Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Feast of the Holy Family--Now is a good time to bake

This year on Sunday, December 27, falls the beautiful Feast of the Holy Family--Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Many mothers are just too busy to do much baking before Christmas—there’s so much going on! But the Christmas season is just beginning for us, so how about doing some baking now, starting with this beautiful feast focused on the Holy Family? Your family will appreciate the cookies and breads—and your children will enjoy helping you bake. You can give some of your baked goods away as gifts—it’s never too late for that!

We can bring out all our cookie cutters we have: the star, the angels, Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the shepherds, the Wise Men, the sheep and the camels—the whole glorious crowd! (Many cooking stores sell cookie cutter Nativity sets.) If you have a few extra animals or other figures, bring them on too: they can all adore the Infant Jesus!

Among everyone's favorites are Old-fashioned Sugar Cookies (recipe below), but A Continual Feast offers lots of recipes for cookies and breads.

Old-fashioned white sugar cookies (from A Continual Feast, p. 95)
1 cup (1/2 pound) sweet better, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy.
Stir in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until the mixture is fluffy. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Optional: Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let is rest for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator. On a lightly floured board, roll the dough out thin—about 1/8 inch (or 1/4 inch, if you prefer), and cut into fancy shapes.
Bake on lightly buttered cookie sheets at 375 F for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cookies are a light golden brown.
Yield: about 4 dozen cookies

NOTE: The beautiful image above comes from a workshop in Mexico. You can order this painting and many other gorgeous religious hand-painted reproductions from them:

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