Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies

TreesWhat 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.”

candy caneOriginally 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:

“Christmas Cookey
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.”

xmas treeThere 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 cookieSugar 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.

spritzSpritz 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.

Gaiety_Pastel_CookiesJello 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?

cancy caneCandy 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.

glass starStained 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.

Hanukkah_Sugar_CookiesHanukka 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.

Whoop it up for Whoopie Pies

Traditional whoopie pies consist of two soft, slightly dry devils food mini cakes, generously filled with creamy white filling. The filling not only serves to keep this delectable treat moist, but adds a certain gooeyness to the eating experience that’s half the fun.

While the origin of this delicious cream-filled confection can be indisputably traced to New England, the actual inventor of whoopie pies is not so clear, their history is cloaked in mystery supported only by legendary claims and conjecture.

Whoopie pies are said to have been started by Amish housewives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania during the early twentieth century. As the legend goes, Amish mothers packed these wonderful little desserts in their children’s lunchboxes. When the children discovered these black-and-white treats, they would inevitably exclaim, “Whoopie!”

Today, the whoopie pie still maintains a solid presence in Pennsylvania through many venues including the annual Whoopie Pie Festival, which began in the town of Hershey in 2005. Whoopie Pies can also be purchased at restaurants, bakeries and roadside stands throughout the state.

Although many historians seem to favor Pennsylvania as the birthplace of the whoopie pie, the Labadie’s Bakery in Lewiston, Maine claims to have been producing these individual cake sandwiches in traditional chocolate and vanilla flavors since 1925. There are a number of other stories attempting to establish credit for inventing the whoopie pie. One such story is that Durkee-Mower, the company who manufactures Marshmallow Fluff, an ingredient in the filling used in some whoopie pies, invented the sandwich in the attempt to increase sales. However, the cookbook containing this filling recipe was not published until 1930, making this claim invalid.

Another story centers on the Berwick Cake Company of Boston, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the bakery went out of business in 1977, so they are unable to substantiate any such claim.

And so the debate continues and the question of exactly who and when the whoopie pie was invented remains a mystery. One thing of which you can be certain, the following recipe for Classic Chocolate Whoopie Pies will bring you accolades from both young and old alike. So bake on, and add a little whoopie to your life.

Find Em: Amish Door Village, Wilmot, Ohio / Wicked Whoopies, Farmingdale, Maine / Sweet Jane’s Candy, Nachua, Florida / One Girl Cookies, Brooklyn, New York

Make Em: Red Velvet Whoopie Pies, Banana Cream Whoopie Pies