Cookies to celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas

It is almost December 5th - the celebration day of the Feast of St. Nicholas! To get into the spirit, and to learn all about the very first "Santa", visit the Saint Nicholas Center. You will learn about St. Nicholas (who was the Bishop of Myra during the third century) and how families around the world celebrate his feast day. There are cookie recipes, bread recipes, crafts, music, a Sinterklaas Quilt project and information on how to celebrate! (Two of the cookie recipes I made today came from the selection of cookie recipes on the site.) The recipes are from Germany, Holland, Poland, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Serbia and Switzerland. There are even links to St. Nicholas cards, cookie molds, cookie cutters and St. Nicholas rubber stamps. Go visit and get ready for December 5th!

 

Cookies full of spices - cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mace, allspice, anise, and cardamon. No ginger anywhere in sight! The emphasis is on the fragrance and flavor of these lovely warm spices. (Although gingerbread is also a special treat for the Feast of Saint Nicholas, I did not include it here.) And except for the Lebkuchen, this is the first time I have tried any of these! For me, a great way to celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas is to bake spicy cookies that are completely unfamiliar to me!

Here's what I baked, going clockwise from the top of the plate:

Lebkuchen - a cake-like bar, lightly glazed with a brandy/powdered sugar mixture. These are excellent keepers and, in fact, most of the cookies I baked today improve with age. The recipe is from King Arthur Flour.

The fragrant dough is rolled out into a nearly perfect rectangle and then put into a 9x13 pan. I highly recommend lining the pan with foil - a great tip I learned from King Arthur Flour.

With that foil liner, it is so easy to lift out the Lebkuchen (or lemon bars or brownies) and transfer them to a cutting board for cutting into bars. And no more baked-on cookie parts to chisel off your pans. (That's the brandy/powdered sugar mixture you see in the Pyrex cup. It gets brushed all over the warm cookies.)

We wouldn't go through the holiday without a tin of Lebkuchen sitting on the Cookie Shelf.

 

An apple slice tucked inside the tin keeps the cookie bars moist throughout the holidays.

St. Nikolaus Speculatius (Kris Kringle) Cookies - they're delicious. I can't keep my husband away from them. I can't stay away from them! According to the information with the recipe, this tender, pleasantly-spiced cookie was provided to the St. Nicholas Center by Maria Trapp of the Trapp Family Singers (of The Sound of Music fame).

Since I don't have an official St. Nicholas cookie cutter, I used these "retro" cookie cutters I found at the bottom of my cookie cutter stash.

And now I remember why I haven't used them in years - those cute little angels are a real pain to get off the cutting board! For a little sparkle and sugary goodness, I sprinkled on Demerara sugar. I am NO GOOD at decorating with frosting! You will NEVER see me doing that here! I ALWAYS use sugar crystals.

Tip: if you don't own a bench scraper, go get one today! A most useful tool when transfering cookies from the cutting board to the baking tray.

 

And...it will scrape up every last little bit of sticky cookie dough from your work surface.

Pfeffernuesse (German Peppernuts) - delightfully different from what our taste-buds are accustomed to here in America. I like these very much. Cardamom, anise, and pepper strongly influence the flavor. After they bake, they are glazed with a powdered sugar/egg white glaze. (I recommend powdered egg whites).

Baking tip: Bake your cookies on parchment paper. Your cookies won't stick to the cookie sheet, and you can use your cookie sheets over and over without cleaning in between batches.

And... you can slide the whole batch at one time onto the cooling rack! I LOVE this trick!

And one more little kitchen trick: A personal folding table. Perfect solution for the extra surface you need during those intense baking sessions. (Actually, you will find having one on hand will be a lifesaver every time you need just one more little space to put things for a while.) Find them at Staples and Costco.

Speculaas - a molded cookie from Holland. This cookie is flavored with warm spices and ground toasted almonds. They're a little closer to the flavor you may remember from windmill cookies. I could not find this recipe in the King Arthur online file, so the recipe I used is in the Cookie Companion Cookbook

Since Speculaas are often shaped in cookie molds and I don't yet own one, I decided to see if my almost-forgotten shortbread mold would work to shape the cookies.

And it did!! (I used a little cornstarch to dust the surface of the mold as suggested in the recipe. Use a pastry brush to remove the cornstarch after molding and before baking.)

The cookies turned out a little larger than I would have liked, using this star mold. I will try a real cookie mold next year. The cookies, by the way, are wonderful! My husband thinks he's in cookie heaven. (Which happens, right now, to be located in my kitchen!)

Pfeffernuesse - from a recipe in my very old McCalls Cookbook, which was given to me by my Great Grandmother the first Christmas I was married. You can use the recipe from the St. Nicholas Center for Pepernoten (Dutch Peppernut Cookies) as it is very, very close to the recipe I used. The main difference is that the Saint Nicholas Center recipe has citron and powdered sugar coating. Give the flavors a couple days to develop before you eat these.

The cookies don't look like much when they are rolled into little balls...

But are much better-looking with the powdered sugar coating. And they are yummy!

If you are baking with children, and want to introduce them to St. Nicholas treats, I suggest you make the St. Nicholas Speculatius cookie from Maria Trapp. It is a delicious cookie, fun to make and a milder flavor change from the cookies they may be used to eating.

Now, get busy and make some St. Nicholas cookies! St. Nicholas is almost here!

Hi...they all look so lovely.

Hi...they all look so lovely. Where did you buy the gorgeous Christmas shortbread mold.

Thanks Wendy

Peppernuts are a holiday

Peppernuts are a holiday staple in this part of the world (south central KS) Lots of German Mennonites. I love the ones that actually melt in your mouth!

Pam, I love your cookie

Pam, I love your cookie making post. I always do several rounds of Holiday baking. I found it to be the perfect gift for the kid's teachers at school. You have encouraged me to give some new recipes a try. I remember those cookie cutters as well. I know for sure we had that Santa because I bent in the handle and got in trouble for it as a kid. I love the angel, I don't think Mom had that one.
Thanks for the Christmas Cheer.

I so want to come to your

I so want to come to your house, right now!!

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