Friday, December 12, 2014

Cookies for St. Nicholas Day

my finished cookies! The book shown is the Life of St. Nicholas by St. Nectarios Press.
We also like 
St. Nicholas: the Real Story of the Christmas Legend

Happy (belated) St. Nicholas day to all!

I love St. Nicholas day! We have enjoyed developing some traditions at our house to remember this great saint, and also his namesake, our child Nicholas. This year, however, St. Nicholas was also named the patron of our new mission church! So in addition to plans at home, I was busy planning for a celebration at church as well. It was such a lot of fun, and we're thrilled to have such a special patron. I really wanted to make a bunch of individual St. Nicholas cookies, and spent WAY too much time figuring out how. In the past I've made a large cookie for our family shaped like St. Nicholas, but to make the same thing, with a fasting recipe, in miniature, times 60 - was quite an ordeal. But I admit to having fun doing it!

I don't know if I'll repeat these next year, but I wanted to be sure to record all the things I wanted to remember to make it easier on myself if I do. Next time, much less trial and error, lets hope. Recipes and tips below!

Our table before breakfast. One little girl had discovered her treats. 

Our St. Nicholas day breakfast table with stickers and treats and stories and shoes. :)

Initially, I started my cookie baking by trying to make a speculaas recipe with a lovely cookie mold I bought months ago. They have lots of tips on this site also (scroll down to find the recipes and tips). Unfortunately, it was a total failure. I'll try again sometime, but I decided to go back to my sugar cookies recipe. 

However, I couldn't find a simple St. Nicholas cookie cutter that wasn't too Santa Claus-y, and I didn't want to shape them all individually. Finally, I created my own cookie cutter from a snowman by flattening the round bottom and squishing the hat into a point instead of a top hat. I traced the cutter on paper to seem the outline as I worked on it, and was pleased it didn't take too long. My cookie cutter was only about 2.5 inches tall, but spread a bit to make a 3" cookie.

I was able to add details with fine tip icing. I just use a baggie with a tiny corner clipped. I based my design on this simple one that is cute and cartoony, but with eastern bishop style from the St. Nicholas Center (scroll down and look on the right side bar for the Ukranian Nykolai Cookies).

Fasting sugar cookies
3 cups flour
1.5 cup sugar
1.5 cup non-butter (earth balance buttery sticks - no less that 60% veg oil!!)
3 tsp baking powder
3 tsp vanilla extract
3 zestlemon /3 TBSP lemon juice

Chill for 1 hour. Roll out and cut shapes. If you plan to leave the cookie face blank for skin, poke holes with a toothpick before baking to create dimples for the eyes. Bake at 345 for 10-15 minutes or until brown. Be sure to let the pans cool between baking. Let cool before glazing. Makes about 5 dozen with a small cookie cutter - which is great for church parties, but takes a long time to glaze and ice all of them! For home, cut recipe in half.

The cookies after baking: they spread a bit while baking, until I reused a pan without letting it cool. Then they held their shape very well, but were just a bit crunchy and too small to work on the details. I ended up liking the bigger ones better. 

Glaze Recipe
Note: if you want to make eyes with icing, you will need to glaze over face and use white icing to create a beard later. I learned this the hard way, which is why mine have no eyes. Pipe on to define shape, then spread with knife. Let harden before icing.

4.5 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
3-4 TBSPs of water, more if needed, but add sparingly

After cooling, I drew out my plans on a paper. Then I applied a glaze, leaving blank cookie for the face.
I squirted the glaze on to define the shape, and then spread it with a knife. This was a
bit time consuming. Next time I may just use a knife and cover the whole face with the glaze...

Fasting Royal Icing Recipe
After the glaze hardens you can pipe fine details on with a dark red. I added a bit of black to my red so that the icing wouldn't be too orangey red. A very fine tip (or tiny cut corner) will help make finer lines for better details. 

1.5 cups confectioners sugar
4 tsps water
2-3 tsps light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
gel food coloring

Cookies with a dark red icing finely lined over the glaze for details. 

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