Everyone knows the Christmas carol, but what’s the significance of the 12 days of Christmas? And why do we make cookies enough for the entire town during this time of year? Is it only cookies that are significant? When did this cookie trend begin? Does it have any religious sentiment attached to it? There are endless queries related to the 12 days of Christmas without even adding cookies to the equation.
Let’s first look at the traditions behind the 12 days of Christmas before we start talking all things baked and delicious. The significance is symbolic to the Roman Catholic timeline of the birth of Jesus Christ. It commences on 25 December and concludes on 6 January with the arrival of the three kings (wise men). This is the concise Biblical answer.
It was during the 16th century that sugar and its scrumptious by-products began making appearances, with cakes and breads surfacing. During the wait for the three kings’ arrival, a variety of sweet treats were made in celebration in order to keep the festivities going and spirits high. With the development of technology over time, we have refined those treats and flavours to match our taste buds. This had led to traditions in different countries around the world based on the ingredients available in each nation.
Christmas cookies around the world
A few traditional holiday cookies from around the world:
France: madeleines, macarons, palmiers
Italy: pignoli, amaretti, cucciddati
South America: alfajores
Germany: lebkuchen, peffernuesse
Austria: Linzer cookies
Switzerland: basler brunsli, simtsterne
Romania: salam de biscuiti
India: nankhatai, kulkuls, bolinhas, rose cookies
My list of Christmas cookies
My list of cookies has to include biscuits, bars and bonbons because there is no Christmas that is complete without a few of these treats adorning my dining table.
Let’s talk a little about flavours – there are so many choices, from traditional to more current trends. I believe that sweet treats should be a combination of everything that is familiar, comforting and lip-smackingly delicious.
I had to have cookies with nuts. Cashews, almonds, walnuts, chestnuts and pecans are my go-tos, so it was a no- brainer which ones would be chosen – each one was a winner!
While chocolate and peppermint are a traditional pairing, I went for chocolate and coffee as they are a match made in heaven. And while a good old chocolate brownie may not seem that festive, if you throw a whole bunch of chestnuts and a splash of Baileys into the mix, you are on your way to a spruced-up holiday brownie.
Rum balls are good, but replacing rum with brandy makes them even better.
Breakfast cookies with oats, cranberries and white chocolate chunks make for an incredible on-the-go snack, and speaking of breakfast, cornflakes and marshmallows are the best of friends if treated well, making an edible wreath.
With all things sweet a little savoury works just fine, and my bacon Cheddar biscuits are flaky, salty and seasoned with crushed black pepper, making for a hearty side at the dinner table.
Nothing compares to a custardy coconut macaroon with a cup of tea.
Sugar cookies may seem tacky, yes, but they are priceless and thoughtful when customised as edible gifts or even as buntings on the Christmas tree.
In addition to flavour, a cookie is as good as its texture. Let’s be honest here – without a good crumble, snap, crackle or sticky, fudgy, moist texture, we are in no mans land and shouldn’t be talking cookies at all. So with flavour comes texture; they work hand in hand, and both are essential to baking the prefect cookie. To ensure the right texture is achieved, the techniques used for preparing the cookies are important, so dough resting time, baking temperature, the use of a thermometer, substitutions, scales and measurements are at the focus of making these yummy treats. But before you get overwhelmed – this doesn’t mean you must have fancy equipment in order to prepare these cookies. Nope, you most certainly do not!
I made this list of cookies to ensure that I have covered multiple flavours and a variety of textures. They also feature numerous culinary techniques, so you can learn a thing or two in the process.
These treats can be made before Christmas and shared with family and friends as a gesture of kindness throughout the season.
12 days of Christmas cookies 2019
1. Pecan fudge (recipe link)
2. Edible buntings (recipe link)
3. North Pole rocky road (recipe link)
4. Snowballs (recipe link)
5. Brandy balls (recipe link)
6. Christmas cornflakes wreath (recipe link)
7. Bacon Cheddar biscuits (recipe link)
8. Baileys chestnut brownies (recipe link)
9. Coconut custard macaroons (recipe link)
10. Mocha discs (recipe link)
11. Lace cookies (recipe link)
12. White chocolate & cranberry oat cookies (recipe link)
Enough talk about history, flavour and texture. Let’s get baking!