Ah, the wonder and joy of Holiday Cookies. We all become fine artists every year in our quest for the most creative decorations to adorn the dozens of trees, snowmen, bells and Santas. The baking and decorating of these time honored holiday essentials is an extremely labor intensive, albeit highly rewarding pursuit for young and old alike. Looking back, most of us have been involved in this annual ritual, in one form or another, for as long as we can remember. The traditional, highly decorated Santas, Christmas trees, snowmen and bells have evolved over the years to include, sumptuous bars, decadent brownies and a wide variety of pungent spiced cookies, all with the aromas and flavors that evoke thoughts of the season. Be sure to try our Snickerdoodle Cookie recipe at the end of this writing.
Holiday cookies began as a festival food during the Christmas season during Medieval times. It is thought that the first soft cookie to appear as a festival offering was Germany’s Lebkuchen. By the 1500’s, the tradition of cookies at Christmas festivals had spread all over Europe and Scandinavia, with each country and region presenting their own specialty. By the colonial period, these special cookie recipes had come to America with the people who settled here and the Christmas tradition continued. In 1703, the word, “Cookie”, first appeared in print and, today, the preparation of these family recipes are still an integral part of our holiday festivities.
Baking is an exact combination of creativity and science. Each cookie recipe will have a different method of preparation and serving. Experience has tought our family that these methods must be adhered to in order to acheive the desired results. To sift the flour and sugar, or not to sift, when to add the spices and how much of each, to cream or cut in the shortening…..yes, shortening. Crisco now comes in bars and we never said that any of these treats were low fat or low calorie. It’s once a year! Even the directions on whether to cut the finished product while still hot or when cool are all tried and tested. A good baker will tell you to always use the very freshest of spices in your cookie and bar recipes. Whole Foods Market offers a fresh spice assortment that will astound you with the aromatic differences between fresh and what you have tucked away in your pantry. Their ground ginger, cloves and cinnamon are amazingly fragrant, fresh and ready for your kitchen. One sniff will change the way you buy all of your spices forever. If your recipes or dietary requirements call for gluten free or specialty baking products, Whole Foods has a wide variety to choose from. There are several of these wonderful stores in our area, so use the store locator for the one nearest you.
Now that you’re armed with the freshest spices and supplies, here for your enjoyment is our tried and tested recipe for Snickerdoodle Cookies.
Meg’s Superb Snickerdoodle Cookies
- 1/2 cup of shortening
- 1/2 cup of softened, unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons of GOOD vanilla
- 2 3/4 cups of all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 2 teaspoons of Cream of Tartat
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- An additional 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of fresh ground cinnamon
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Cream together the shortening, butter, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and shape the dough into rounds, about the size of a small walnut.
Mix the additional sugar and cinnamon together, then roll the rounds into the mixture until completely coated. On an ungreased cookie sheet, place the rounds 2 inches apart and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. The edges should be a tiny bit crispy and the centers, soft. Remove from the oven and immediately cool on a rack. You will have a warm, fragrant kitchen, filled with sweet spice, and a very happy family.