Saturday, December 17, 2011

♬ Here We Come A-Wassailing ♬

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.
Traditional carol (c. 1850)

We decorated more cookies today to serve after tomorrow's carol service at the church. "Here We Come A-Wassailing" was composed about 1850, just a few years after Dickens' published A Christmas Carol. Both convey the stark economic realities of the times -- not too different from today, unfortunately.

I just learned on Willym's eclectic blog that I read regularly, Willy or Won't He?, that the poor children going door-to-door caroling, as brought to life in "Here We Come A-Wassailing", carried staffs with greenery tied to their tops as symbols of rebirth and they would bless the house in exchange for food, drink and maybe a few small coins donated by their well-off neighbours. The carol is another reminder to look after those less fortunate with compassion and good will.

There are numerous renditions of the carol on YouTube but here is a rare one with children singing:

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year!

And I have another new (for me), delicious recipe to share:

Spiced Shortbread with Brown Butter Icing
Yield: 2 dozen cookies

2 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp ginger
1 c. butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Combine flour, spices and powdered sugar together in a bowl.
2. Chop butter into pieces and drop into the bowl and cut into the flour mixture until the butter is the size of peas. Add extract and mix.
3. Knead the batter for a few minutes then divide into thirds and form into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 20-30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 375°.
5. Roll batter out between two sheets of wax paper to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out cookie shapes using cookie cutters.
6. Place cookies on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. To reduce chances of air bubbles, prick the cookies with a fork.
7. Bake for about 8 minutes but check the cookies continuously after 6 minutes because you want to remove them just as their edges turn a pale gold. Do not wait for the tops to look golden or you will have overcooked cookies. :-(
8. Frost with brown butter icing when cooled completely.

Brown Butter Icing

1/4 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
3-5 tbsp very hot water
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Cook butter until it browns.
2. Add sugar, vanilla and enough hot water to reach a nice spreading consistency.
3. Pipe a thin line of the frosting around each cookie. Then slightly thin the rest of the icing with two or more tablespoons of water and spoon some within the outline. It will "flow" across the cookie and you can use a toothpick to guide the icing into small places.
4. Leave plain, or sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on top, or decorate with sprinkles and other good things.

Source: Melanie on The Sisters Cafe blog. I halved the original recipe and have altered Melanie's directions slightly to reflect my experience.

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