One of the things I love most about the holidays are all the different traditions that make them special. From gift-giving to gathering with family, there are so many ways to celebrate the season, but my favorite tradition of them all is cookie-making. I don’t know if it’s my Nordic roots kicking in or if it’s just because these cookies taste like Christmas, but there’s a special place in my holiday baking lineup for gingerbread.
How exactly did this become the quintessential Christmas treat? If the tales are true, the connection between gingerbread and the holidays was made in Europe during the Middle Ages. Then, the law only allowed guildsman the right to bake this spiced confection. But even in the 1500s there were exceptions to the rules, and each year around the holiday season the restrictions were lifted so people could make their own at home.
In the years since, gingerbread (in all its forms) has worked its way into traditional holiday spreads in countries all over the world. Whether its pepperkaker from Norway, brunkage in Denmark, or the famous German lebkuchen, variations on the gingerbread theme are baked in kitchens all over the world. Last week in mine, it was gingersnaps.
I make this recipe every year for cookie swaps and gifts, and it’s become an annual favorite. I hope you get as much enjoyment and merriment from it as I have!
- ¾ cup vegetable shortening
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 4 Tbsp. molasses
- 2 cups flour
- 3 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. ginger
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- ½ tsp. ground cloves
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a large bowl, cream together shortening and sugar, with a mixer on medium speed, until light.
- Add in the egg, salt, and molasses; mix well. In a separate bowl, sift together the next five ingredients.
- Slowly blend them into the creamed mixture a little at a time. Form dough into balls and roll in sugar.
- Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 10–12 minutes (9, if you like your cookies soft and chewy).
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