Saturday, December 6, 2008

Speculaas

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!


Today we are celebrating the feast of St. Nicholas...the guy who became Santa Claus! When I was little we would watch a video that described how the bishop's accoutrement was transformed into the trappings of the modern-day Santa Claus. The custom of gift-giving comes from this holy man who would leave surprise gifts especially for those in dire need.

In northern European countries, December 6th is a day rich with traditions memorializing this ancient bishop of Myra (in modern day Turkey). In Germany, for example, children leave their shoes out overnight in hopes of finding a treat or two nestled inside when they rise in the morning. St. Nicholas is often accompanied by Black Peter who leaves switches or lumps of coal for the bad children.

My senior year of college I created treat packages with some friends which we delivered to professors' houses for their children. We dressed up one of my friends as St. Nicholas, who regaled the children with his history. Another was Black Peter, who frightened several of the youngin's. The remainder of us dressed in medieval finery and serenaded the families with Christmas carols.


I attempted to carry on this tradition last year with my youth group. We baked dozens of cookies, then loaded in vans to deliver carols and treats to the children of the parish. The last house we visited surprised us with some hot cider and cookies of our own....

This year I won't be traipsing over the countryside with a basket of goodies, but I felt it necessary to do something in honor of this wonderful feast day. Last night, I made a batch of speculaas cookies. Unfortunately, I don't have proper cookie molds so they are trees and stars. But they taste just as scrumptious as ever.

I think I'll deliver a few dozen to my unsuspecting colleagues at work this afternoon.... ;-)


Speculaas
from St. Nicholas Day website

1 c. sweet cream butter, room temperature

2 c. b
rown sugar
2 eg
gs
grated rind of one lemon

2 t. cinnamon

1 t. nutmeg

1/2 t. cloves

1/8 t.
ground ginger
1/8 t. cardamom

1/8 t. salt

4 c. flour

1 t. baking powder

Mix together the
butter and sugar in a large bowl until well-blended. Add eggs and lemon zest. In separate bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in increments. Stir after each addition. After last, bring together completely with your hands. Wrap in wax paper and place in the fridge for a couple hours. You can speed up the process by placing it in the freezer for 20 min. or so.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut out with your favorite holiday shapes. If you have the tra
ditional German cookie molds, by all means, use them. The cookies will need to thicker when rolled out, however, in order to get a decent imprint.

Bake until gol
den brown, about 10 minutes. Adjust baking time depending on how chewy/crunchy you want your cookies. Additional times means crunchier cookies.

You can decorate them with a bit of powdered sugar, water and food coloring mixed together, if you desire.


1 comment:

Christina said...

Those sound really good! The mixture of spices with the lemon zest with a non-gingerbread dough is a nice change.