For today’s edition of Poetry Friday, I had first thought I would simply refer folks to the adult poem I posted this past Tuesday. It then occurred to me that, although I’m proud of the poem and the reasons for its inspiration, it might be a bit too depressing to lead into the joyous Christmas weekend. Nothing against depression, mind you – poets like me thrive on it, of course - but I’m not the kind of morose individual who is constantly in a state of perpetual melancholy, so I decided a swing in the opposite direction for today might be appropos.
Around here, I do most of the baking; doubly-so this time of year. My wife is a great cook, but she knows that if I weren’t doing what I’m doing, I’d probably be a chef somewhere. Or a sous-chef. Or a line cook. Or just prepping salads at Ho-Jo’s. Fact is, I love to cook, so the holidays give me all the reasons in the world to go overboard in the kitchen.
In the past two weeks, I’ve made 3 gallons of chili, a batch of homemade ham and potato cream soup, 5 different types of muffins, 6 different types of cookies, and a pumpkin-rum swirled cheesecake with a gingersnap-pecan crust.
This is all in addition to normal day-to-day cooking.
Did I mention I love this time of year??
Anyway, I thought I’d share a recipe for a traditional Swedish spice cookie called pepparkakor…along with a poem about Christmas cookies. First, the recipe…these are cookies I bake every year, and although the recipe should make about 4 dozen cookies (depending on how big your cookie cutters are), I usually have to make two batches because I give so many away!
If you like gingersnaps, you’ll love these.
In Sweden, animal shapes are often used, but I use whatever I’m in the mood for. Pepparkakor are so simple to make, they’re a great cookie to bake with your kids; you almost can’t screw them up! In fact, my 2-year-old loves to help me cook, and it takes a small army and an act of Congress to get him away from the batter long enough for me to cut them out.
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter (salted or unsalted), softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (dark or light)
1/4 cup molasses (dark corn syrup will do, but molasses is better)
1 T. each ground cinnamon and ground ginger
2 t. ground nutmeg
2 t. ground cloves
and heck – while you’re at it, throw in some allspice, if you’ve got it!
1 t. baking soda
1 T. orange zest (optional)
2 T. cream or milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup white chocolate, for decorating
In a large bowl, beat all ingredients – except the cream and flour – together with an electric mixer.
On low speed, mix in the cream, then flour, just until well blended (dough should be slightly crumbly, but even-coloured).
Wrap dough and chill until firm enough to roll, at least 30 minutes, but can also be stored overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
On a lightly-floured surface, roll dough out in small batches to about an 1/8-inch thickness and cut using cookie cutters.
Place at least an inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets (this is where I LOVE parchment paper) and bake 5-7 minutes, depending on their size, until firm.
Let rest for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
To decorate, simply melt the white chocolate in the microwave or double-boiler and dip portions of the top of each cookie; top with sprinkles, if you’d like.
Let stand at room temp to harden, and enjoy!
So there’s my traditional Swedish Christmas cookie, direct from the old country.
(Full disclosure: like many Americans, I’m a mutt: Swedish, German, Scottish, and English – with a weeeeeee bit of French you’d have to travel back nearly 300 years to get to. So although the ‘old country’ is Sweden today, it might be a different country tomorrow.)
On to the poetry…
Unlike the other poems I post here, that have been revised, edited, revised, critiqued, revised, revised, revised, revised…this is only a second draft. I don’t think it flows as well as it could, and I’m not sure if the last line has the punch of a typical poem of mine, so it probably has plenty of work ahead of itself – but considering the occasion, it was the obvious one to feature. Hope you like it (such as it is), and be sure to pop over to My Juicy Little Universe for all the Poetry Friday offerings!
When Christmastime is getting close,
We grab the cookie sheets
And dad and I start baking
My favourite kinds of treats!
We fill our bowls with flour and eggs,
We mix and stir and beat;
I try to hide the little bites
Of batter that I eat.
We cut out shapes of every kind
And cover them with sprinkles;
I make a tree of red and green
With one big star that twinkles.
Then put the cookies in the oven,
Let them slowly bake…
Before they’re done, I’m asking dad
What others we can make!
- © 2012 Matt Forrest Esenwine