23 December 2010

23 December - O Emmanuel; Hansel and Gretel; Gingerbread People

The final antiphon of the Golden Nights is O Emmanuel (O God With Us):

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum; veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver,
Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and salvation thereof,
Come to save us O Lord our God!

The opera "Hansel und Gretel" was first performed today in 1893, in Weimar (Germany).  The music was composed by Engelbert Humperdinck (the original of that name), and the libretto was written by his sister, Adelheid Wette, from songs that she had written for her own children.

Possibly the most well-known song from the opera is the "Abendsegen" or Evening Prayer, which the children sing as they fall asleep in the woods.  These are the words that I learned:

When at night I go to sleep, fourteen angels watch do keep,
Two my head are guarding, two my feet are guiding,
Two are on my right hand, two are on my left hand,
Two who warmly cover, two who o'er me hover,
Two to whom 'tis given to guide my steps to heaven.

Yeah, it's hard not to sing along.

What would be more appropriate today than to make GINGERBREAD PEOPLE?  Except possibly a Gingerbread House, and if you want to attempt that, there are several sites online with good recipes and instructions - this one here at About.com is easily followed.

In a large bowl mix together 1-1/2 cups of dark molasses, 1 cup of packed brown sugar, 2/3 cup of cold water, and 1/3 cup of shortening.

In a smaller bowl, sift together 7 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons EACH of baking soda and ground ginger, and 1 teaspoon EACH of salt, ground allspice, ground cloves, and ground cinnamon.  Add this to the molasses mixture about a cup at a time, stirring each addition until just incorporated.  Divide dough in half, wrap each half in wax paper or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease cookie sheets.

On a floured board, roll out one half of the chilled dough to 1/4 inch thick (leave the other in the refrigerator until needed).  Cut out shapes with cookie cutters (dipping the cutters in flour will make it easier to release the cut-out dough).  Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.  If you are going to use raisins, currants, chocolate chips, or other chocolate candies, now is the time to put them in place.  Re-roll the scraps and cut out as you can [when the scraps are not enough for another figure, I do a little free-hand cutting and make squares (to be decorated and attached as 'Christmas presents'), hats, purses, angels' wings, or the initials of the cook's helper(s).]  Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until there is no indentation when pressed.  Cool and decorate.  You can make your own decorators' frosting by mixing 2 cups of powdered sugar with enough water - about 2 to 3 tablespoons - to make it thin enough to use in a decorators' tube, but thick enough to hold its shape.  Divide and color as needed with a drop or two of food coloring.  I prefer to buy the frosting ready-made, in those tubes with a bunch of different nozzles.  Accessories and candies can be attached with a dab of frosting.