When Tracy Mattson was growing up in the 1970s and '80s, her mother used to bake holiday cookies twisted into candy-cane shapes or trimmed into Christmas trees.
They looked pretty but tasted bland. Still, the baking ritual left a lasting impression on the Santa Rosa pastry chef.
"It was a big deal," recalled Mattson, who launched her own company, Cookie ... take a bite!, in 2011. "It was the one time people got into their kitchens to bake."
Holiday Cookie Ideas
These days, cookies are a year-round obsession for Mattson, who handcrafts 2,000 gourmet cookies a week in a dozen classic shapes and perky flavors, from Coconut Macaroons to Lemon Moons, her signature.
The only thing these flavor-packed cookies have in common with her mother's is that they are small, so you can munch them up in two or three bites.
"It's the shape that attracts people," she said. "But the flavor brings them back."
According to Mattson, the quotidian cookie has enjoyed a sweet upturn during the down economy, along with cupcakes and other small, affordable luxuries.
"Cookies are back," she said. "They are the new couture treat. (Cookbook author) Dorie Greenspan just opened three Beurre & Sel (cookie) shops in New York. If New York is doing it, Sonoma County is next."
This holiday season, Mattson is baking up lots of festive bites, from a Pistachio and Lemon Biscotti to a Ginger Molasses Delight. The cookies, which come in red and gold boxes, make perfect hostess gifts and sweet finales for a holiday feast.
"At the holidays, I like the warm spices like ginger and cinnamon," she said. "It's amazing how nostalgic people are for the cookies that their grandmothers used to make."