Thursday, January 5, 2012

Feast of the Epiphany & Citrus Butter Cookies

This weekend is the “Feast of the Epiphany”. In the Catholic religion the teaching of the word “epiphany” means “manifestation”. This is the day when the Magi (Three Kings) reached the Christ child and He became known to the world as Jesus. There were three manifestations of Christ’s divinity, one, the birth itself, the Adoration of the Magi is the second, and the third is Jesus’ baptism. In some regions the Feast of the Epiphany is also called the Feast of the Holy Kings. The Kings names were Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. They followed the bright five pointed star in the heavens which brought them to Bethlehem, and the stable where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, had just given birth. The Three Kings presented their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the baby in the stable in honor of Him being born. The Feast of the Baptism of Jesus follows the Epiphany, as the last in the Christmastide celebrations, which are from January 6-9 in the Roman Catholic calendar.

There are various customs and traditions on how to celebrate The Feast of the Epiphany all over the world. In southern Italy, especially Sicily, they celebrate by their children looking forward to a visit from the Three Wise Men themselves. A sign of the region’s historical ties to Spain. In Tuscany and other region’s of Italy on January 5th, there is the tale of La Befana. A witch with her clothing worn to rags, she flies through the Italian skies on her broomstick during the night, and fills stockings with toys, and sweets for the children who were good, and coal for the ones that were naughty. According to the legend, the night before the Three Wise Men arrived at the manger, they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. They invited her to come along but she replied she was busy cleaning her house with her broomstick. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to join the Three Wise Men, bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died. She got lost and never found the manger. As the legend continues La Befana flies around on her broomstick each year and brings gifts to children in hopes that she may find the Baby Jesus.

The blessing of the home is also a popular Epiphany custom, using blessed white chalk. Many households mark their entrance door with the year and the inscription CMB, the initials of the Three Wise Men. This inscription also stands for “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” which means “Christ, Bless This Home”.

There are many traditional foods that the Italians prepared for the Epiphany. The Magi came from the Orient, so many of the foods served on this day are spicy. Spice cake is often prepared to adorn your festive table for dessert. Sweet breads made with dried figs, anise seeds and candied fruits are always a favorite. These breads or cakes are made in the shape of a circle or crown, to honor the Three Wise Men. Everyone drinks the local wine and eats a special fig and raisin bread baked in a wood-burning oven. The flavors of oranges, and tangerines, are included in many dishes, which represent sunlight. (Epiphany is also known as the holiday of light) Meats such as lamb and pork are rubbed with good olive oil, rosemary, and garlic, which add a festive fragrance to your table.

When I was growing up my parents would leave the Christmas tree up until the Epiphany. As a child and even now, I really never wanted Christmas to be over. So, as I try to keep the spirit of Christmas going all year, I would love to share a favorite recipe with you called, “Citrus Butter Dipping Cookies”. This recipe is so delicious and has the fragrance of the citrus orange zest flavor. This recipe is courtesy of Melissa d’Arabian of the Food Network. Hope that you enjoy!

Citrus Butter Dipping Cookies


1 cup unsalted butter, cool but not straight from the fridge
4 ounces cream cheese, cool but not straight from the fridge
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose un-bleached flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Dash of salt
Finely grated zest from 1 orange


Preheat oven to 350° F. Add the butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour; baking powder and salt. On the lowest speed, gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture, just until blended. Gently stir in the zest. Scrape batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch tip, or a sturdy plastic bag with the corner snipped off. Pipe 2-inch long strips, about 2 inches apart, on a cold unlined baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven, and let cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing with a spatula to cool completely on baking rack. Serve with chocolate sauce for dipping, or with coffee, tea, or just nibble.
Makes: about 60 cookies (depending on the size you make them.)
Till Next Time…………………
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