History of the Christmas cookie
Before Christmas brought its traditions into the world, ancient cooks baked sweets for different occasions. In the Middle Ages, Europeans started baking cookies for Christmas. The first American Christmas cookie is documented by Amelia Simmons, who wrote American Cookery. It contained flour, coriander seed, butter, sugar, pearlash and milk. By 1924, the ingredients had started to change to what Americans know as butter, eggs, sugar, flour and milk. In many cases, nuts were added.
These days, it would not be Christmas without cookie exchanges. In 1917, the Tri Kappas, a sorority group, held the first ever bread, pie and cookie exchange. This tradition has changed to a party held by families, friends and co-workers.
Recipes for traditional Christmas cookies
Cookies come in many flavors and designs, but some cookies have especially long traditions:
- Cut-out cookies
- Pfeffernusse, or Pepper Nuts
Gingerbread Cookies with Icing
|3-1/2 cups unbleached flour||2-1/2 teaspoons ginger, ground||1 teaspoon baking soda|
|1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground||1/2 teaspoon fresh nutmeg, grated||1/4 teaspoon cloves, ground|
|1/4 teaspon salt||1/2 cup unsalted butter||3/4 cup brown sugar, light|
|1 egg||3/4 cup molasses, mild||1 tablespoon orange zest|
|2 cups confectioners sugar||2 teaspoons powdered egg whites||1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar|
Before mixing any ingredients together, gather extra flour, Crisco and baking sheet. Cover the sheet lightly with Crisco, then flour it lightly. This will help keep the cookie dough from sticking to the pan.
Whisk flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt together. Mix brown sugar and butter together. The mixture should be fluffy. Add eggs until combined. Then add molasses and orange zest, beating until smooth. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture slowly until the flour is mixed in.
Put dough onto baking sheet and spread it flat to be even, then wrap with plastic wrap. The dough should be frozen for up to 3 days before using. The dough can be frozen for up to 4 weeks. Prepare the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Baking rack should be in the middle of the oven. Cut the dough into squares, then roll out until 1/8 inch thick.
Using a cookie cutter, cut the cookies out and place on newly floured cookie sheet 1/2 inch apart from one another. Continue process until desired amount is reached. Bake cookies for ten minutes or until golden around the edges.
Mix cream of tartar, powdered egg whites and confectioners sugar together and add 5 tablespoons of water, one at a time until mixture is moist.
Ingredients for Traditional Pfeffernusse Cookies with Glaze
|2 cups flour||1/2 teaspoon baking soda||1/2 teaspoon salt|
|1 tablespoon cinnamon, Ground||2 teaspoons cardamom, Ground||3/4 teaspoon cloves, ground|
|1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, Ground||1/4 teaspoon white or black Pepper||2 eggs|
|1 1/4 cup sugar||2 teaspoons lemon zest||1/2 cup candied citron, chopped|
|Optional, 1 tablespoon anise seed||3/4 cup confectioners sugar||3 tablespoons cold water|
Before beginning, take out a cookie sheet and line with parchment. In a bowl, combine baking soda, salt, spices and flour, using a whisk until evenly dispersed. In a separate bowl, mix eggs and add sugar until a pale yellow color. Add lemon zest, then flour mixture and beat until blended. Mix well while adding citron and aniseed.
Next, put the confectioners sugar and water together and stir until thin; put aside. Take dough and pinch small amounts, one at a time and roll in 3/4 inch balls. Dip each ball into the glaze and place onto the cookie sheet. Set aside uncovered for about six hours. Ready the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the cookies for 14 minutes or so or until glaze becomes shiny. The cookies will puff up. Dry the cookies out before storing in a container.
Ingredients for Christmas Sugar Cookie Cut-outs with Frosting
|3 1/2 cups powdered sugar||1 cup butter or margarine||1 teaspoon vanilla extract|
|1/2 teaspoon almond extract||1 egg||2 1/2 cups all purpose flour|
|1 teaspoon baking soda||1 teaspoon cream of tartar||Sprinkles, sugars (colored)|
|2 tablespoons milk||Cookie cutters||Piping bags|
Prepare surface for dough by lightly flouring the area to keep the dough from sticking.
Using a mixing bowl, mix powdered sugar, butter, vanilla extract, almond extract and eggs until completely blended. Stir in flour, cream of tartar and baking-soda. Cover and put into refrigerator for at least three hours. Once dough is chilled, cut the dough in half. Roll out the first half then the second half to 3/16 inch thick.
Preheat over to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the cookies with the cookie cutters and lay onto a non-stick cookie sheet. While the cookies are baking for 7 to 8 minutes, make the frosting. Beat powdered sugar, vanilla and milk together until the ingredients become smooth, not runny. Once cookies are done, decorate with frosting, sprinkles and sugars.
People love to bake cookies and share a well honed recipe with a friend. Today, bakers can find recipes all over the internet, follow other bakers online at Pinterest and watch live TV shows that show the baker how to bake the perfect cookie. Fabulous recipes can be found at Betty Crocker, All Recipes and Christmas-Cookies.