It’s that time of year again – the festive season. No matter whether you are in New York (where I am from), Bangkok, Singapore or Shanghai (places where I have lived), it is undoubtably Christmas. However, being from a non-tropical country, I always found it slightly odd to enjoy Christmas in 34° Celsius weather. My Christmas memories of childhood are about frosty windowpanes, hot drinks and cookies warm from the oven enjoyed in the flickering light of the Christmas tree.
During my first Christmas in Asia some years back, I simply couldn’t get into the spirit. Something about bikinis on Thai beaches didn’t feel festive to me. By the next year, I sorely missed the rituals of the season. So I called my mother and got my favorite recipe for molasses cookies – my favorite childhood Christmas memory. Then shortly thereafter, a Swedish friend from the consulate in Thailand introduced me to her tradition of mulled warm wine called Glogg, and an adapted tradition was born! The spicy ginger of the molasses cookies pair incredibly well with the spiced, warm red wine and so nowadays if you come to my house in Shanghai during Christmastime, this is most likely what you would be served.
Joanna’s favorite Christmas Molasses Cookies ¾ cup shortening Melt shortening over low heat and cool. Add sugar, eggs and molasses. Beat well. Sift together rest of ingredients. Mix well and chill. Roll into 1-inch balls and roll in granulated sugar. Bake on greased cookie sheet 2” apart for 8 to 10 minutes at 190° Celsius. The ideal result for these cookies is, when cooled, they are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
2 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
1 tsp cloves
½ tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
Joanna’s favorite Christmas Molasses Cookies
¾ cup shortening
Melt shortening over low heat and cool. Add sugar, eggs and molasses. Beat well. Sift together rest of ingredients. Mix well and chill. Roll into 1-inch balls and roll in granulated sugar. Bake on greased cookie sheet 2” apart for 8 to 10 minutes at 190° Celsius. The ideal result for these cookies is, when cooled, they are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
Ana’s Swedish Glogg
1 750 ml. bottle medium-bodied, not-too-dry red wine
5 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 handful green cardamom pods
1 oversized handful of dried, bitter orange peel (or fresh if you cannot find dried)
1 chunk of fresh ginger (peeled and half grated, half sliced)
Combine all in a large pot. Bring mixture to a boil, lower heat instantly and simmer for 30 minutes. It is very important NOT to let it get to a roaring boil or it can get bitter. After 30 minutes, strain liquid and remove the solid ingredients. Then, tie these solid ingredients into cheesecloth and return to the pot. You have now created the concentrated base with a bouquet garni of the spices. Add 4 or 5 more bottles of wine, and let steep, preferably overnight. When reheating, again, never let the mixture come to a boil. Some recipes add a liter of vodka, which you certainly can do, but that is personally a bit too high octane for my taste. Optional: Serve the traditional way – garnished with blanched almonds and raisins.
Again, these are ideal paired together, but you can always enjoy them separately as well. I hope that they too become part of your festive traditions.
Mulled wine photo courtesy of Williams Sonoma.