Today I want to talk about the importance of sharing rituals.
Since we don’t have a lot of solid traditions in the US, I like to create some repeatable rituals for my family which make them feel warm, whole and protected around the holidays.
In our home, we celebrate Christmas but I love that you could transfer most of these traditions (with some modifications) to any winter holiday.
WE GIVE EACH OTHER BOOKS
All of us love to read and this year in particular we have been reading out loud together. On Christmas Eve, I make sure each of my family members has a new book to unwrap so the we can unwind and really disconnect from media on Christmas Day. In Iceland this is called the “flood of books” because everyone gives and receives books, then spends a lot of Christmas Day exploring the books.
WE SPOIL SOMEONE
On Christmas Eve, I love to make traditional Swedish meatballs, hasselback potatoes, and I make warm rice pudding. The tradition is to hide a candied almond (I use a dark chocolate one) in the pudding and serve out the portions. Whomever gets the almond gets a special gift which focuses on self-care.
WE MAKE WISHES
We also like to get out our pepparkakor cookies and hold them in the palm of a cupped hand, tapping firmly on the top 3 times. If the cookie breaks into 3 pieces, you receive a wish. This is fun, competitive, and eating all of the cookie pieces with some good black tea is delicious.
WE BAKE TOGETHER
There is something about taking time to make something delicious from scratch and teaching the kids how to do it which is so satisfying, and instills a sense of tradition in them. This recipe I am sharing today is a little bit labor intensive, and you must follow the steps precisely, but many hands make light work, and the end product is undeniably special and gorgeous.
MY SWEDISH CREAM WAFERS
1 cup butter, softened
⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
⅓ cup granulated sugar for decoration
¼ cup butter, softened
¾ cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1-2 teaspoons heavy whipping cream
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.5 teaspoons pure almond extract
2-4 drops natural food coloring of your choice (I change the color each year, or do a few different colors and I like to keep it pale)
Make wafers: Mix butter, cream, and sifted flour with an electric mixer until well combined. Chill for at least 1 hour (2-3 is better).
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Sprinkle white sugar over a sheet of waxed paper.
On a floured board, roll out 1/3 of the dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut about 60 wafers with a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter.
Press both sides of each wafer into the white sugar, then transfer to ungreased baking sheets (you can also use parchment).
Prick each cookie about 4 times with a fork.Bake in the preheated oven 7 to 9 minutes. Let cookies cool on a cooling rack, off the sheets. You’ll need a sheet for the next batch.
Make filling while wafers are cooling: Blend butter, confectioners' sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla together with an electric mixer. Tint with food coloring.
Spread filling onto a cooled wafer and top with a second wafer. Press gently to seal. Repeat with remaining wafers and filling.
You may double the filling for a nicer-looking cookie.
Chilling your dough longer helps, as does returning dough you aren’t working with to refrigerator so it stays nice and cold. A metal bottle cap can make for a great cookie cutter.
Adjust your filling to the stiffness you like - a little bit more confectioner’s sugar helps. Stiffer filling makes the wafers hold up more. Use parchment on your baking sheets and watch your little babies closely - they are easy to burn but you want the flat side to caramelize. When they get a little brown on top, but not dusky pie-crust brown, they are done.
Store your cookies in an airtight container in a very cold space (garage, root cellar, etc.) to keep them chilled and ready to serve.
This recipe makes a lot, so share them!
Stay cozy this week,