If there is something left over at Christmas, it is options of sweets and desserts, but the parties are long and the smallest of the house have many vacation days ahead of them in which the weather is not always good to go out. The best Christmas plan? Enjoy preparing homemade cookies in family.
It is a tradition with deep roots in many countries, especially Central Europe, such as Switzerland, Austria and Germany, where there is no shortage of homemade cookies when Advent begins. The assortment of cookie recipes for Christmas it is so wide that the difficult thing is always to choose only a few; Our large selection of cookies well proves it.
The aromas of gingerbread as the basis of the most classic cookies
We all have our favorites and it would be difficult to make a list with “the best”, but it is true that there are a number of Christmas cookies that already fall into the category of classic, essential or that almost everyone knows. They are the best bet for introduce children in the world of homemade cookies, thus starting a beautiful family tradition.
They are undoubtedly those that start from a common trunk, gingerbread of European origin which can take a multitude of forms. The first Lebkuchen Germanic has some cousins with different looks and textures, but almost all of these cookies are characterized by the great amount of spices and the touch of honey, molasses or brown sugar.
Gingerbread man cookies
Topping the list could not miss the gingerbread man or gingerbread man, the most famous cookie thanks to film and television, which features so many Christmas stories and illustrations year after year. The truth is that they are a delight, perfect for decorating the tree and great fun to decorate.
With the same dough you can make other figures without any problem, as long as we bake them separately so that the different sizes brown equally. They are cookies softer, halfway between cookie and the most European gingerbread; if we stretch them finer they will be more crisp.
It is best to prepare the dough the day before or in the morning. To do this, chop the butter and arrange it in a saucepan with the brown sugar and molasses. Heat over low heat until melted. Stir gently, add all the spices and let cool for about 10 minutes.
Sift the flour aside with the baking soda and salt. Form a small egg and add the wet ingredients and the egg. Beat a little with some manual rods and start mixing everything until you have a homogeneous mass. It will be wet and sticky.
Place a plastic film base on the work surface and dump the dough. Spread a little to flatten it and wrap it completely with the plastic film. Let cool in the fridge for at least two hours.
If we have left it all night it may be very hard, so we can temper it outside while preheat the oven to 180ºC. Also prepare a couple of trays or dishes with parchment paper, and remove the roller.
Spread the dough – better if we work with half first – using a rolling pin. On parchment paper or floured a little the table should not stick. Leave a thickness about 6mm. If they are thinner, more crunchy. Cut out the cookies with the cutter and place them on the trays, leaving space between them.
If we want to use them as an ornament, they will need a small hole to insert a cord. We can use a straw, right on top of the head, without getting too close to the edge. It is better to make them thinner so that they do not weigh too much.
Bake for about 10-12 minutes, just until they start to brown around the edges, or just before; they harden on cooling. Wait a bit out of the oven before moving them to a rack to cool completely.
To decorate them, sift the icing sugar. Beat the egg white -small, we don’t need much- slightly, add 1/3 of the sugar and continue beating with a whisk. Add more sugar little by little until it has a thick, homogeneous texture, like toothpaste.
Use the icing to decorate the cookies to taste, with a pastry bag or a pastry decorating pencil, preferably with a small nozzle. It depends on the size of the cookies or the mold that we have used.
We also find other similar cookies that can give a lot of play when it comes to decorate them as the children prefer, almost using the dough as plasticine or clay for modeling and decorating. Sometimes cookies become a toy passed from hand to hand, but it is part of the charm of these sweets.
Few are children who do not like chocolate – and few adults, why fool us. Manipulating dough with cocoa powder, melted chocolate or chopped chocolate chips is a very fun task, in which getting a little wet is allowed. If you can’t lick your fingers and scrape the bowl, where’s the fun?
Fun aside, chocolate cookies tend to be a hit with kids and there are also many options depending on the degree of difficulty or the personal taste of each one. The typical chips are easy to add to any dough, as in these chocolate and ginger cookies, full of Christmas aromas, but we can also use white chocolate, or simply glaze some pastries.
A standard butter dough It can give us a lot of play in the biscuit world. It is a kind of blank canvas to play and decorate to taste, and using quality butter we will have exquisite pasta that everyone likes.
However, if we seek cut out shapes and have fun decorating them As a family, the best thing is to bet on a recipe like these Christmas stars, which after resting in the refrigerator stretches without difficulty, preserving the appearance of the cutters that we have used. With few decorative details, a dough like that of basic shortbread cookies will already be a luxury on the tree, or they can be a good gift for children to distribute to their friends and family.
There are many recipes that we can prepare starting from a basic butter dough, almost always whipped into an ointment with sugar to achieve a good texture, such as Mailänderli, a classic in Switzerland and with which no need to fuss with frosting. And much easier and more attractive are the cookies decorated with wafers, ideal for children to choose their favorite drawings.
It is citrus time and that is noticeable in the pastries of the time, very present lemon, orange, orange blossom and mandarin in the aromas of Christmas and winter sweets. In the past they sounded almost exotic, today they simply remind us of very traditional flavors with their presence in typical sweets associated with the most homely recipe book.
The citrus flavor can be added by adding zest clean skin, juice or both, both to the dough and to the decoration. A combination of both provides a much more penetrating and fresh flavor, and if we rub the sugar with the zest, we will be able to further enhance the fruity aromas.
There’s a lot ways to fill cookies: joining two sandwich-style units, with a cutout in the upper layer to show the filling, making a hole in the dough where it can be inserted before baking … A classic filling is jam, homemade or commercial, as in Swiss Spitzbuben, another Christmas classic, very similar to Linzer cookies from Austria.
Jam, compote or chocolate cream, dulce de leche, honey or caramel, ganaché or nut cream, quince jelly or sweet potato, angel hair … the filling can be varied always to our liking, and it is best to prepare a good assortment for children to choose their favorites.
Cookies with fruits and nuts
Also nuts and dehydrated or candied fruits occupy a great role in the Christmas holidays. There are many cookie recipes that include these ingredients, providing flavor, texture and also nutrients. You just have to have watch out for very crunchy cookiesas they can be difficult to chew for some children who are changing teeth or have more sensitive gums.
Although not all children like “bumps”, we can always opt for more subtle notes, such as in the form of flour ground into the dough, something common to several of our most traditional Christmas sweets, such as the classic almonds. If they are the ones who choose the fruit in question, adding it to the recipe, they tend to be more encouraged to try it.
Cookies with a twist
We end with a selection of more special cookies, for children wanting to try new things On the designated occasions is when you also want to discover different flavors and it is a good time to get to know other cultures, since many of these ideas are international. Although the first one that we recommend is this recipe for nougat cookies, to take advantage of the leftovers that we have of this sweet at home.
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