Gingerbread Advent Calendar
The month before Christmas is magical, despite the shopping madness, painfully familiar carols, the cold and the chaos. The month before Christmas is magical because it is a time of hope and anticipation.
The origins of the Advent calendar date back to the late 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. The German Lutherans, would count down the first 24 days of December physically. Often this was done simply by drawing a chalk line on the door each day, beginning on December 1. Some families had more elaborate means of marking the days, such as lighting a new candle every night or hanging a little religious picture on the wall each day.
With Advent (from Latin avdentus meaning “coming”), the Catholics and Protestants marked the period before Christmas, during which the observers fast and prepare for the holiday.
It is believed, that the first official Advent calendar was handmade in 1851. According to the Lower Austrian Landesmuseum, the first printed Advent Calendar was produced in Hamburg in 1903. According to other sources, Gerhard Lang, a printer from Munich created the first printed calendar in 1908 produced 24 small color pictures, that could be affixed to a piece of cardboard. Several years later, he made a calendar with 24 little doors, which opened to reveal stories from the Bible. He created and marketed at least 30 designs before his firm went out of business in the 1930s.
Today, Advent calendars have been adapted by merchandisers and manufacturers to include a piece of chocolate or other confectionery behind each compartment. Business aspect aside, Advent calendars are a real treat for kids. Buy a prefabricated or create one of your own. Here's how I made a delicious Advent calendar from molasses-gingerbread:
Sift flour into a bowl and mix in spices and baking powder. Melt butter and sugar together. Add milk and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Add molasses, let the mixture cool down a little and mix with the dry ingredients. The dough should be medium-hard, non sticky. Refrigerate for about an hour, wrapped in kitchen foil.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface until 1/5 inch thick. Cut out cookies with your favorite cookie cutter. Cut out also a small hole through which the string or ribbon would pass. Place in a tray covered with baking paper and bake about 15 minutes in a preheated to 160 ℃ / 350 ℉ oven, or until lightly golden around the edges. Transfer the cookies to a rack and allow to cool.
Decorated with icing or leave them like this. Cut out small tags with numbers from 1 to 24 and hang the cookies with a string or a ribbon over the kitchen table or around the Christmas tree, if you already have one. Replace № 13 with something that brings you luck, if you are superstitious:) You can also attach a short messages or a poem to each cookie - so, each day of Advent will begin with a delicious and fun surprise for you and your loved ones.
This recipe is very suitable for making Advent calendar because gingerbread cookies can last long, until Christmas, and the molasses makes them soft and even more delicious over time.