This month’s topic for The Canadian Food Experience Project is all about regional Christmas traditions. Because molasses is such a part of the culinary history of Atlantic Canada, gingerbread cut-out cookies definitely have their place in our Region’s Holiday traditions.
The great fun in the tradition comes when you let your kids paint these Christmas cookies with tinted frosting…
If you’re looking for Christmas crafts for kids, painting cookies tops my list. After all, what’s better than an afternoon spent at the kitchen table painting great gobs of tinted frosting onto cut out cookies, applying candy sprinkles with abandon and listening to Christmas records?
If you asked my kids they’d tell you that Christmas cookie painting is just about the best Christmas tradition in our house.
I grew up painting gingerbread cut out cookies with my brothers and sisters. It was always an afternoon of fun, Christmas music and way too many silver candy balls.
Mom would roll, cut and bake dozens of cookie stars, angels, trees, bells and chubby gingerbread men, and as fast as they cooled we’d decorate them, using real paint brushes (reserved for cooking painting only) and varying amounts of skill and patience. My sister Martha was always the most creative. I remember her painting blue denim overalls on stars, complete with contrasting pockets and stitching. Once the frosting hardened (and believe me, it hardened) we’d hang them on the tree where they’re go stale and somehow get more delicious.
Is painting gingerbread cookies a New Brunswick tradition? Haven’t a clue but among my family, eating spicy gingerbread cookies under a blanket of tinted frosting is an enduring tradition that helps to define the Holidays. Painting cookies fuels the fire of anticipation with my kids and is the most delightful family activity.
Here are two great recipes for gingerbread cut-out cookies that are just right for painting:
(We use basic kids craft paint brushes with stiff bristles. )
How to paint Christmas cookies with kids:
- Make a big batch of simple white icing
- Divide into four bowls and tint three of the bowls primary colours (red, yellow, blue)
- Let your kids mix their own secondary colours (green, orange, purple)
- Have on hand your choice of edible sprinkles.
- Have on hand children’s craft paint brushes with stiff bristles.
The rules of painting cookies with kids (in our house):
- There are no rules and no limits.
- Licking paintbrushes is discouraged but won’t get you kicked out of the fun.
- Wait for the frosting to harden before attempting to hang cookies on the tree.
- Red and green frosting swirled together makes swampy brown frosting. Don’t swirl if you don’t want brown.
- “The works” cookies are usually too heavy to hang on the tree.
These cookies are for kid consumption only.
Aside from the fact that the cookies are usually overloaded with frosting, there is a lot of paint brush licking and fingers in the frosting, so no one but their creators want to be eating them.
That of course is part of the fun. A whole tin of cookies for kids only plus those that pass the weight test so get hung on the tree (only to be nibbled like worms on a hook as they slowly go stale.)
Is cookie painting a Holiday tradition in your house?
Here are two great cookie recipes for extra fun painting:
Tip: If you want to hang your cookies on the tree, make a hole in the top of the cookie (using a skewer or straw) before baking. When the frosting has dried thread a piece of ribbon through the hole.
The Canadian Food Experience Project began June 7 2013. The idea is to share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.
Do you have favourite Holiday recipes that you make year after year? I’d love to hear all about them.
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