Monday, December 13, 2010

Cooking: Advent Sunday Cookies

Yesterday was the third Advent Sunday of the four we celebrate leading up to Christmas. This is a tradition my family embraced while we were living in Germany and my siblings and I have continued it now that we are adults with our own children. It was my turn to host so my family gathered to read the Christmas story from Luke 2, sing carols, and eat Christmas cookies.

A few years ago I made my siblings the present of Advent songbooks. I found the lyrics to our favorite Christmas carols, along with a bit of history on the carols and a few illustrations and bound them in these booklets. I made personalized covers for every family member using vintage Christmas illustrations and included a CD with instrumentation for all the carols since none of us had pianos at the time. The carols are all numbered (and correspond to the tracks on the CD) so the family can literally be all on the same page. These worked so well last night, especially now that there are grandchildren old enough to read the words. Without them it seems we often get the verses all mixed up!

I have an Advent wreath on my dining table, just as last year, with four candles. I should have lit three of these last night but I don't have this set up quite right for a low risk candle burning so I've left the candles unused. Still very pretty I think. 

My father read the Christmas story and the grandchildren listened quietly, quietly because the quietest earned the opportunity to pick the first Christmas carol we would sing. My nephew, Holden, was the winner and he chose Frosty the Snowman!

Audrey and I had been making cookies for a couple weeks. I wanted to serve a variety because my grandmother, my mother's mother, used to always bring a huge variety of her homemade cookies with her when she came to our home at Christmas. This year I made some traditional and some new, including:

(From the current issue of Bon Appetit and which I served single instead of sandwiched. You pipe the dough for these cookies, which was a first for me. Fun to make and very tasty! )

(I have been making these for a few years and LOVE them! Not too difficult!)

Underachiever Homemade Sandwich Cookies rolled in green and red sugar

My grandmother's Ginger Molasses Cookies (recipe below the break)
(which I served with orange slices)

Caramel Apple Cookies and homemade caramels my sister made.
(Saw these cookies earlier this year and had to try them!)

Luckily we had a decent crowd so we don't have too many cookies left over. The challenge of baking them all is trying not to eat them all!

The highlight of the evening was singing The Twelve Days of Christmas. I have assembled props, including Audubon stuffed birds with recorded bird calls (my favorite is the French Hen), for each of the days and we line up the cousins, each with a prop or an action and sing through all twelve. I love the leaping lords!

Read more for the Ginger Molasses Cookies recipe.

Ginger Molasses Cookies

2 ¼ c sifted flour
1 t. salt
2 t. soda
½ t. ground cloves
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger
¾ c. shortening
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg
¼ c. molasses

Sift flour salt soda cloves cinnamon and ginger. Mix shortening, brown sugar and egg until creamy. Mix in molasses and then flour mixture. Refrigerate dough 1 hour or longer.

Heat oven to 375-degrees. Shape dough in walnut sized balls. Dip one side in granulated sugar (or "raw" sugar). Place 3” apart on greased cookies sheet, sugar side up. Sprinkle each cookie with water. Bake 12-15 minutes.

These cookies are good a bit underbaked if you like them soft and chewy or baked longer for more crunch. If you like them soft take them out when they are still a bit soft and let them cool a few minutes on the cookie sheet.

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