Last week many people from the Deccan region of India celebrated Hindu New Year, Ugadi. This marks the beginning of the year as per the Hindu Calendar. Indian tradition is full of symbolisms, when it comes to religious ceremonies and festivals. A unique way the new year is brought in my home state in India is by eating the bitter-sweet mixture of powdered Neem leaves (Azadirachta indica) & Jaggery mixed with a binding agent such as gram flour. The mixture is supposed to signify the ups and downs that is part and parcel of life. Pretty interesting isn’t it?
So, what do Cookies got to do with Indian festival, you must be wondering. I just find it interesting to note the role of food in conveying some message as part of a festival tradition. For example, new year food always showcases themes of life in almost all traditions – challenges, fighting spirit, good luck so on and so forth. What about a multi-cultural nations like America? As per the food history site foodtimeline, a lot of new year food tradition can be attributed to colonial era settlers. Each colonists introduced their own food tradition to America, bringing their native tradition to this new nation. The New Year Cookies apparently was introduced by Dutch colonists in the New York region, making them integral part of the open houses where the main theme of the New Year was renewing friendships and re-bonding.
Many cook books have preserved the popular 18th and 19th century New Year Cookie recipes. This New Year, I decided to try one such recipe and was completely bowled over by it’s simplicity. Here is a recipe from a 1857 cookbook, presented here as a tribute to good old food traditions!
- Butter – 1lb
- Powdered Sugar – 1lb
- All purpose flour – 3 lbs
- Baking Soda – 1 tea spoon
- Milk – 1 cup
- Tartaric Acid (or Citric Acid) – ½ tea spoon
- Carraway Seeds (Shahi Jeera) – 3 table spoons
- This is the original recipe from 1857 cookbook. Divide the ingredients by ½ or ¼ based on the quantity you want to make. I used ¼ of each ingredient.
- Slightly warm the butter to soften it and mix it together with powdered sugar
- Add Carraway seeds and mix well
- Gradually add sifted flour into the sugar butter mixture and keep mixing
- Dissolve soda in milk and add it to the flour mixture gradually while mixing
- Melt Tartaric Acid in a table spoon of warm water and add it to the mixture
- You will get a sticky dough, transfer it to flat surface
- Roll it into half an inch thick sheet and cut into shapes you like, poke holes with a fork
- Grease a flat pan with butter and place rolled cookies
- Bake them at 350 degrees till they turn light brown, about 20-30 mins
- Once they are out of the oven, you can sprinkle some powdered sugar if you like
Enjoy these simple yet delicious cookies – feel a bite of time in your mouth, go back in the history and be part of it!