What would Christmas in America be without cookies? There would be no snack for Santa, no visions of sugar plums for the children and no edible decorations for the tree. Christmas it seems was, above all other holidays, invented with cookies in mind.
While Christmas cookies have been around since Medieval Europe, it was the Dutch settlers who introduced them to America during the early seventeenth century. In fact, the word cookie comes from the Dutch word koekje, meaning “little cake.”
Originally cookies were largely hand formed. But by the mid-1800s, cheap, elaborately decorated tin and copper cookie cutters were being imported to this country from Germany. These cutters, often shaped as stylized Christmas images, were designed not only for making cookies to eat, but also for ornaments for the tree. The widespread availability of these utensils significantly increased the popularity of Christmas cookies, and recipes began to appear in cookbooks showing how to use them.
The term “cookey” first appeared in print in 1703, but it would be 1796 before the first Christmas cookie recipe was published in this country. In American Cookery, considered by most food historians to be the first American cookbook, Amelia Simmons wrote the following:
To three pound of flour, sprinkle a tea cup of fine powdered coriander seed, rub in one pound of butter, and one and a half pound sugar, dissolve one tea spoonful of pearlash [a rising agent] in a tea cup of milk, kneed all together well, roll three quarters of an inch thick, and cut or stamp into shape and slice you please, bake slowly fifteen or twenty minutes; tho’ hard and dry at first, if put in an earthen pot, and dry cellar, or damp room, they will be finer, softer and better when six months old.”
There is probably no better known holiday cookie tradition than that described in the poem The Night Before Christmas, written by an Episcopal minister named Clement Clarke Moore. Until it’s publication in 1822, leaving a Christmas Eve treat for the “Jolly Old Elf” was unheard of. During the Depression of the1930s, naughty children began leaving cookies and milk out for Santa in hopes that in exchange for the “bribe” he would leave a gift. Children who were good left the snack out as a token of their thanks.
Americans consume over two billion cookies a year, or about 300 for each person. How many of these are eaten during the Christmas holidays is not know. What is known is that Americans have enjoyed these delightful confections for over four-thousand years. This year, why not celebrate the wonders of the season by starting your own cookie tradition. With that thought in mind, may we present GrubAmericana’s classic Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies.
Sugar Cookies, are also called Amish sugar cookies or Nazareth sugar cookies. This classic cookie was created by the Germans who settled near Nazareth, Pennsylvania in the mid-eighteenth century. In 2001, it was adapted as that state’s cookie.
Spritz Cookies, also known as Swedish Butter cookies, originated in Germany and Scandinavia. The delicious vanilla flavor and rich buttery texture of this pressed cookie makes it one of the world’s most popular.
Christmas Citrus Squares. This modern take on the clasic seasonal bar consists of layers of delicate crust, red current jam, and a wonderful Clementine flavored custard.
Jello Pastels are a colorful, quick, and easy-to-make cookie that’s sure to be a big hit as a holiday gift, party treat, or just a family snack. So popular that you might think about making a double batch.
Chocolate Covered Snow Peaks. These easy-to-make chocolate dipped meringues are a favorite of Food Network’s Tyler Florence and will be one of yours, too. Why not let the children help with these?
Candy Cane Cookies. The whole family will have fun making these fun decorative cookies to hang on the tree, or just to enjoy them with a warm cup of cocoa while relaxing next by the fireplace.
Big Batch Kris Kringle Cookies. This luscious blend of pecans, white chocolate, and dried cranberries is sure to turn even the loudest “bah-humbug!” into “ho-ho-ho!”
Chocolate Bliss Macadamia Cookies. If your family and friends enjoy the heavenly flavor of chocolate and nuts, this is the cookie for them.
Stained Glass Stars. As beautiful as they are good to eat, these cut-out cookies are sure to astound both family and friends alike.
Swedish Christmas Cookies. This buttery ice-box cookie has the lemon-cardamom flavors also enjoyed by the Norwegians. A true European classic.
Paradise Macaroons. These cookies are gluten free, yet unbelievably scrumptious—so sweet and moist. A double batch of these may be the order of the day.
Cinnamon Stars are a classic German gluten-free cookie that is sort of a cross between a macaroon and a meringue, with a hint of spiciness.
Hanukka Cookie is included in recognition of our friends of the Jewish faith. This rich butter and cream cheese cookie can be rolled out, cut into holiday shapes, and decorated in any number of ways. Hanukkah (or Chanukah), also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated this year from December 8 – 16. Hanukkah is observed by the lighting of the Menorah, one candle each night of the holiday.
There you have it–a baker’s dozen of some of our favorite Christmas cookie recipes. So happy baking, and may this season bring you and yours everything on your holiday gift list and much, much more.