JEFF TIEDEMAN: Cookies — A Christmas traditionHolidays wouldn’t be complete without these goodies.
Just about everywhere you turn these days, you’ll likely encounter Christmas cookies or at least mention of them. Cookie swaps at work are common, and cookie walks are an annual event at many churches. (A look at the City briefs column in the Herald confirms that.)
Also along those lines, Christus Rex Lutheran Campus Center at UND is hosting (with United Campus Ministry) its annual St. Nicholas Day celebration from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday.
I know for a fact that among the items available at the free lunch buffet will be Santa Claus cookies. That’s because a friend told me she was making some for the celebration. (If you are going to attend, bring a nonperishable item for the local food pantry as a goodwill offering.)
And while I talked to my mom on the telephone the other day, she said that her holiday baking is right on track. (Mom still sends her three grown boys care packages filled with Christmas cookies at the holidays.)
While the origin of cookies goes back more than 10,000 years, Christmas cookies can trace their history to biscuit recipes from medieval Europe. That’s a time when many modern ingredients such as cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, almonds and dried fruit were introduced into the West.
Since then, just about every culture has developed its own Christmas cookies. Around here, for example, anyone who is Norwegian or is married into a Norwegian family knows about krumkake, a centuries-old cookie that looks like a waffle cone. And my German/Swiss grandmother crafted a buttery cookie called spritz, which my mom still makes.
Here are a few more ethnic favorites:
n Pepparkakor are crisp, thin gingersnap biscuits from Sweden, traditionally cut out in flower and heart shapes.
n Pfeffernüsse originated in Denmark and date from medieval times when spices were used exclusively in holiday baking.
n Reposteria is a Mexican type of shortbreadlike cookie that’s lightly baked and dipped into a cinnamon sugar blend until the cinnamon sugar surrounds the cookie. These often are served with coffee or hot spiced Mexican chocolate.
n Springerle have been traditional Christmas cookies in Bavaria and Austria for centuries. They are anise-flavored cookies made from a egg-flour-sugar dough. They usually are made in a simple shape, such as rectangles or circles.
n Oplatki are Polish cookies stamped with figures of the Nativity, when the first star appears in the sky on Christmas Eve.
I’ve been slowly learning to make a few of my mom’s Christmas cookie recipes the past couple of years. Two years ago, I helped make sugar cookie cutouts of Santa and friends. Another December past, Hershey dream bars were on the agenda. This year, I’ve going to try my hand at making peanut butter blossoms, which really shouldn’t be too difficult.
Peanut butter blossoms are one of my favorite Christmas cookies. Besides containing peanut butter, the cookies also are adorned with a Hershey’s kiss. That’s a combination made in heaven. (Whenever I have dark chocolate, I can’t resist dipping it into the peanut butter jar.)
Maybe that’s what I’ll leave Santa Claus (along with a glass of milk) for his Christmas Eve snack.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.