Posts Tagged ‘Cookie Traditions’
This post is not all about cookies. I know, it’s hard to believe. The thing is, even though I remember baking peanut butter bumble bee cookies for my mother and grandmothers, that tradition seems to be largely familial in origin. Historically, Mother’s Day is traditionally celebrated with cakes instead of cookies.
The Origin of Mother’s Day
In the United States, Mother’s Day was made an official holiday in 1914. It’s a floating holiday here in the States, always falling on the second Sunday of May. This tradition was adopted in many other countries in Europe including Germany, Greece, Latvia, Denmark and Finland. But the idea of Mother’s Day predates the official holiday by centuries.
The Greeks celebrated Rhea, the mother of the gods and the ancient Romans celebrated Cybele, the celebration of the goddess Cybele. Even today, Mother’s Day in different countries often matches up with more ancient versions of the celebration.
Food on Mother’s Day
No matter where Mother’s day is celebrated, there are several common themes. For that one day, children and fathers take over the jobs the mothers usually do, cooking meals and generally making mom’s life as easy as possible. These meals often have traditional elements.
This marzipan covered fruit cake is the traditional food gift in Britain from children to their mothers. It’s quite similar to the Christmas fruit cake. According to popular legend, Simon and his sister Nell wanted to make a cake for their mother. One wanted to bake it. The other wanted to broil it. They ended up doing both and bringing the cake to their mother.
French Bloom Cake
In France, Mother’s Day is not celebrated on the second Sunday of May, but instead is celebrated on the last Sunday of the month. A huge family dinner in honor of mother and a special cake decorated as a bouquet of flowers is traditional.
Making cookies is a lot easier than baking cakes. It may be for this reason that cookie baking and gifting is catching on in America, though it hasn’t quite overtaken breakfast in bed or the traditional dinner out. I still think that a plate of bumble bee peanut butter cookies from a 6-year-old is one of the best Mother’s Day gifts, but then again, I might be biased.
Happy Mother’s Day everyone!
We’re going to do a quick food association here. Get ready….
Among the things that probably popped into your head were Beer, Bratwurst, Sauerkraut. I won’t say that the stereotyping is wrong here. Germans love their beer, bratwurst (actually all different kinds of delicious wursts) and sauerkraut, but there is just SO MUCH MORE to German food than this trinity of deliciousness.
There’s also dessert.
German Cookies and Desserts
My walk to school every day carried me directly by a bakery. Actually, it brought me by three bakeries. Walking by the first one awoke hunger. Walking by the second made my mouth water, and by the time I got to the third, a mere block away from the schoolhouse, my self control had been completely broken and I blame
Bäckerei Burkhard Jess and their delicious confections for the 20 lb. that I gained in one year. That’s right. 20 lb. Don’t judge me.
Hanging in the window of this bakery was one of the most typical, well-known and recognizable German cookies of all time: The Lebuchenhertz.
The Germans are famous for concatenation, and this word is no exception. It’s actually two words squished together: Lebkuchen and Hertz. Lebkuchen is a type of Gingerbread and Hertz is heart. The word Lebkuchen is a concatenation in and of itself. Kuchen definitely means cake. The “Leb” part of the word has been the subject of nerdy discussion for centuries. Some think it comes form the latin “Libum” or flat bread or possibly from the term Laib which means loaf. Yet another theory stems from the term leb-honig, which is the crystallized honey harvested from beehives which isn’t good for much else other than baking.
As with many ancient types of baked goods, the ingredients for lebkuchen differ slightly by region. Honey is always present, and cinnamon, cardamom, anisseed, allspice, cloves, and ginger are the most common flavorings.
Lebkuchen has a long history. The modern iteration of the cake/bread/cookie has its roots in a monestary in the German town of Franconia in the early 13th century, but it’s origin can be traced back to the honeycakes of Egypt.
The Egyptians baked honey-sweetened and heavily spiced cakes similar to today’s lebkuchen and buried them in the graves of their Pharaohs as gifts to the gods. The Romans adopted the recipe and called it Panus Mellitus, or Sweet Bread. It traveled with them westwards and as the more exotic spices of the Orient and Middle East became more available in Europe, so did this sweet bread. But anyway, back to the Germany!
