Every Christmas Eve, my son and I bake cookies. We bake gingerbread men, or cinnamon molasses cookies, or mint chocolate cookies. This year we baked sprouted spelt cookies shaped like little snowmen. We glazed them with a bit of powdered sugar and hot water, dusted them with sprinkles and dotted their little ragged forms with currants.
It's a sweet time for us. We set things aside, chat and work patiently through cutting out cookies, baking, frosting, decorating. The cookies are lovely and imperfect altogether - a missing hand, an oddly uneven dab of frosting, an asymetrical smile. But tonight's not about picture-perfect snowmen to parade on the blog. It's about time spent together, laughing, playing and waiting for Santa.
Santa Claus in Our Home
When our little one was born, my husband and I resolutely abolished Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy from our home. We didn't want our relationship with our little boy tarnished by lies. I know. It sounds extreme, and it probably is. But, we're like that. Extreme. Ideological. And probably a bit self-righteous, too.
Besides, the mere idea of Santa always left me feeling a bit queasy, a bit unsettled as a kid. I'd worry to myself, "You mean, some weird old man is going to come inside our house while we sleep tonight?" So relegating Santa and his cohorts to the realm of myth for my child only felt right and just.
Then, on Christmas Eve the year my son turned two, he announced, "Santa's coming tonight!" Despite our best efforts, the myth of Santa slipped past the newspaper ads, the storefront windows, the chattering kids and into the seams of our little life. And looking into his twinkling and eager blue eyes, I couldn't bring myself to deny him something he wanted very badly: magic. So we chatted about myth and magic and Santa and the holiday spirit that night as I nursed him to sleep while my husband ran downtown for some last minute presents from Santa that we'd slip under the tree for the morning.
So while none of us believe, we still celebrate the magic each year with cookies for Santa, carrots for his reindeer and special gifts beneath the tree. And just as we enjoy playing Santa for our little boy, our little boy enjoys playing Santa for us: sneaking downstairs at night to tuck a few extra gifts in our stockings.
Making Christmas Cookies a Little Better
Cookie making, like gifts under the tree, is usually something I reserve only for the winter holidays. In our home, I typically favor fruit or custards for dessert. I'm no fan of excessive sweets, natural though they may be, but I also reflect on the importance of culinary traditions. So I simply try to make them a little better.
Sprouted Flour for Cookies
I usually choose sprouted flour for my cookies. Since you bake cookies shortly after mixing the dough, there's little time to allow for the grain to soak or sour (a necessary step in cooking whole grains), so choosing well-sifted sprouted grain flour is an alternative I favor. Sprouting, like soaking or souring, helps to mitigate the antinutrients that are naturally present in whole grains; as a result of sprouting, the flour is richer in vitamins and its full array of minerals become more bioavailable. I typically make my own sprouted flour, but you can also buy sprouted flour at well-stocked health food stores or online (buy it here). And if you're in a pinch and don't have sprouted flour to make these cookies for Santa, simply substitute all-purpose flour.
Decorating Christmas cookies is the fun my son and I look forward to most, but it's always a challenge as most of the sugars, dyes and additives in frostings and decorations leave me wary. Instead, we make a simple glaze of a few tablespoons of hot water whisked into homemade powdered sugar, topping them with organic sprinkles, and bits of dried fruit. It's a bit of a sugar bomb, but one that comes only once a year.
Sprouted Spelt Cookies
- Vigorously cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Then beat in the eggs and vanilla until the eggs lighten in color, and all of the ingredients become uniformly combined.
- In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt, and then beat it into the liquid ingredients a half cup at a time until it forms a smooth batter. If your dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour, but do so bit by bit, and add only enough to make the dough easier to handle without sticking. Too much flour will dull the flavor.
- Separate the dough into 4 separate balls to make rolling out the cookies a bit easier. While you work with one ball of dough, wrap the others in plastic and place them in the fridge lest they soften too much and become unmanageable.
- Plop a ball of dough onto a sheet of parchment paper, place another sheet of parchment paper on top, and roll it out until it flattens to ¼-inch thick, more or less. Cut out the cookies and bake them 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees until a bit browned at the edges but still soft and pale at the center. Transfer them from the oven to a wire rack and allow them to cool completely before decorating. Continue working in batches until you've rolled, cut, baked and cooled every bit of dough.
- Once cool, decorate the cookies with a simple frosting or glaze. Top with currants, raisins or organic sprinkles (I used these.)