As the holidays draw near, we begin to reflect upon the things that make us happy: successfully completing finals, spending time lounging with family, welcoming visiting friends who have moved out of town, and, of course, eating cookies. While we all have our taste preferences (“who even likes chocolate?” – me, when presented with chocolate), familial traditions certainly play an influence on these. So, after taking a survey of my colleagues’ cookie traditions, I proudly present the abridged version of Panrimo’s favorite holiday cookies. We could go on forever, but we’ve selected seven!
Joulutortut – Finnish Pinwheels (Finnish)
Finnish pinwheels, or Joulutortut, are as much a visual delight as they are tasty. Joulutortut are a combination of rich, buttery dough — made with plenty of whipped cream — wrapped carefully around a plum and date mixture. The resulting shape signifies an important facet of Finnish culture while also tasting wonderful.
Although typically a holiday treat, pizzelle have become extremely popular, and you can certainly find them off-season. Light, crispy, and thin, pizzelle are considered one of the oldest known cookies, and are typically presented during festivities. Try them with ice cream, or add a dollop of cannoli cream and squish two pizzelle together to create a cannoli sandwich. Perfect for the holidays!
Shortbread cookies (English)
Although not necessarily associated with the holidays, short bread cookies are almost always available at family gatherings, no matter the nationality. The incredibly simple baking process may play a role in shortbread cookies’ omnipresence (there are only three ingredients!), and it’s hard to deny such a simple, tasty solution to treats.
Vaníliás kifli/Vanillekipferl – Crescent walnut cookies (Romanian)
Crescent cookies made from walnut or almond are particularly popular in Central and Eastern Europe, to the point where it’s difficult to differentiate among the many varieties and cultural associations. Shared among all, though, are the iconic shape and fragile dough. And, of course, the heavy dusting of vanilla sugar that’s sure to please your taste buds.
Dutch Speculaas (Dutch)
You’ve inevitably seen speculaas, whether you’ve realized it or not. Very similar in appearance to animal crackers, speculaas typically feature traditional holiday scenes on the front of the cookie. Most popular is the image of St. Nicholas, along with depictions of his noble actions during Christmas.
Chrusciki Cookies (Polish)
Chrusciki, or angel wings, are a traditional Polish treat for the holidays. Take some dough, fry it up, and you’ve got angel wings! Similar in ingredients to crescent cookies, though without the addition of nuts, angel wings are also dusted liberally with vanilla or powdered sugar, creating a treat that strongly resembles funnel cake or elephant ears.
Although you may not recognize the name, you’ll certainly recognize the taste. Meet the German iteration of gingerbread! Lebkuchen differs from gingerbread by adding additional ingredients, but the underlying taste and texture are the same. If you let the dough harden a bit and add icing and a bit of architectural flourish, you’ll end up with a witch house, better known as gingerbread houses and popularized by the fairy tales of Hansel and Gretel. Beware! Deliciousness will ensue.