Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Holiday Cookies from Around the World

The holidays are all about traditions and in every corner of the world, the people mark the season with delectable cookies. Here are just a few of the traditional holiday cookies from around the world.

Scottish Shortbread Cookies - A simple recipe of flour, butter, sugar and cornstarch yields a delightful cookie that the Scots enjoy year round. However, they are particularly popular during New Year celebrations. There are numerous recipes for shortbread, but the Scots seem to know the trick for making them addicting.

Israeli Rugelach - This sweet Jewish treat has become a part of mainstream society in the US and throughout the world. The yeast based dough is cut in circles, covered with something like raisins or nuts, and rolled up to make crescent shapes.

Chinese Almond Cookies - The sweet almond has been cultivated in China since 600 AD making it a long term favorite in Chinese cooking. The Chinese often grind the almonds into a paste and combine it with milk to make sweet desserts such as these cookies that are enjoyed throughout the holidays.

Greek Melomakarona - These delicious morsels are made in a 2 step process. First, the cookies are baked until they have the texture of cake. Then they are liberally soaked in a mixture of honey syrup that is absorbed by the sponge-like cookie, creating a sweet treat like no other. During the Christmas season, these cookies are eaten all over Greece.

Mexican Wedding Cookies - These delectable cookies that are chock full of nuts and rolled in powdered sugar are known by many names in various countries throughout the world. They are usually shaped as crescents or round balls. The recipe may vary a bit from country to country, but the main ingredients are essentially the same. For instance, the people of Greece call them Kourambiethes and in the US, they are often known as butter balls or snowballs. In Mexico, these nutty delights are put in fancy paper holders and given out as guest favors at weddings. Whatever the name, they are delicious all the same!

Polish Thumbprint Cookies - These delightful little cookies literally have a thumbprint in the middle that is filled with apricot or other jam/preserves. Made with honey and almonds, these Christmas cookies capture the usual flavor of this region of the world.

German Chocolate Pretzel Cookies - These pretzel-shaped, chocolate shortbread cookies are a favorite in Germany at Christmas time. To make them look like authentic pretzels, they put on a light egg glaze and sprinkle the cookies with coarse sugar.

Swedish Pepparkakor - Also known as Swedish Ginger Thins, the Swedes often use cookie cutters to make these thin cookies into fun shapes like animals, people and stars during the holidays. It is a great family Christmas tradition much like making rolled and cut-out sugar cookies in the US.

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