Thursday, December 17, 2015

"Christmas Around The World" Day-#-5 Recipe -- “Easy Gingerbread Cookies"

      Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles.-- Author Uknown

Welcome to the 5th day of “Christmas Around The World!” For my readers who are new, everyday for the next 12 days, till Christmas Eve, I will post a story of a country of the world and a Santa that goes according to the countries customs and traditions. Besides the World Santa’s, I will also share a holiday treat, a homemade gift idea, or just a favorite recipe that I think goes with that country, all leading up to “Christmas Eve.” This has been an incredible year! I have met many people, learned many new things, but most of all, I want to say thank you to my readers, as we prepare for the most joyous time of the year!

Day # 5, My country today is Russia! "Schastlivogo Rozhdestva!," which is Russian for "Merry Christmas".

In Russia, Ukraine, and Lithuania, a traditional meatless 12-dishes Christmas Eve Supper is served on Christmas Eve before opening gifts. This is known as the "Holy Meal." The table is spread with a white cloth symbolic of the swaddling clothes the Child Jesus was wrapped in, and a large white candle stands in the center of the table symbolizing “Christ the Light of the World.” Next to it is a round loaf of bread symbolizing “Christ Bread of Life.” Hay is often displayed either on the table or as a decoration in the room, reminiscent of the manger in Bethlehem. The twelve dishes (which differ by nationality or region) symbolize the Twelve Apostles.

The main attributes of Holy Meal in Ukraine are kutia, a poppy seed, honey and wheat dish, and uzvar, a drink made from reconstituted dried fruits. Other typical dishes are borscht, Varenyky, and dishes made of fish, and cabbage. Russians mostly eat lots of food on Christmas eve. They have a HUGE feast.

Vodka is still the national drink, normally served chilled and drunk neat in one gulp. Highly popular are flavored vodkas. Beer is increasingly threatening vodka's domination of the market. Russians drink beer in the morning to alleviate a hangover, or merely as a thirst quencher, and in recent years the country has begun to understand the term "lager lout." Wine, comes mostly from the vineyards of Moldavia, Georgia, and Crimea. Georgian dry and semi-sweet wines can be excellent, but Moldavian dry wine is more consistently reliable. The Crimea produces mainly fortified wines. Tea is traditionally brewed and stewed for hours, and topped up with boiling water from a samovar (cafes have discovered the convenience of teabags). Russians drink tea without milk. Coffee is readily available and often of excellent quality. Smaller cafes often offer Turkish coffee - served strong and black. Tea and coffee often have sugar already added unless you specifically ask for them without.

In the days of the Soviet Union, Christmas was not celebrated very much. New Year was the important time. Now Christmas is normally celebrated on January 7th (only a few Catholics might celebrate it on the 25th December). The date is different because the Russian Orthodox church uses the old 'Julian' calendar for religious celebration days. The official Christmas and New holidays in Russia last from December 31st to January 10th.

Some people fast (don't eat anything) on Christmas Eve, until the first star has appeared in the sky. People then eat 'sochivo' or 'kutia' a porridge made from wheat or rice served with honey, poppy seeds, fruit (especially berries and dried fruit like raisins), chopped walnuts or sometimes even fruit jellies! Kutia is sometimes eaten from one common bowl, this symbolizes unity. In the past, some families like to throw a spoonful of sochivo up on the ceiling. If it stuck to the ceiling, some people thought it meant they would have good luck and would have a good harvest!

Other popular Christmas Eve foods include beetroot soup (borsch) or vegan potluck (solyanka) served with individual vegetable pies (often made with cabbage, potato, or mushroom); salads often made from vegetables like gherkins, mushrooms or tomatoes, and also potato or other root vegetable salads. Sauerkraut is main dish in the Christmas Eve meal. It can be served with cranberries, cumin, shredded carrot and onion rings. It might be followed by more pies or porridge dishes such as buckwheat with fried onions and fried mushrooms. Dessert is often things like fruit pies, gingerbread, and honey bread cookies as well as fresh/dried fruit and more nuts. “Vzvar” (meaning 'boil-up') is often served at the end of the meal. It's a sweet drink made from dried fruit and honey boiled in water. Vzvar is traditionally at the birth of a child, so at Christmas it symbolizes the birth of the baby Jesus. Following the meal, prayers might be said and people then go to the midnight Church services. They often don't wash the dishes until they get home from Church, sometimes not until 4.00am or 5.00am!

The New Year celebrations are still very important to Russians (sometimes more than Christmas). This is when “Grandfather Frost” (known in Russian as “Ded Moroz,” brings presents to children. He is always dressed in a blue robe, and always is dressed in blue. He is always accompanied by his Grandaughter (Snegurochka). On New Year's eve children hold hands, make a circle around the Christmas tree and call for Snegurochka or Ded Moroz. When they appear the star and other lights on the Christmas tree light up! Ded Moroz carries a big magic staff. The traditional greeting for Happy New Year is “S Novym Godom.”

One of the most famous things about Christmas in Russia, to people in western Europe, and the USA, is the story of Babushka. Babushka means Grand Mother in Russian. It tells the story of an old women who met the Wise men on their way to see Jesus. However, most people in Russia have never heard of the story. It is thought that it was probably created by an American poet and writer called Edith Matilda Thomas in 1907. It seems to me to be very similar to the Italian tale of the “La Befana.”

My recipe today is one that the Russian people love to have for Christmas as a dessert! It is called “Easy Gingerbread Cookies” These little men (you can make girls as well) are so flavorful and tasty. You will want to eat a few of them.

Easy Gingerbread Cookies

Yield: Makes about 24 cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To make the dough: In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves until well blended. In a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, brown sugar, and egg on medium speed until well blended. Add molasses and vanilla. With your mixer on low speed, gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth. Gather dough with your hands into a ball and divide dough in half. Shape each half into a round disk and wrap each half in plastic. Refrigerate up to 4 days. Let dough come to room temperature before using.

To roll and bake:                                                                                                          
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°F degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll each portion of dough 1/4-inch thick between two sheets of waxed paper. Cut out shapes with cookie cutter. Remove excess dough from around the cookies (as best you can), and transfer wax paper sheet to the freezer. Freeze for 10 minutes, then remove shapes to your lined baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. This makes transferring the cookies while keeping their shape SO much easier! Bake 1 sheet at a time for 7-9 minutes. Let cookies rest on baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Once cookies are completely cool, decorate as desired.

To decorate with royal icing:
Make royal icing by combining 1 Tablespoon meringue powder with 2 cups powdered sugar and 3-5 Tablespoons water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat icing until smooth and matte, about 5 minutes. Add more water to thin, if necessary. Separate icing into batches and tint with food coloring. Using piping bags or squeeze bottles with fine tips, pipe icing onto cooled cookies.
Store in an airtight container up to 1 week if you still have any left…Enjoy!


Till Next Time………………………….

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1 comment:

  1. I made gingerbread cookies this year.. my God they are so moreish, I ate so many and felt guilty afterwards!Love the story of Babushka. There are so many traditions around the world, so interesting!