Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday Traditions: Christmas Cookies

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without cookies. They come in handy when friends stop by to visit and they taste great on cold winter evenings with a cup of hot chocolate. Plus, Santa definitely relies on those cookies the kids leave for him when he’s traveling the world delivering presents!

Most of the recipes we use today can be traced to those from medieval European biscuits. That’s the time when many of the modern ingredients, such as cinnamon, ginger, almonds and dried fruit, were introduced into the west. By the 16th century, Christmas biscuits had become popular across Europe.

The earliest examples of Christmas cookies in the U.S. are those that were brought by the Dutch in the early 17th century. Cookie cutters became available between 1870 and 1900 following a change in the importation laws. These imported cookie cutters, mainly from Germany, features images designed to hang on Christmas trees and recipes began to appear in cookbooks designed to use them.

Leaving cookies for Santa has been a Christmas Eve tradition throughout the world for centuries. While the origins are unknown, it is said to perhaps be related to the idea that children who struggled to be on Santa’s “nice list” were looking for ways to sweeten his disposition.

In the U.S., children have been leaving cookies and milk on a table for Santa on Christmas Eve since the 1930s. The cookies are typically cut into such shapes as candy canes, reindeer, bells and holly leaves.

Truly, what would Christmas be without cookies?

In the spirit of the season, I’m going to share one of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes. Thinking about them brings back delightful memories of my own children decorating the dozens I would make when they were little.

Tender crisp sugar cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla
4-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt

Cream butter, shortening and sugars. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Sift together dry ingredients and stir into butter mixture.
Let chill; then roll out and cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutters. Place two inches apart on baking sheets.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until edges begin to turn golden brown.
Decorate as desired.


Suko said...

Yum! Very nice post, LuAnn.

Julia said...

I couldn’t agree more, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without cookies. It is one of my favorite traditions; I love baking with my family! Your sugar cookies look phenomenal! I would love to make cookies like this for Christmas, but I just don’t think I have the skills to pull it off! I could give it a whirl, though. I am always looking to try new cookie recipes each year for Christmas. I work with Better Recipes; if you are looking for something new and exciting to make for the holiday, then I recommend you check out their Christmas Cookie Recipes.