Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas in Germany and Gingerbread plus a little TWD

Froehliche Weihnachten!Merry Christmas from Germany, our fifth stop on our Christmas Around the World Series. My two little charges have been in a German language playgroup off and on for the last few years. In December, their little group will meet to sing German Christmas carols for any native speakers in the area. Last year they sang to a German transplant who was housebound caring for her ill husband. She was so touched by their sweet music that she joined in with the singing as the tears streamed down her cheeks. She quickly called her mother in Germany and held the phone up so that she could hear the little carolers also. It's a Christmas memory that I will never forget.

The tradition of the Christmas tree, or "tannenbaum," hails from Germany, where pine trees are hung with cookies, candies, fruits, ornments and real candles. Our Christmas tree looks like we get help from young children. Which we do. But even before we had children, our Christmas tree looked like we had help from very young children. Now at least I have them for my excuse. My gift-wrapping skills are along the same line.
The advent, or Christmas countdown also comes from Germany, although a traditional advent consists of four candles, one being lit each Sunday until Christmas. I found these little personalized chocolate advent calendars in a candy shop in London and lugged them home in my carry-on for the two little charges.
In parts of Germany, a little girl called Kristkind delivers gifts for the children. Like Santa Lucia, she wears a candle-lit crown on her head. With her comes, Han Trapp, a vicious demon who waves a stick to threaten the naughty little children. This picture has nothing to do with anything that I'm writing, except it looks so German it makes me want to say ya.The tradition of decorated gingerbread houses also comes from Germany. This week, the two charges were invited to a gingerbread house contest and party. My first thought was that we were far too busy to make gingerbread houses and so we were not going. Later I thought we would go to the party, but not bring any gingerbread houses. The night before the party, I caved in and made a quick batch of gingerbread and cut only the facade of the house with a couple of support triangles in the back. We decorated the little houses using royal icing and any leftover colorful Halloween candy. This is what you look like when your mother drags you out of bed with curlers in your hair to decorate your gingerbread facade before the party.I'm telling you, this gingerbread recipe is fast, easy, and super tasty. It rolls out beautifully and handles very easily, plus there is no chilling time involved.
Gingerbread Dough for Houses or Cookies
from the Joy of Cooking
Estimated Cost: $4.50 for a small house and a dozen cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
4 and 1/2 cups flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
In a medium sucepan, melt butter over meidum heat. Stir in sugar and molasses over low heat, stirring until dissolved. Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients, stirring until smooth. Add another 1/2 cup flour and remove ball of dough to counter. Knead a few times until smooth. At this point you can refrigerate the dough, or flour your surface and begin to cut out. Bake at 350. Cookies will take as few as 8-10 minutes, while house pieces may need up to 15 minutes. Remove warm finished cookies or house pieces from cookie sheets after a few minutes.
And as a very quick Tuesdays with Dorie post note, this week's assignment was a buttery jam cookie. I didn't think this cookie would appeal to me, with sticky jam right in the dough of an otherwise very straighforward sugar cookie. I was right. I'm sure someone out there will like them, but it wasn't me. I even tried frosting them with a raspberry jam buttercream, but still..... no, NO, no.
Check out the other TWDers for glowing reports of success.
Next Up:
Christmas in Mexico and hopefully tamales....

44 comments:

VeggieGirl said...

LOVE IT!! :-D

Melissa said...

I think I keep getting smarter every time I read your blog! I used to have the little chocolate advent calendars when I was a kid. What fun! Sorry you didn't like the buttery jam cookies - they sure look good with the frosting though!

Lisa said...

Adorable house. We used a kit as that is all I can handle:)

Cristine said...

Great post! Christmas in Germany is wonderful with all the traditions and amazing Christmas markets!

I'll be bookmarking that gingerbread recipe for when I make gingerbread men with my daughter next week. Thanks!!!

Jamie said...

What a cute gingerbread house and such a beautiful story about the Christmas carols!

Aggie said...

You actually made the cookies that go to the house! I'm impressed! ;)
I'm a kit girl when it comes to that! lol...

another great post Erin! everything looks great!

Marjie said...

We make gingerbread houses, trains or something on Christmas Eve. It occupies the little guys and many of their older, also impatient, sibs. Love your picture of German guys; it made me laugh.

Maria said...

I love your tree! The gingerbread houses are so cute too!! And you made cookies...wow, you are busy busy!!

April said...

Awesome gingerbread house! I keep meaning to make them every year but never get around to it.

I'll ditto you on the cookies, I wasn't super impressed with them either.

Leslie said...

What a sweet story about your children singing German Christmas Carols and the woman singing with them and calling her mother.
I hadn't heard this before, but what a nice memory for all of you.
I shouldn't be commenting, because I have to help everyone with their hair for school, but
I loved the houses, and I really loved the story.
I'm glad you told us about it.

Cathy said...

Prudy, I loved this post -- I learned something new and I laughed out loud; it doesn't get any better than that as far as I am concerned! I think your tree looks perfect; I prefer trees that look like young children had a hand in the decorating. I love German playgroup's tradition of caroling for native speakers -- and what a touching story from last Christmas! But most of all, I loved reading about the progression from not making gingerbread houses/not going to party, to going to party but not making gingerbread houses, to whipping up a quick gingerbread house/going to party. And we wonder why we are a tad overtaxed this time of year? Anyway, sorry you didn't like the jam cookies, but thanks for the fun post!

gigi said...

You are so funny! I love the house. Looks better than the one we made for Halloween. I hated that thing and such a waste. I wish I didn't feel that way about it. I think the front of the house sould make more sense and not be so wastefull. I've loved you Christmas around the world. It has been very fun.

Peggy said...

