The holidays are here, and it is time to do some holiday baking. I love to bake all throughout the year, but during the holidays, I like to make things even more festive, to celebrate the season. Gingerbread is one of those flavors that is just perfect for the Christmas season, and has been a Christmas tradition around the world for centuries. There are three main types of gingerbreads – brown gingerbread, wafer-based gingerbread and honey gingerbread.
Gingerbread or Lebkuchen, as it is known in German, is a traditional German cookie given as gifts at Christmas that date back to the 1300’s. Lebkuchen is very similar to gingerbread but it is much darker, more dense and rich, and chewier. Lebkuchen is never crunchy. It is made with honey, whereas gingerbread uses molasses Gingerbread and all its variations are very traditional Christmas or holiday treats in all parts of Europe, but interestingly, it seems like it is more apart of the colder cultures, like Germany, Sweden and Russia. The tradition of the gingerbread man comes to us from Russia, from the late 17th century, when Russian bakers prepared gingerbread men and women as replicas of those people attending parties.
Pomegranates are traditional holiday foods in the Mediteranean regions of the world. Pomegranates are a symbol of Christmas in Greece and many of the Mediterranean countries. In the modern Greek tradition that meaning has shifted a little, with the pomegranate now being a symbol primarily of prosperity and good fortune. Habitually, a single fruit is hung up above the door of the house on Christmas Day. On New Year’s Day, just after midnight, the fruit is smashed on the doorstep to ensure another year of good luck for the household and those within it. Jewish tradition teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol of righteousness, knowledge, and wisdom because it is said to have 613 seeds, each representing one of the 613 mitzvot or commandments of the Torah.
When I made my pomegranate gingerbread cookies, unbeknownst to me, I was actually making cookies that were very culturally blended and just perfect for the holidays; all holidays, from many cultures, celebrated at this time of the year. I was just looking for fun new cookie recipes and thought these were very festive. I had seen an interesting recipe for pomegranate cookies, but then I lost it, and was looking for it again when I came across this recipe instead. So of course I just had to try it. I am very glad I did too. You know I had to personalize it though and make it my own. Would you actually expect me to follow the recipe exactly? 🙂
Pomegranate Gingerbread Cookies
Preheat the oven t 350* F or 190* C.
2 1/1 cups flour
1 TBSP ground ginger
1 TBSP cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
1 cup or 2 sticks of softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1 cup powdered sugar or 1 container of premade white frosting
5 TBSP softened butter
1 1 /2 TBSP pomegranate juice
pinch of salt
crystallized and/or candied orange peel – You can also use crystallized ginger
Combine all the dry ingredients together and set aside.
Mix the butter and sugars together until creamy, then add the egg and the pomegranate molasses and beat again until creamy. Add the flour 1/2 at a time, mixing in between. I made my own pomegranate molasses just by combining some molasses with pomegranate juice.
Drop about 1 TBSP of dough on top an ungreased cookie sheet, about two inches a part and bake for about 15-18 minutes, or until the tops have slightly cracked. Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the cookie sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before adding the icing.
Soak the orange peel in some orange extract and heat for about 30 seconds or so in the microwave, then allow to set for at least 5-10 minutes to soften before dicing them into very small pieces.
Remove all the pomegranate seeds from the skin and the pith and set aside.
While the orange peel is soaking, make the icing. I had some white frosting that I used, but it is very easy to make the icing with powdered sugar and butter. Whatever icing or frosting you are using, add the pomegranate juice and combine well. Spread the frosting/icing on top of the cookies and add both the pomegranate seeds and the candied orange peel on top of the cookies and let harden. Then share with friends and enjoy. 🙂 Someone accurately described these tasty cookies as a wassail in a cookie.
I was familiar with the gingerbread tradition in the Northern parts of Europe and Russia, but I was not familiar with the holiday traditions of the pomegranate until just now. I learned something new today. I hope you did too. 🙂
The holidays are here. Enjoy them all, whatever holidays you celebrate. Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.