One of the strongest holiday tradition is making cookies. Whether you grew up in your mom’s or grandma’s kitchen, or you and your spouse have begun the tradition yourselves, it has become a loved and treasured part of the holiday since the early 1800s.
Gingerbread cookies became famous in Europe and Christmas tree cookies in Germany. Cut-out cookies are associated with the holidays in the United States. These cookies have been traced back to mumming, a Christmas tradition in colonial areas where the Church of England was influential.
In mumming, Christmas stories were acted out and food was used to help depict the stories. Yule dows were cut-outs made in this tradition, often in the shape of the baby Jesus.
Pennsylvania Dutch children created large cut-rout cookies and used them as window decorations. Around this same time, Yule dows became popular again and were called Yule dollies. People used tin cutters shaped like people, then they decorated the cookies with icing like today’s gingerbread men.
A great aunt of a family friend once made 2,000 dozen cookies by herself with one conventional oven leaving the house smelling of fresh baked cookies from morning until night. She had a good business sense and packaged the cookies to sell and help support her family during the Great Depression.
Many families bake cookies to stay connected with the homeland. Early immigrants brought recipes they held near and dear and passed them through the generations. Baking time often leads to talking time and children learned a great deal about the country their family came from.
For future holiday baking plans, pick a day as a cookie day. Round up the kids and invite nieces and nephews. Show them how to measure, roll and ice. It’s a truly bonding experience and here are some tips to insure cookie-baking success:
• First, read your recipe thoroughly and make sure you have all the correct ingredients.
• Place the correct utensils and pans at arms reach. Use standard measuring utensils and arrange them in your workspace.
• Use the pan that the recipe calls for. Recipes are made to yield a specific result and changing the pan size also alters the baking temperature and time. Larger, shallower pans need increased heat; smaller, deeper pans need decreased heat. When measuring the size of a baking pan or dish measure the distance across the top of the container from inside edge to inside edge. The depth also is measured on the inside of the pan or dish from the bottom to the top of the rim.
• Prepare the pan carefully according to the recipe and place near the center of the oven as possible. Do not place pans directly over one another and do not crowd the oven or you will have uneven baking.
• Make sure ingredients are fresh and of the quality the recipe calls for. Get them together.
• To avert a disaster make sure your baking powder and baking soda are fresh. Baking soda should bubble when added to vinegar. Baking powder should bubble when added to hot water. Be sure to mix baking powder and/or baking soda into the flour before adding the wet ingredients, this helps to prevent large holes in your cookies.
Turn on the Christmas music, light up the stove and gather the children around you for some memorable cookie baking experiences they will carry on to the next generation.