With Christmas not so far away, I’m sure all of you are already wondering what Christmas gifts to give to your family and friends. Well you are in good time if you want to make a personal effort, which usually is the best and most rewarding. Baking a couple of batches of cookies or small cakes and beautifully wrapping them, make the most loved and appreciated presents of all.
I’ve always wondered, how did the tradition of exchanging gifts during Christmas start? The origin of gift giving seems to have multi-faceted roots.
Many recorded events in history show that giving and receiving of gifts dates back to the 4th century. St Nicholas, a Christian Bishop, was known for his generosity, he gave gifts to the less fortunate, as well as to children of every background, simply because he felt that they needed to savour their childhood. Contrary to the beliefs of that time, which suggested that boys even as young as eight be sent to work to help earn income for their families and girls as young as five to help their mothers with the housework and meal preparation. Nicholas started this tradition in Turkey. It moved throughout the world very quickly, and before the 10th century, it is believed that nearly every country was participating in this exchange.
Today, the whole world celebrates. Even though we don’t make it to midnight mass at the church on Christmas Eve, we share the spirit. We love to set up a Christmas tree in our living room, exchange presents and above all party!
Almond Spritz Cookies
These cookies taste absolutely delicious and are the perfect give away cookies. Layer cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container and cover. Store at room temperature or freeze for up to 3 months
• 1 cup butter, softened
• 1 three ounce package cream cheese, softened
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1/4 tsp almond extract
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1. Preheat oven to 350º F. In a large bowl, combine butter and cream cheese. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and salt. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Add egg yolk, vanilla, and almond extract. Beat until combined. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour.
2. Force unchilled dough through a cookie press fitted with a desired-shape plate. Press dough 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. If desired, sprinkle shapes with colored sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 mins or until edges are firm but not brown. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool. If desired, brush them with powdered sugar icing.
Powdered Sugar Icing
• 1 cup powdered sugar
• 1 tablespoon milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• Food colouring
In a small bowl, stir together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. Add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until icing reaches desired consistency. If desired, tint icing to desired colour.