Guest Author - Phyllis Doyle Burns
During the 17th and 18th centuries, refugees from the Palatinate of the German Rhine, and immigrants from southwestern Germany and Switzerland began to settle in Pennsylvania. They brought with them the wonderful traditions and culture of their homeland -- and some wonderful Christmas recipes for cookies and cakes. The typical Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas is based on these old world traditions.
Over time, the variant of "Deutsch" acquired the English meaning which refers to the language and people of the Netherlands who were part of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation, so were ethnically German -- the word "Dutch" came from the English variant of "Deitsch," the dialect word for "Deutsch", which means German.
By the 18th century, half of the entire population of Pennsylvania were Deutsch (German). Today, these people still are famous for their cherished Old-World traditions, especially during the Christmas season. It was the Pennsylvania Dutch who brought to America the custom of the Christmas tree -- in fact, most of the traditions we have during the Christmas season came from the Pennsylvania Dutch peoples.
At this time of year, kitchens in the homes are fragrant with the smell of baking cookies and Christmas cakes. One will see old-fashioned tin cookie cutters and freshly baked and decorated cookies in shapes to delight all. Some of the most popular shapes are angels, stars, lambs, and hearts.
Here is my favorite holiday cookie recipe that is perfect for those cherished old-fashioned tin cookie cutters.
Decorated Christmas Cookies
1 cup soft butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon each vanilla and almond extracts
3 1/4 cup flour (sifted)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sour cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Make sure you work it till the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat egg yolks slightly, adding vanilla and almond extracts and add to butter-sugar mixture. Add sour cream, mix well, then gradually add in dry ingredients. Mix well after each addition of dry ingredients.
Roll dough out on floured board until about 1/2" thick. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on non-stick cookie sheet. Bake 15 - 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool cookies on racks or wax paper. Frost cookies and decorate with colored sugar -- or use a frosting bag and tip to decorate.
Here is a great recipe for a Christmas cake that is perfect when having a few friends over for afternoon tea.
Christmas Gingerbread Cake
1/2 cup (1 cube) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light molasses
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water
1 1/2 cups dark raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans. If you have iron cornbread pans that has 12 sections, this would be much easier for serving size pieces and would make the edges of the cake crispy, which is delightfully tasty.
Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat egg slightly and add it, with the molasses, to the butter and sugar. Gradually sift in the dry ingredients, mixing well after each addition. Add the hot water and beat until smooth. Stir in raisins. Fill prepared pans half full and place in preheated oven. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or till until done. Cake is done if a quick, light finger pressure in the center of cake springs back immediately. Makes 24 servings.
For a great taste sensation, split a piece open, like you would an English muffin, and spread with soft butter or drizzle with honey.