Cookies, cookies, more cookies, and warmth. I believe I have taught my children to value family and tradition, and, when someone cooks for you…well, you must be special.
Close your eyes and remember December, the smell of cinnamon in your mother’s or grandmother’s kitchen and the warm scent of dough baking in the oven…mmmm. We gather in our kitchens to bake, decorate,and eat cookies…with each bite, you can taste your childhood and family history. Where did this this yummy tradition begin, from what I can discern; the tradition originated in Germany and Scandinavia. The tradition became more popular after spices like Cinnamon, pepper, and others became more easily purchased. Here in the USA, early in the 1600’s Dutch settlers brought with them favored Christmas cookie recipe, a bit later, when import laws were loosened; cookie cutters from Germany were popular in American markets. Imported cookies cutters were created with images designed to be hung on Christmas trees. Christmas Cookie recipes began to appear in all of the most popular cookbooks to make use of these new cutters. With the advent of inexpensive tin cutters, new emphasis was placed on shape, where in the past, many homemade cookies simply had been square or round. Bells, Christmas trees, Sant Clauses..could now be easily shaped…and then hung on trees.
In the United States, since the 1930s, children have left cookies and milk on a table for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, though many people simply consume the cookies themselves. The cookies are often cut into such shapes as those of candy canes, reindeer, and holly leaves.
To our family, Christmas cookies represent home, family, comfort, joy, and tradition. Christmas cookies are a thread to Christmas past, not only our past, but long past.
Here are a few of our favorite recipes.
Start with 1 family, 1 kitchen, and a box of recipes. Add an uninterrupted period of time. Subtract phone calls, technology, and any other distractions. For best results, add the Prayer Before Baking: “God bless this mixture with the sweetest and tastiest ingredients: joy, faith, family, friendship, love, and health. Amen.”
Sprinkle with laughter. Add amusing family stories in heaping amounts. Fold in 1 cup patience and understanding, blended with 1 gallon youthful enthusiasm and a pinch of baking know-how. Eat your mistakes with joy. Bake lovingly and well. Enjoy warm, delicious, cookie-baking memories for years to come!
Our favorite Gingerbread Cookie recipe:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves until well blended.
In a large bowl beat butter, brown sugar, and egg on medium speed until well blended.
Add molasses, vanilla, continue to mix until well blended.
Gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth.
Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
If you are pre-making your cookie dough for baking another day…(Dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days; Return to room temp before using.)
Preheat oven to 375°.
Grease or line cookie sheets with parchment paper. ( I always use paper)
Place 1 portion of the dough on a lightly floured surface.
Sprinkle flour over dough and rolling pin.
Roll dough to a scant 1/4-inch thick.
Use additional flour to avoid sticking.
Cut out cookies with desired cutter– the ginger bread man is our favorite of course.
Space cookies 1 1/2-inches apart.
Bake 1 sheet at a time for 7-10 minutes (the lower time will give you softer cookies– very good!).
Remove cookie sheet from oven and allow the cookies to stand until the cookies are firm enough to move to a wire rack.
Cool cookies, then decorate as you like…we use a powdered sugar icing raisins for buttons, eyes, and what not, can be gently pressed onto the cookie before baking.
They say Christmas snow can be magical.
Happy baking and be well,