December 13, 2010

Christmas in a basket Teil I

Last Tuesday I had a gift exchange at work, and I took the opportunity to try out several new recipes. Since it's a holiday gift exchange, I want everything to be Christmas specials. I've done a lot of Italian recipes in the past, and Spain doesn't offer much Christmas sweets, so I turned to my third love, Germany, for some delicious inspirations. 
(recipe adapted from A Bowl of Mash)

I absolutely love this spiced German cookie with a soft and chewy center when not baked for too long. The combination of nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamon just tastes like Christmas. I'm pretty sure I will be baking this outside of holiday as well. 

1 cup +2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
pinch ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup softened butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup powdered sugar

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F
  2. In a bowl combine the flour, baking soda and all the spices, set aside.
  3. In another larger bowl beat the sugar, butter and treacle together with an electric whisk until smooth.
  4. Add the eggs, lemon zest and vanilla extract and beat again.
  5. Then fold the flour/spice mixture into the wet mix until completely combined.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment. 
  7. Form the cookie dough 2 inches apart using a mini cookie scoop.
  8. Bake for about 15-20 minutes at 350F (you will need to do this in a few batches).
  9. Allow to cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes.
  10. Dip each cookie in a bowl of powdered sugar until completely coated.    
(Recipe adapted from The Cookbook Chronicles) 

The Cook Book Chronicles dubbed this recipe as "The Last Shortbread Recipe You'll Ever Need", and I have to say she is right! This tastes excellent, and the dough is easy to work with. My mom, who loves Walker's Scottish shortbread, is satisfied with this recipe as a Walker alternative.
1 lb. unsalted butter, softened until it resembles clotted cream
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar (plus about 1/4 cup more sugar for sprinkling)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup + 3 tbsp cornstarch

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment, and grease generously with butter or oil.
  2. In a stand-mixer, combine the softened butter, salt, and sugar. Whip on medium speed for 5-6 minutes, until the butter becomes pale and white, and increases in volume. On low-speed, mix in the flour and cornstarch.
  3. Pat the dough evenly into the sheet pan. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until the edges just begin to color. (The shortbread itself should remain white in color.)
  4. Refrigerate the pan of shortbread for an hour until cool. Slice into squares and serve.

(Recipe adapted from Tasty Days)

These German butter/almond cookies reminds me a lot of the Russian teacakes. They are so easy and they make a great complement to your morning cappuccino. This is my mom's favorite cookie from the three recipes here. One thing I would probably change about the recipe is to add a little bit almond extract to bring out that lovely almond flavor.

2 sticks of unsalted soft butter (200 grams)
1/3 cup of sugar
4 oz of ground almonds (1/2 cup)
2 cups and a tbsp of flour
A bit salt
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 tbsp of milk
Confectionary/icing sugar (in a small bowl)
  1. Mix butter and sugar, add flour, salt, milk, almonds and vanilla. Knead with hands. Form little cookies in the shape of crescents (I like mine small and dainty - just a little bigger than bite-sized - perfect for teatime!). If the dough is too sticky, use flour to form it. 
  2. Preheat oven to 190ºC or 374ºF. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes (varies depending on how big your cookies are - at around 10 minutes, you should keep an eye on them and decide for yourself). 
  3. After your cookies have cooled, roll around in icing sugar. (This is important! If your cookies are not entirely cooled, the sugar will dissolve on the cookies and you won't get the dusting of sugar effect that you want.) 
    Stay tuned for Teil II of my Christmas in a basket! 



    1. All the treats in the basket were excellent ! I am so glad the first gift of the Coach scarf was stolen so that I could get Debi's Organics Baking. Nothing was too sweet - everything was just right. THANK YOU -dsr

    2. @DSR
      I'm most glad you got my gift too because I know you'd appreciate it more!