. Please don’t cry…”
Millie glanced at Adam, then Tate, wondering if her remedy for Tate’s “boo-boos” would calm the toddler down. “Tate. Tate, don’t you think Adam should have a ‘Baker’s Kiss’ on that boo-boo?”
“Huh?” Tate stopped his crying and looked between the adults. That caused Adam to look between her and Tate in confusion as well.
“What’s a Baker’s Kiss, Millie?” Adam asked warily.
Millie opened the pie cupboard and took out a little tin container and a larger one from a shelf, put them on the table in front of Tate, and took off the lids.
Millie smiled at Tate and asked sweetly, “Shall I give you a Baker’s Kiss first so Adam can see what they are? Where was your last boo-boo, Tate?”
Now Tate was excited, waving his left arm and pointing at it with his right hand. “Here, here!” The tot was transformed into an excited, happy child compared to the terrified boy of a minute ago.
“Okay. We take the special cookie, dip it in the special sugar, and pat the boo-boo. Then…” Millie paused to lick her tongue all over her lips, “you get the special Baker’s Kiss on your boo-boo.” She wet her lips again and carefully touched her puckered mouth on his skin, taking off a bit of sugar, leaving the imprint of a kiss on his arm.
Tate grinned in delight, then took the cookie from Millie’s palm and stuck it in his mouth, happily chewing on the shortbread cookie.
“No wonder the kitchen smells like cookies half the time, and my socks smell like sugar if I walk in stocking feet around the kitchen. Tate’s been having lots of boo-boos?” Adam quietly asked Millie.
“Oh yes, but it’s become a happy game and I’m fattening him up at the same time,” Millie whispered back.
“Adam’s turn! Gets a kiss from Illie!”
Millie sucked in a breath to fortify her intention. There was another reason she wanted to give Adam a kiss besides to calm Tate down. She wanted to announce her feelings to Adam.
She had formed small round shortbread cookies, and pinched up a bit of dough on top before she baked them to give a little handle for her to dip into the tin of fine sugar. Millie ground sugar with a mortar and pestle to make it very fine and added a little corn starch to make the sugar stick better to the skin.
“Sit down in the chair by Tate, Adam, so he can see your kiss. What’s the simple version of how you got your boo-boo, Adam?”
Millie took a cookie from the tin, dabbed it in the sugar tin, and carefully touched the bruise on Adam’s chin.
“I overreacted when Ralph Peters…uh yelled at his wife, and I got a boo-boo on my chin.”
“He hit you, just because of that?”
“Uh, I swung at him first without thinking and…Ida decked me.”
Millie giggled and touched his chin again because the sugar fell off when Adam talked.
“Ida is twice the size of Ralph, so I’m sure she can protect herself.”
“Yeah, I think of that every time I move my jaw.”
“Kiss! Kiss!” Millie licked her lips as Tate started chanting. She watched Adam stare at her lips as she slowly moved towards his face. She took a breath, then gave him a long, wet, kiss right in the middle of the sugar smear.
“I think you missed the exact spot,” Adam slowly smiled while looking at her sugar-covered lips.”
“Oh, I know I did,” Millie said as she dipped the cookie into the sugar mix and this time dabbed directly on his upturned lips. She put the cookie on the table and wrapped her arms around Adam’s shoulders before lowering her lips to zero in on her target.
(Excerpt from Millie Marries a Marshal © 2014 by Linda K. Hubalek)
Kisslings, A Swedish Christmas recipe, featuring in Egg Gravy by Linda Hubalek
1 ½ cups butter
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 c. finely chopped pecans (or almonds)
3 ½ cups flour
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla together, then mix in rest of ingredients. Roll out dough on floured surface until a quarter inch thick. Cut the dough into “half moon” shapes using a small glass inverted to make the inside and outside of the cookie. (You can also make shapes with your choice of cookie cutters.) Move the shapes to an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Take the sheets out of the oven when the edges (not the whole cookie) turn golden brown. Immediately dip in powdered sugar while still hot, then move to cooling rack to cool. (The powdered sugar will “melt” and stick to the cookies.)