Holidays are a time for family, friends and good food
December 2, 2015
The baking generally starts the weekend after Thanksgiving and continues each Saturday and Sunday until Christmas Eve.
When we were younger, my brother and I helped cut out and decorate my grandmother’s sugar cookies. Our cookies probably were not the prettiest on the platter, but they were always colorful and topped with as many sprinkles as possible.
Some, like the shortbread trees, can be done easily and quickly in an afternoon, but other recipes, including our gingerbread men and cranberry-cashew pinwheels, are more labor-intensive and keep both of us busy for most of the day.
For me, food during the holidays not only tastes good, but it has the power to bring people together. After baking, we give the cookies to friends, coworkers and neighbors in the week before Christmas.
Each year I get a little bit better at making the Christmas cookies. For the shortbread, the key to getting a nice, buttery cookie is to not handle the dough too much when it is being rolled out. I have the most luck when I divide the dough into smaller sections to work with and try to cut out as many cookies as possible each time the dough is rolled out.
Raspberry Shortbread Christmas Trees
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Sift flour and salt into a small bowl.
2. Cream butter in an electric mixer.
3. Add sugar, continue to beat until light in color and fluffy.
4. Add flour mixture. Beat on low until flour is incorporated and dough sticks.
5. Wrap dough in plastic and chill for 1 hour.
6. Roll dough out to approximately 1/4 inch thickness and cut out Christmas tree shapes with a cookie cutter.
7. Use a plastic straw to poke several holes in half of the cookies.
8. Bake for 11 minutes at 325 F.
9. Let cool. Spread raspberry jam on the trees without holes. Lay the trees with holes on top of the jam.
(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)
Since coming to campus, I have met many other people who have their own family traditions and ways to celebrate the holidays. When Ross Drucker, junior in Engineering, celebrates Hanukkah with his family, latkes and matzo ball soup are always on the menu.
Growing up, Hanukkah was always spent with his family, lighting the Menorah, opening presents on each of the nights and eating dinner.
Drucker told me that every year, it is a family effort to make the food. His grandmother makes homemade applesauce, and other family members prepare matzo ball soup. Even with the entire family working together, the preparation takes a few hours.
This winter was my first time trying latkes, fried potato pancakes that are traditionally eaten at Hanukkah. Drucker served them with applesauce and sour cream as toppings, both of which were delicious.
Since Hanukkah does not fall over winter break, Drucker said that he spends the holiday at Hillel on campus with his friends.
2 large Russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut lengthwise into quarters
1 large onion, peeled and cut into quarters
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons course kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Safflower or other oil, for frying
1. Use a food processor to grate the potatoes and onion. Transfer mixture to a clean dishtowel to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
2. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the eggs, flour, salt, baking powder and pepper, and mix until the flour is absorbed.
3. Pour about 1/4 inch of oil into a medium pan and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, drop tablespoons of batter into the pan. Flatten the dough with a spatula.
4. Cook about 5 minutes on one side, or until the edges are brown. Then, flip the latkes and cook on the other side for 5 minutes.
6. Place the latkes on a paper towel on a plate to drain and cool.
7. Repeat with the remaining batter.
(Recipe adapted from New York Times Cooking)