Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas A to Z Letter V

Welcome Back to Christmas A to Z
V …is for Visions of Sugar Plums,Visitors and Viennese Crescent
Visions of Sugar Plums
This sentiment is immortalized in Clement Moore's poem, "The Night Before Christmas" when he writes, "the children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads." So just what are sugarplums?
According to candy historians, a sugar plum is a comfit—that is, a seed, nut, or scrap of spice coated with a layer of hard sugar, like the crunchy outer case of an M&M.
In the 17th century, popular innards for comfits included caraway, fennel, coriander, and cardamom seeds, almonds, walnuts, ginger, cinnamon, and aniseed. Tiny comfits—“hundreds and thousands,” “shot comfits,” or nonpareils”—were made by sugar-coating minuscule celery seeds; “long comfits” were sugar-coated strips of cinnamon bark or citrus peel.
So why did the children mentioned in the poem dream of sugarplums? Chances are that dancing in their heads were oval or spherical hard-sugar sweets, bought from shops in paper cones, and colored red with mulberry juice, blue with indigo, green with spinach, and yellow with saffron.
The Shepherds received special visitors while tending their sheep; and one of the famous stories about Christmas Visitors is “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. The man in this story was taught a valuable lesson by three different visitors.
Christmas Visitors web
Throughout history families try to gather together at the Christmas Season. For those who cannot physically be together, they try to at least touch base in some way.
We read stories and watch movies about the “Christmas Visitor”. Whether they be family, a pleasant surprise or someone with a special message to share, they are always welcome.
Viennese Crescent
Viennese Crescent of Vanillekipferl are small, crescent shaped biscuits. They are usually made with ground almonds or hazelnuts. They get their typical flavor from a heavy dusting of vanilla sugar.
These cookies are known as snowballs, butterballs, sand tarts or a sandies, Mexican wedding cakes and Russian tea cakes.
The basic recipe for these powdery white confections is always butter, powdered sugar, flour and very finely chopped nuts. The shape is anything from round to crescent shape.
Viennese Crescents are made with less sugar and more nuts. Vanillekipferl originate from Vienna in Austria, traditionally made at Christmas. Here is one recipe you might enjoy.
Viennese Crescents


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter
1 cup hazelnuts, ground
1/2 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 vanilla bean


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, butter, nuts, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, salt, and vanilla. Hand mix until thoroughly blended. Shape dough into a ball. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile, place sugar in a bowl or small container. With sharp chef's knife, split vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape out seeds, and mix them into the sugar. Cut pod into 2 inch pieces and mix into sugar.
4. Remove dough from refrigerator and form into 1 inch balls. Roll each ball into a small roll, 3 inches long. Place rolls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet, and bend each one to make a crescent shape.
5. Bake 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until set but not brown.
6. Let stand 1 minute, then remove from cookie sheets. Place hot cookies on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with prepared sugar mixture. Turn gently to coat on both sides. Cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature. Just before serving, coat with more vanilla flavored sugar.
With only a few days left, I hope you will join me again tomorrow as the Christmas Celebration continues…
Carolyn and the Bears

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