Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Domesticities and Traditions, part deux.

So here they are, in all of their sweet, sugary glory: Christmas cut-out cookie decoratin' success!

There isn't really anything artistic or creative about my version of Christmas cut-out cookies (though M would defiantly disagree with me on the creativity aspect - he was so good as to include a "blow-up doll"-themed cookie, a "Barbaro"-themed one, and a "Homer Simpson"-style tree in the decorating - see if you can spot these guys! *cough* look down *cough*)...

The instrinsic decorative merit of most of these cookies lies in their "traditional-ness." This is how I decorated cookies when I was little: Rudolphs got red hot noses, Christmas tree shapes got as much stuff dumped on them as possible, gingerbread men got sweet red-hot buttons, etc. Obvious embellishments, perhaps, but the tradition of doing it is what I cherish and ultimately feel compelled to recreate year after year. The experience...and the deliciousness of the end result, of course - especially the cookies that have excessive amounts of decorations on them - they're my favorites!

And our new tradition of including the camel cut-outs among the more traditional shapes. This deserves a bit of clarification. M and I, both being happy heathens (an expression pilfered from Julia; see #16 of her 100 Things for full context of use), chose secular cut-out shapes, ones that had little embedded religious connotations of any kind. Tree. Rudolph. Snowflake. Gingerbread Man.

Then came the addition of the camel. Infused with religious connotations. Magi, for example. For M and I, however, the camel symbolizes our usual departure to the Middle East at Christmas time. Me to the UAE, him to Egypt. (Did I mention that he leaves to excavate in Egypt right after I leave to excavate in the UAE?). And, of course, the cookie shape only works because the camel cookie cutter I found depicts an Arabian camel, otherwise known as the Dromedary, it's single hump clearly distinct from the two-humped Bactrian camel. Bactrian camels are entirely inferior to Arabian camels, by the way. Though I say this as a biased Arabianist. But take my word for it: Arabian camels are far superior. So, the camel cookies symbolize our departure to the Mid-East. That is all. Clarification complete. I also really love indulging others in camel factology.

One of these days I might actually post something substantially related to turning strands of wool into decorative, wearable things by means of two pointed wooden sticks...



Anonymous Mintyfresh said...

love the camels. my annual cookie party used to only include holiday-themed shapes, but then one year we introduced a dinosaur and some other fun things, and there's been no looking back. though the owner of the dinosaur moved to DC, so we may be stuf with seasonal motifs this weekend! will your boy be away for the same duration as you? That's fortuitious that you'll both be away at the same time.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Mintyfresh said...

oops--that "stuf" should say "stuck"

5:25 PM  
Blogger Liz K. said...

One year, one of our headless magi became Louis XVI, bloody neck and all. Much to my mother's chagrin, I might add.

I love the camels. My pal John, of Palestinian descent has a great collection of camels. I also used to smoke camels, back when I did such things.

Also, one of my favorite books was Skeletons on the Zahara (Dean King), which includes a lot of camel esoterica, at least to the non-Arabist-camel-ignorant like myself. And lots of camel riding. And camel-pee drinking.

Quite a recommendation, eh?

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nothing better than keeping up with old traditions. well all do it. and love the new addition of the camel. they look super cute- and yummy! and thanks for the mini-camel-lesson! :0) x

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Thanks for the praise of my mittens, Ms. Philistine! I love your cookies - especially the camels. I was afraid the Barbaro reindeer would be missing a limb, but I'm glad to see he was repaired! :) Have a wonderful trip. My grandfather was once a Near East archaeology grad student, and there was a time when I considered following in his footsteps. I wish you exciting finds!

8:27 PM  
Blogger jen said...

Those cookies look SO good!! I think the camels are great.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

I love the camel! And I agree--trees should have as much sugar and red hots and sprinkles and stuff sumped on thm as possible.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Between you and Ashley, I'm really wanting to make cookies right now. (And to cover them in sparkles and sweaters, of course.)

Did you use the roll-out dough (my first choice) or make them from scratch? I'm going to do one of these, but I'm not sure which one yet. I'll bake them from scratch if you can recommend a killer recipe. :)

2:57 AM  
Blogger Stacey said...

The decorated cookies are great! I love how they are casual - not Martha Stewart prim and proper. I do all sorts of shapes - dogs, squirrels and whatever other cookie cutters I happen to have.

Single hump camels RULE!

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those look so yummy. I like my cookies with lots and lots of icing.

I love the camels! Very christmas-y when you think about it.

8:23 AM  
Blogger knittingphilistine said...

Thanks so very much for all of the wonderful comments and praise, glorious praise! The cookies are *mysteriously* disappearing all quick-like...M and I suspect the mice family who live under our oven...

Sarah (second Sarah commenter) expressed interest in my cooking-making methodology - my cookies are 100% homemade, cookie dough, icing and all. Well, I didn't make the red hots or sprinkles. The recipe that I settled upon, after much research, was the "Easier Holiday Cookies" recipe from Cook's Illustrated: The Best Recipes for Holiday Baking (Cook's Illustrated, btw, is the best magazine ever...they rely on science!). The recipe, for those interested goes something like this:

2 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 c. superfine sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
16 tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temp.
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. cream cheese, room temp.

1. In standing mixer bowl, mix flour, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined, about 5 sec. With mixer running on low, add butter 1 piece at a time; continue to mix until mixture looks crumbly and slightly wet, about 1 minute longer. Add vanilla and cream cheese and mix on low until dough just begins to form large clumps, about 30 secs.
2. Remove bowl from mixer; knead dough by hand in bowl for 2 to 3 turns to form a large cohesive mass. Turn out dough onto countertop; divide dough in half, pat into two 4-inch disks, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate until they begin to firm up, 20 to 30 minutes. (Dough can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen up to 2 weeks).
3. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out 1 dough disk to even 1/8-inch thickness between 2 large sheets of parchment paper; slide rolled dough on parchment onto baking sheet and chill until firm, about 10 mins. Meanwhile, repeat with second disk.
4. Working with the first portion of rolled dough, cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters and place shapes on parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until light golden brown, about 10 mins., rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time. Repeat with second portion of rolled dough. (Dough scraps can be patted together, chilled and re-rolled once). Cool cookies on wire rack to room temp. before frosting them.

Hope you enjoy, Sarah!

8:50 AM  
Blogger Kristie said...

They look fabulous! I've had a terrible time finding heathen Xmas Cards too. I ended up making some myself!

7:11 PM  
Blogger Kirsten said...

Thanks for the secular dromedary lesson. They cookies are perfectly themed for your upcoming trip!

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Erin said...

Those look SO good. Hmm, I wonder if I should make cookies today? I love holiday traditions.

8:34 PM  

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