Christmas Convoys is a slim pamphlet prepared by the Cupples-Hesse Corporation, a Midwestern paper supplier, and simply labeled “Christmas 1952”. I haven’t got the faintest idea what a “Christmas Convoy” is supposed to be. The cover art, with a stylized depiction of kitchen tools hanging from a Christmas tree, and the introductory notes aren’t any help. When I think ‘convoy’ I think a procession of military vehicles or trucks, and the internet and my old trusty Oxford English Dictionary aren’t giving me any credible alternatives.
What the internet does have for me is a surprisingly detailed history of the Cupples-Hesse Corporation. Cupples-Hesse arose from a merger of Hesse Envelope and Litho Company and The Samuel Cupples Envelope Company, both founded around the turn of the twentieth century in St. Louis. Founders Frank H. Hesse and Samuel Cupples are hailed as “envelope pioneers”, holding early patents for machinery related to envelop manufacturing. When they merged in the mid-1930s the company had a daily production capacity of millions of envelopes per day, with facilities in several major U.S. Cities. They were acquired in 1960 by the St. Regis Corporation, and – after multiple acquisitions and consolidations – live on under the printing megalith Cenveo, Inc.
So what business does a large envelope company have printing a cookbook? I wish I knew. There’s no copyright notice or explanatory note, beyond Christmas well-wishes from then-president S. Cupples Scudder. My best guess is that this was a gift for Cupples-Hesse clients, and maybe also given to employees.
Christmas Convoys contains about forty recipes in all, each of them some sort of Christmas sweet treat. (Maybe this is what “convoy” is supposed to mean?) It’s a sophisticated and surprisingly diverse collection. The opening section on Christmas cookies contains selections from half a dozen European countries and a take on Chinese Almond Cookies similar to the type commonly served in American Chinese restaurants. The next section is titled “Christmas Confections” and contains recipes for traditional favorite like Divinity and Torrone, as well as several exotic spiced nut recipes. (Minted Filberts is an odd, but surprisingly tasty standout).
From there follows recipes for traditional fruitcakes and a plum pudding, along with a selection of sauces to serve along side. The book closes with a few short “Miscellaneous Recipes”, with the intriguing subtitle “Old and New … but a little bit different”. I like different.
Belgardin Brod is one of several traditional European “cookies” featured in Christmas Convoys. In practice it looks and feels more like a cracker than a cookie, and tastes kind of like a cross between a ginger snap and a snickerdoodle with strong citrus overtones. It’s kind of like the old fashioned grandma candy equivalent of a Christmas cookie.
The original recipe presented in Christmas Convoys yields something like 200 cookies, so I’ve cut it in half for the recipe below (except for the citrus rind, but only because I prefer the stronger citrus flavor). I also prefer a citrus glaze to the simple cream glaze recommended.
Christmas Convoys was probably printed in a very limited edition. A few copies exist in academic libraries, but this is not a book you’ll be able to find readily on Amazon or really anywhere. Since the booklet was printed without copyright notice I’ve presumed it is in the public domain and reproduced it in its entirety here.
For the cookie
- 3/4 cup good quality honey
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
- grated rind of one lemon
- grated rind of one orange (reserve 1/2 tsp for the glaze)
- 1 cup coarsely chopped almonds
- 5 cups cake flour
- 1 cup sugar (superfine sugar will improve results)
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp flaked sea salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
For the glaze
- Melt butter and honey over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent overheating. (The original recipe calls for a double boiler, but I find them to be a pain in the neck). Remove from heat and stir in orange juice, citrus rinds, and almonds.
- Stir together dry ingredients, then add a little bit at a time to the butter/honey mixture until completely combined. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, roll out the dough to approximately 1/8 inch thickness on a floured surface. Cut into 2 inch by 2 inch squares (about the size of a Saltine) or 1 1/2 by 2 1/2 inch rectangles (about the size of a butter cracker). Bake for 10 minutes at 325 degrees.
- Make the glaze by mixing together the powdered sugar, orange juice, and reserved orange zest. Glaze lightly while the cookies are still warm.
Unlike most cookies these treats get better with age, if kept tightly sealed.