Catholic Recipe: Kris Kringle Cookies
Also Called: St. Nicholas Cookies, Speculaas, Speculaus, Speculatius, Dutch spice cookies
The real St. Nicholas would never recognize himself in the image of Santa Claus, as we visualize him today. At any rate, his feast day, December 6, gives us a perfect excuse to start baking Christmas cookies. Make lots of them, and hide some for the holidays.
Nicholas was born in Asia Minor some seventeen centuries ago. Converted to Christianity, he was put in prison and almost martyred, but Emperor Constantine, himself a convert, saved him along with thousands of other prisoners. In later years, he was a prominent figure at the Nicene Council, condemning the Arian heresy. Legends flourish about his name and countless countries including Russia — claim this saint as their own.
One legend emphasizes St. Nicholas' great generosity. It is said that he gave secret gifts to children while they slept. Because of this story, he has been given a variety of names. He is Pere Noel in France, Kris Kringle in Germany, Father Christmas in England, and Sinterklaas in Holland. From this last name, our own title of Santa Claus is derived.
In Germany children are told that St. Nicholas, as Kris Kringle, pays visits on December 6 and brings with him a demon called Krampus or Black Peter. Each child is asked whether he has been good during the year and told to work hard for the Child Jesus during Advent, being careful to say his prayers and to be obedient. Good children are given candy and nuts, but Krampus tells the naughty ones that they will get nothing.
We might adapt this charming custom and begin the Christmas season by admonishing our little ones to be good and work hard for the Infant Jesus during the days to come. Then, winding up the lecture about St. Nicholas, we can serve some homemade goodies.
Cream shortening and sugar; blend in sour cream. Mix and sift dry ingredients; add slowly to creamed mixture. (Do not use electric beater, because dough will be too stiff.) Stir in walnuts. Divide into 4 portions; wrap each portion in aluminum foil; chill several hours or overnight. Work with one portion of dough at a time, leaving the others in refrigerator. Roll out very thin; cut in fancy shapes. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. (Roll scraps up in a ball; refrigerate briefly before using.) Frost and decorate as desired. Makes about 6 dozen cookies.Recipe Source: Cook's Blessings, The by Demetria Taylor, Random House, New York, 1965