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.
Christmas in Mexico and hopefully tamales....