Aroniaberry Thumbprint Cookies
Now that Thanksgiving has passed, Americans look forward to the winter holiday season, which, for many, features Christmas. The sights, sounds, and flavors of the season help sustain us through the winter. Something most people can agree on is that the desserts of the season, especially the cookies, are a highlight. Here are 7 fun facts about cookies that you probably never knew.
1. The first cookie-style confections date back to the 7th century in modern-day Iran. They started as test cakes that allowed bakers to see if their wood-fired stoves had achieved the proper temperature for baking regular cakes. Eventually, bakers realized that the crisper, crunchier cookies could be stored longer than moist cakes, and the recipes we know and love began to emerge.
2. By the 14th century, bakers all over Europe were making their own cookies. The word “cookie” as we use it in the United States, evolved from the Dutch word “koekje” which means “little cake,” a nod to their origins as test cakes. In other English-speaking countries, people refer to them as “biscuits” which derives from the Latin phrase “bis coctus”, meaning “twice baked”. That is also the origin of the Italian word “biscotti”.
3. Christmas cookies originated in Europe in the Middle Ages. With the development of the spice trade and increasing access to sugar during this time, cooks were able to experiment with different flavors. Since spices and sugar were still expensive, most people could only afford to splurge at the most important holidays. To this day, many Christmas cookies feature cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and dried fruits, the imported flavors medieval bakers used in their holiday cookies.
4. Few recipes are quite so emblematic of the Christmas holiday season around the world as gingerbread. The oldest recipes for gingerbread are recorded in ancient Greece and Egypt where it was used for ceremonial purposes. European crusaders returned from the Middle East with the recipes and the spices necessary for its preparation. One early European recipe calls for ground almonds, stale breadcrumbs, rosewater, sugar, and ginger, which was pressed into molds to be baked. White icing emphasized the images imprinted on the confection by the molds. Eggs and flour replaced the breadcrumbs in the 16th century, which gives us the lighter gingerbread we know today.
5. Though gingerbread was a staple of Medieval Christmas cookies, gingerbread men originated in the Renaissance. Queen Elizabeth I asked her bakers to form cookies in the shapes of her favorite courtiers so she could present them with cookies baked in their likenesses.
6. In the 17th century, German and Dutch immigrants introduced cookie cutters and dessert molds to the American colonies, which began the American tradition of Christmas cookies in festive shapes. What would the holiday season be without iced bells, stockings, and, of course, gingerbread men?
7. From sugar cookies to tea cakes to thumbprint cookies, everyone has their favorites. Some experts report that Americans consume about 300 cookies per person per year. Whether you like the tried-and-true traditional recipes or prefer to try something new, there is no shortage of recipes on the internet to satisfy any discerning palate.
Since most of us are spending more time at home this year, why not try some new recipes to add to your cookie trays? Adding Aronia berries to your recipes will add nutrients, bright flavor, and a brilliant pop of holiday color. Here are two delicious recipes that are easy to make at home with children. Your family and friends are sure to love them.