The Ladies' Tea Guild

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gluten-free, vegan, cane sugar-free, nut-free, corn-free and soy-free roll-and-cut cookies!

Multiple allergy-friendly cuccidate!
O.k., I made the attempt yesterday to create traditional Italian cuccidate that my aunt and cousin (who are allergic to wheat, gluten, corn, milk/cream, egg, cane sugar and nuts) could eat.  I especially wanted the result to be tasty, and not weird-tasting or have a too-strange texture, and I think I can call the following recipe a success!  My relatives could already have the fruit filling from my regular cuccidate recipe: dried fruit, orange zest, spices and a little bit of honey all ground to a paste.  All I needed was the cookie dough to roll it up in.  I found several possible recipes, but this is the one I tried, from the Jules Speaks Gluten Free Blog, because the author said it could handle being rolled and cut out like regular sugar cookie dough.  I had to adjust it because my relatives couldn't tolerate all the original ingredients, and my adjustments still need a few tweaks, I think, but the result smelled good while mixing it, rolled out fairly easily (was very crumbly when I tried to form the cookies, though), smelled good while baking it, and tasted pretty good, too! 

Allergy-friendly Cut-out Cookies (adapted)
½ cup shortening or solid fat (butter, coconut oil)
1 cup palm, date or maple sugar (or 1/3 cup to ½ cup agave or honey)
½ mashed banana (or egg substitute equal to 1 egg)
1 tsp. vanilla extract or orange or lemon zest
2 ¼ cups gluten-free flour mix (if using a mix without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp gum for every cup of flour mix), plus extra for rolling
2 ¼ tsp. gluten-free baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup non-dairy milk (as needed to make the dough moist)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gluten-free cuccidate: can it be done?

My regular cuccidate.
I love to bake traditional treats during the holidays.  So far, I've done gingerbread cake (recipe from good old Betty Crocker), nut-free fruitcake with dried fruit instead of candied fruit, cake mix cookies made with a spice cake mix and topped with cinnamon red hot candy, my great aunt's cocoa-anise cookies, and my nut-free version of cuccidate, or Sicilian fig cookies.  I bake so that I can have some good things, but not *the whole batch* and so that I will have something to give to my adult relatives (I only buy gifts for the kids).  My aunt and cousin, however, have multiple food allergies (as I do, but they have different ones than I have) and they almost never get to eat baked goods because their allergies include wheat, gluten, yeast, eggs, dairy (except they can have butter, weirdly enough), corn (both starch and syrup) and cane sugar.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas and Its Customs, from Godey's _Lady's Book_, December 1855: part 5

Furmity or Frumenty.  Image from WDict.
In many parts of Yorkshire, and other places in England, to this day, furmity (a dish made of new wheat boiled in milk) is the usual breakfast and supper on Christmas Eve.  Can this custom be related to the ancient offering of a sheaf of corn to Ceres, at the Saturnalia?
It is also common to give the women who go “a gooding,” as the phrase is (that is, visiting for alms the farm-houses in their vicinities), wheat for their Christmas furmity, though they sometimes collect sufficient to repay them for having it ground; and in return for this, and whatever else they may receive, they present their benefactors with sprigs of evergreens to deck their houses.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas and Its Customs, from Godey's _Lady's Book_, December 1855: part 4

Image from Grandma's Graphics

The burden of the angels’ song for us is not for days, but to the end of time, and every year brings us more nearly to its full fruition.  The same jubilant feeling, therefore, that hung the portals of the Roman houses with boughs indicative of victory and peace, that bound their brows with bacchanalian ivy, and their staffs with branches of the vine, may well deck Christian hearts and houses at this period; they read another myth in the bright evergreens than the immortal youth of the Boy-God (even their own), and in their practical translation of the angelic chorus—feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and letting in the light of intellect on those who sit in darkness, even the thick “darkness of ignorance;” for, with Olivia’s Clown, we believe there is no other—do honor to no fancied retrospect, no bygone golden age, but link the present days with brighter ones to come.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas and Its Customs, from Godey's _Lady's Book_, December 1855: part 3

In Ireland, the custom of burning gigantic candles still prevails amongst the Catholic community on Christmas Eve, and in the north of England it is also common.  Light at all times appears to have been used on occasions of festivity and rejoicing—from the rude bonfire to the wax-lit drawing-room; but in these candles we trace another remnant of the ancient type of the season’s rejoicings, for it was the custom of the Romans, during the festival of the Saturnalia, to present wax candles to each other.
In the yule log, or huge block of coal, which in the North answers the same purpose, and is carefully reserved for the occasion, Brand sees the counterpart of the Midsummer fires, made within doors on account of the cold weather of the winter solstace, as those in the hot seasons were kindled in the open air.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas and Its Customs, from Godey's _Lady's Book_, December 1855: part 2

It requires but little imagination to construe the beautiful fable of the golden age, which the old Roman Saturnalia commemorated, into a prophetic myth of the universal peace and good will which the divine teaching of the Nazarite was calculated to effect upon earth, and which doubtless it will effect when the spirit of His precepts guides, in its simplicity and truth, the actions of His people.
During the continuance of this antique feast, every one interchanged presents with his neighbor; their houses were decorated with evergreens and laurel; no criminal was punished; no arms taken up; the very slaves were permitted to sit at the table with their masters, in allusion to the happy equality which was supposed to have existed during the reign of Saturn; nay, banquets were sometimes made for them, at which their masters served—a custom whose shadow still lingers with us in the yule feast once common in the baronial halls of England, and not yet quite exploded from them.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas and Its Customs, from Godey's _Lady's Book_, December 1855


THERE is something so congenial to human nature, so absolutely necessary to the health of mind and body, in the relaxation which festivals afford, that we do not wonder at the unwillingness which Sir Isaac Newton tells us the heathens felt to part with their holidays, on the introduction of Christianity amongst them; so that, in order to facilitate their conversion, by retaining their days of joy, Gregory, bishop of Neo Caesarea in Pontus, instituted annual festivals to saints and martyrs, corresponding as nearly as possible in date, if not in form, with those most popular amongst the Greeks and Romans.
The type of Christmas, the most honored, joyous, and beautiful of Christian holidays, existed long before Christianity, in the Saturnalia of the ancients, which took place about the hyemal solstice.
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)