Saint Lucia Day Goodies

Thursday, December 13, 2012

On the fourth day of my blog theme ... falls Saint Lucia Day, or Saint Lucy's Day, celebrated predominantly in Scandinavia. In Sweden, Norway and parts of Finland, it is the Festival of Lights and commemorates Saint Lucy, who died for her religious beliefs in 304 A.D.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica:
In Scandinavian countries each town elects its own St. Lucia. The festival begins with a procession led by the St. Lucia designee, who is followed by young girls dressed in white and wearing lighted wreaths on their heads and boys dressed in white pajama-like costume singing traditional songs. The festival marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Scandinavia, and it is meant to bring hope and light during the long winter days. Schools generally close around noon on the day of the festival so that families can prepare for the holiday. Families observe St. Lucia’s Day in their homes by having one of their daughters (traditionally the eldest) dress in white and serve coffee and baked goods, such as saffron bread (lussekatter) and ginger biscuits, to the other members of the family. These traditional foods are also given to visitors during the day.
I've long been a little infatuated with Sweden, so I know that they also drink glögg (mulled wine) and snack on dried fruit and almonds on Saint Lucia Day. I get my glögg from IKEA, which began selling it a few years back. This year they introduced white glögg in addition to the traditional red kind, so I picked up one bottle of each. I personally find IKEA's glögg to be too intense, so I prepare it as a mix of 60% glögg, 40% water. I heat it up on the stovetop and add slices of orange and mulling spices. So good.

For Saint Lucia Day, I baked a variation of traditional ginger cookies to go along with the glögg. Always wanting to try a weird flavor combination, I opted to bake "ginger and lime chewies" from the December issue of Better Homes & Gardens. As usual, I altered the recipe a little bit ... these weren't as gingery as I thought they would be (I thought they would be like gingersnaps with some lime, but I could barely taste the ginger), so if you would like them to be more gingery, add more fresh and/or ground ginger.

Lime and Ginger Chewies
Makes about 24 cookies
Prep time: about 45 minutes
Cooking time: 6 to 8 minutes baking time per batch of cookies

3/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of finely shredded lime peel
1 tablespoon of peeled, minced fresh ginger
1 stick of unsalted buter, cut into chunks and slightly softened
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 egg
1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
3/4 tablespoon of corn syrup (I used maple syrup, but it would probably be best to use corn syrup or maybe molasses)
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of lemon or vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
A pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly greased cookie sheets and set aside.

Combine sugar, lime peel and fresh ginger in a food processor and process for 2 to 3 minutes until ginger is completely pulverized and mixture is blended and smooth.

In a bowl, combine lime-ginger mixture, butter, egg, lime juice, corn syrup, ground ginger, vanilla or lemon extract, baking soda and salt. Beat with an electric mixer on low then medium speed until the mixture is well blended and lightened in color, about 1 1/2 minutes. Beat in half the flour on low speed until incorporated, then stir in the remaining flour until it's evenly incorporated. Add up to 3 tablespoons of flour if the dough seems too wet and up to 1 teaspoon of water if the dough seems too dry.

Shape dough into quarter or walnut-sized balls and place about 2 1/2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Flatten to about 1/4 inch thickness using the bottom of a glass.

Bake for about 6 to 8 minutes until edges are light brown and cookies are not quite firm when gently pressed in the middle. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and garnish with powdered sugar and lime zest, if desired. Cool completely.

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