Today is December 5th and in some parts of Europe this evening holds a special meaning. Celebrations are held with fur-covered goat-men parading through the streets, frightening children. Sound like no holiday celebration you've ever heard of? Welcome to Krampus Nacht!
For those of you who are still wondering what this is all about, let me give a brief explanation. Krampus is a mythical devilish creature originating in the folklore of Austria and Hungary. Krampus is said to be a counterpart to Saint Nicholas and would accompany the latter on Yule. Good little boys and girls would get gifts from Santa while all the brats would be whipped with birch branches and carted off in a large sack. To this day festivals are held around the world to celebrate this darker aspect of the Christmas season, including here in Portland, Oregon - a city that is always more than willing to embrace the bizarre and unconventional.
In light of it being Krampus' special day, I decided it was high time to get started on some of my holiday baking. The first recipe I always reach for at this time of year is my favorite holiday cookie - in fact, one of my favorite cookies ever - Orange Spice Oatmeal Cookies with Cranberries!
I came up with this recipe a few years ago when I was considering a batch of Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. It was around the holidays and I had recently made my Orange Spiced Cranberry Sauce (see post for November 11, 2010) and still had oranges and cloves on my mind, as well as a large amount of dried cranberries. The rest is history and now I pass the recipe on to you, my foodie friends, so you may enjoy them as well!
The one thing I did a little different this time is that I used vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, just because I had some and...well, why not? In the recipe below, I left it as 1 t vanilla extract. I used 2 vanilla beans, sliced lengthwise and scraped out with the edge of the knife. The leftover pods I cut up and toss in with coffee grounds when I'm making a pot - YUM!
To begin, preheat oven to 350°. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients:
1-1/2 c all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1-1/2 t cinnamon
1 t ground clove
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t salt
In a large mixing bowl, beat together:
1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c granulated sugar
When creamy, add:
1 t vanilla extract
2 T grated orange peel
Beat well, until smooth and creamy. In 2 batches, add in the dry ingredients above and mix well. Stir in:
3 c uncooked oats
1 c dried cranberries
Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased insulated cookie sheet and press lightly to flatten. Bake 10 -12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheet, then remove the cookies and cool them completely on a wire rack.
I have dreams about the orange flavor of these cookies! In my dreams, when Krampus comes to take me away, I entice him with my cookies and he forgets all about me for another year. I feel confident in saying that you will no doubt be able to ward him off as well if you offer him a plate of these delicious cookies. Try it and see! You have absolutely nothing to lose! In the meantime...