Sorry you didn't love the cookies. I thought they were great little "tea" cookies. I want your serving plate! Love it. I miss making gingerbread houses!

Debbie said...

I have the Advent calendar for my son. He loves it! I had them when I was little before they had the chocolate in them. They weren't popular here yet but were in Europe...

jenjen said...

Wonderful post today Prudie! Your gingerbread house is so cute. I love those advent calendar. My Dad used to travel to Germany on business and would bring us those home. Now I buy them for my kids at World Market to remind them of their grandpa. Thanks!!!

Kayte said...

Okay, send those cookies right over here...LOL. Love the photos this week of the littles getting ready for the holidays. Is school out yet? (We used to teach the first week and then be on holiday the rest of the month...we would plan our homeschooling around that specifically...so happy we did that!) Love the gingerbread house, etc.

Dawn said...

I am always so impressed by how much you do. Everything from scratch, you are so very talented & patient!

Cathy said...

You have brought back some lovely memories of German Christmas traditions. Danke sehr, Prudy.

Mary Ann said...

We always have a huge gingerbread decorating day, where everyone gets their individual house and we spend hours decorating them. My mom was looking over my shoulder and she thought the facade idea was brilliant! We might just do that this year! Your tree is beautiful. I love the two random people dressed in german attire and so sorry you didn't like the cookies!

Catherine said...

Your gingerbread houses look adorable! Mom was talking about how cute they were, so I'm so glad you shared the recipe and how to do it. Sailor looks adorable in her nightgown and curlers. But I don't think that's what I would like if Mom dragged me out of bed in my nightgown and curlers to decorate a gingerbread house! Your Christmas tree looks darling too. I have always loved your Christmas tree. We have two, one for me and one for the kids, but the kids tree ALWAYS looks much cuter than mine. I should just give up. Westy on the ladder looks adorable too!

Sandy Smith said...

I love this post! My mom was born and raised in Germany, so we grew up with a lot of German Christmas traditions. Now my kids have chocolate advent calendars from my mom and St. Nikolaus fills their shoes on the eve of Dec. 5. Thanks for the great dose of holiday cheer!

Emily said...

Oh Prudy I LOVE Christmas in Germany! Huge Christmas trees everywhere, Christmas Markets, Giant Nutcrackers, Amazing decoartions, incredible food . . . oh I ache for it! My goal this year has been to make German cookies . . . but I don't know if I will make it! But your gingerbread recipe sounds great . . . maybe I will get to that! Froehe Weihnachten!

Allie said...

I love it all!

dharmagirl said...

Thanks for sharing the Christmas around the world stories! I love your houses--what an awesome idea to save on time and materials. I've always, always wanted to make one, and with your adaptations, I think I finally will:)

The Blonde Duck said...

I love the German Gingerbread houses! Sailor's so cute!

Jules Someone said...

Sorry you didn't like the cookies. They were pretty subtle. But the gingerbread looks lovely!

Michal said...

you overachiever, you! you just couldn't go to a party without the gingerbread house. it turned out beautifully, of course. when do you sleep, girl?

Bridgett said...

Aww, the house is wonderful!!

kittymama said...

I love your movie-set-facade gingerbread house - that's a riot! I wasn't crazy about these cookies either but I turned mine into ginger ones - worked better for me than a fruit jam but still...puffy cookies are like puffy shirts - not too appealing.

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Di said...

Our tree definitely had some small decorators as well. And I'm jealous--your Advent calendars look much better than ours. =) Sorry to hear that you didn't like this week's cookies.

Tammy said...

your gingerbread house is so cute! I still have a chocolate advent calendar just for me!! But I am with you on the buttery jam cookies - not my thing at all!!

MorenaTejana said...

Oooo, tamales! I hope you mention how "tamales" is really "tamal" in the singular form. So many people butcher that word.

Anyway, thanks you for these last few posts. I think it is necessary that we learn about traditions all around the world.

Sharon said...

I haven't made a gingerbread house in years! Brings back great memories.

HoneyB said...

You have a LOVELY tree! I love this post :)

MK and Co. said...

I love your gingerbread house. That was smart to use leftover Halloween candy. I got those advent calenders too for my kids but Jacob is constantly trying to get into all of them. I think he made it to the 24th by the time it was the 3rd. His calender really does look like a little "cub" got into it. My other kids get furious if it goes after theirs.
Thanks for the great gingerbread recipe. I need to make some soon but just did sugar cookies and don't quite feel like doing any more rolling, cutting, moving, frosting with quite so many kitchen helpers.

steph- whisk/spoon said...

what a spectacular Christmas tree you have! and i haven't made a gingerbread house in years and years--bet that was fun!

Natashya said...

I am loving this series!
I didn't care for the TWD cookies this week but I did make your mom's cinnamon rolls and we love them! I'll add a couple of pics of them to a dinner post later this week, perhaps tomorrow.
Your little girl looks so cute - mine always looked a little disheveled, the boys still do!

Sophie said...

I like your gingerbread house idea, it definitely cuts back on time. Your little girl's dress is so cute :D!

Emily said...

I've never made a gingerbread house before, but I've always wanted to. Looks great!
Love the decorated tree.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Such a nice Christmas memoey that about the german lady. Who knew so many things traditions from Germany?

Marie said...

Loved reading about these German traditions. I used to make Gingerbread houses for my kids every year and this year we did them with the young women. One year I did my kids a gingerbread Christmas tree which was beautiful and a lot of work, but I loved it. Germany is one of my favourite countries to visit. I am hoping one year to be able to go there for Christmas! I did spend Christmas's there as a child, but I can scarce remember them!

Jaime said...

cute gingerbread house! sorry you didn't care for the jam cookies too much

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