Though Lebkuchen was found in Franconia and then in Ulm at the in around 1296, the city of Nuremburg is the most famous exporter of the sweet in modern times. In fact, as of 1996, Nuremburger Lebkuchen is a protected product, and must be made in the city to be so called.
The Lebkuchen can be found in many forms. The harder type is typically made into the cookies pictured above and decorated decadently with icing. They are as synonymous with Oktoberfest as giant pretzels and can be found at any major or minor festival in Germany, all year round.
So, the next time you think of Gingerbread, don’t automatically think of gingerbread men. Think about the big hearted German Gingerbread Cookies!
When you think about Easter, you likely think about Easter Eggs. But we have news for you, our cookie-loving friends. Easter Cookies are just as much a tradition around the world as eggs are. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of ethnic traditions involving baking around Easter, but we’re going to focus on some of the more well-known traditions concerning cookies.
Greek and Italian Easter Cookies
Cookies and sweetbreads are a staple around Easter time in many Mediterranean countries. In Greece, the traditional Easter cookie is Koulourakia. It’s a butter-based braided cookie with a hint of vanilla.
The Italians have a citrus flavored cookie made in a similar way. These cookies go by a variety of names: Knot Cookies, Lemon Knots, Anginetti and Taralucci are just a few. They’re tasty, crumbly Easter cookies frosted lightly, and sprinkled with multicolored confetti.
Nordic Easter Cookies
Semla are not precisely cookies. They get their name from the type of flower from which they are made: semolina. Versions of this delicious pastry filled with almond paste are served from Shrove Tuesday, the last day before Lent, until Easter in many Nordic countries. In Sweden, it’s called Fastlagsbulle. In Denmark and Norway, it’s called fastelavnsbolle, and is sometimes filled with whipped cream or jam rather than almond paste. In Finland, the pastry is known as Laskiaispulla. This traditional Easter bun can be found as far east as Latvia and Estonia.
The Easter Sugar Cookie
The sugar cookie is sort of the blank canvass of the cookie world. It’s easily decorated and so easy to make a variety of shapes with. For this reason, Americans have latched onto the sugar cookie for creating Easter themed cookies in a multitude of shapes. You can find bunny cookies, decorated egg cookies, flower cookies, chick cookies and almost any other shape and decoration remotely related to Easter.
We’d love to hear about your Easter cookie traditions! Maybe see some spectacular Easter Cookie pictures? Feel free to post in the comments section! Happy Easter!
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d write about the various cookies of Ireland.
The Oatmeal Cookie
Oatmeal cookies didn’t start out as the tasty, sugary desserts we know now. Back in the 1800′s, oats were plentiful in Ireland, England and Scotland. They were a staple food group for people and animals, used in a variety of dishes. Oat cakes were easy to make, preserve and dry. They were also inexpensive and filling. They were largely considered peasant food. Eventually, as more and more people could afford sweeteners, they began including honey, molasses and even sugar. The eventual result was today’s Oatmeal Cookie. Cookie gifts were often presented at the Celtic festival of Beltane to commemorate the beginning the summer season.
So, why’s it called “shortbread?” Well, it’s not because of height. The name “shortbread” actually refers to the ingredients. The term “shortening” is used to describe any fat that was used to create a nice, crumbly texture and rich, creamy taste. In this cookie’s case, butter is used.
Shortbread is extremely popular in Ireland and the British Isles. The dough holds its form while baking so shortbread can take on a number of shapes. Some of the most common shapes are shortbread “fingers” and shortbread rounds.
The Sugar Cookie
Often enjoyed at tea time, the sugar cookie is popular, not just in Ireland, but all over the world. Sugar cookies are simple to make and are the cookie equivalent of a blank slate. They can be cut into as many different shapes as you can think of and frosted in a myriad of ways.
Our Shamrock Smiley Cookies
Although they haven’t been served on St. Paddy’s day in Irish households through antiquity, we’re starting to see that our Shamrock Smiley Cookies are becoming a bit of a St. Paddy’s day tradition here in America. We would love hear about your St. Patrick’s day traditions and maybe even get a few pics of you chowing down on our Shamrock cookies!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
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