Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sweet Snowflakes to usher in the New Year

Annually, during this time of the year, I feel like a kid in a toy store with all the flour, sugar and baking supplies strewn all over the kitchen. I am not sure how I managed before in my tiny kitchen but I suppose necessity is the mother of all invention. As much as I look forward to baking, I look forward most to sorting out my silver dragees and sitting down and putting up my weary feet to decorate these gingerbread snowflakes.

These were actually done just in time for Christmas but I didn't have a chance to tell you about it before.
So before the year is out and with all the snow we got, I think this is the perfect treat to leave you with which are spicy, satisfying and warming in the cold, and sweet and delightful to usher in a wonderful new year.

I have tried many recipes over the years and I don't know why I never tried this recipe from the cookie master himself - Nick Malgieri. They taste much better than the ones I've made over the years and the dough is wonderfully manageable and easy to work with and it is just simply delicious. Fortunately, the recipe is available on his website here. For convenience sake, it's also quoted below.

Gingerbread Cookies
adapted from Nick Malgieri
Makes about 24 large cookies, depending on the size cutter used


5 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

4 teaspoons ground ginger - I increased it to 6 teaspoons for a spicier bite

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

2/3 cup molasses

2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans lined with parchment or foil

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, spices, salt and baking soda. Stir well to mix.
  2. Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until well mixed, about 1 minute. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating smooth after each addition. Scrape down bowl and beater.
  3. Lower speed and beat in about half the flour mixture. Beat in all the molasses then scrape bowl and beater. Add the remaining flour mixture, about 1 cup at a time, and beat after each addition until it has all been absorbed.
  4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and give the dough a final mixing with a large rubber spatula. Scrape half the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and press it to about a 1/2-inch thickness. Wrap the dough securely and repeat with the remaining dough. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours or for up to 3 days.
  5. When you are ready to bake the cookies, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  6. Unwrap one of the pieces of dough and cut it in half. Rewrap one of the halves and return it to the refrigerator.
  7. On a floured surface, roll the dough until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Use a floured gingerbread "man" or "woman" cutter to cut the cookies. As they are cut, place the cut cookies on the prepared pans with about 1 inch between them on all sides. Repeat with remaining dough. Save, press together, and reroll scraps (they don't need to be chilled before rerolling).
  8. Bake the cookies until they become dull and dry looking and feel slightly firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 12 to 15 minutes. If you overbake the cookies, they will be very dry. Slide papers from pans onto racks to cool.
  9. Store the cooled cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Appenzeller Biberli

After getting caught in a few nostalgic baking moments, I was determined to get back on track with another typical Swiss Christmas treat. These cookies called Appenzeller Biberli is translated as "Appenzell filled beavers" hailing from the canton of St. Gallen in Switzerland. Not the most wholesome sounding name translated into the English language; neither are they the prettiest looking but regardless of what anyone thinks, I like them because they simply are very very good to eat! Did I mention the oozing almond filling is also spiked with a splash of Kirsch?

Reading through the recipe I knew that it would be a tasty treat to make especially since I have a fondness for almonds and better yet it is deliciously wrapped by a honey gingerbread dough which is soft, tender and chewy. Despite the lengthy instructions, I found it very easy to put together. This is a another Nick Malgieri recipe and if you happen to have the recipe and feeling adventurous to try it, don't over bake it like I did my first batch or it will be a little on the chewy side.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Another trip down memory lane

Since I had taken a trip down memory lane with my mom's ginger buttons, I decided why not make another trip. This happened when I took a pound of butter out to soften while sandwiching the Linzers. After I was done, I realized that I didn't have the foggiest idea what I needed it for. It was certainly tempting me to cream it with sugar and make something buttery and delicious out of it. Poking around in the pantry, I found some pecans and decided to make Buttery Pecan Balls.

Some call it Mexican Wedding Cakes, Russian Tea Cakes, whatever it is, all I know is the deliciously tender crumb, nutty and buttery goodness that I came across almost 12 years ago baking Christmas cookies with my good friend A. It has since become an annual favourite of mine to bake. Either of us haven't a clue which tattered library book the recipe came from. Even though the recipe calls to roll them in icing sugar after the cookies have cooled, I prefer to roll them in just granulated sugar. It adds a sweet sandy texture when you bite into it and keeps better as the icing sugar tends to "seep" into cookie.

Buttery Pecan Balls

2 Sticks Butter - Room Temp
1/2 Cup Sugar and additional to complete the cookies
2 Cups AP flour
1/4 tsp Salt
6 oz Pecans
1 Tbsp Dark Rum

Preheat oven to 350. Finely chop (not ground) the pecans in a food processor. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add salt and rum and beat well. Mix in the flour and pecans at a slow speed or with a rubber spatula until incorporated. Using a small scoop or teaspoon as a guide, scoop and roll the dough into little 1 inch balls and place them no less than 1 inch apart on an un-greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for about 12 to 15 minutes until the cookies are puffed, firm to touch with brown bottoms, not brown tops. After the cookies have cooled, roll them in the granulated sugar.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas baked in a Cookie

Earlier this week as E and I were driving very late in the night, we were gifted with an amazing light show piercing the night sky. Later on we found out that the year's best meteor shower occurs during this time of the year annually. If you have a chance to watch stars shooting madly in the sky, mark your calendars next year. You can go to NASA's website for more information.

As I was making Linzers, the glisten of the raspberry starry centers surrounded by white sprinkles reminded me of that sparkling night. To me nothing says Christmas more than twinkling lights, white fluffy snow and aromatic spices; that's just what Linzers are, Christmas baked in a cookie. So I think it would be most appropriate to share the recipe of such a special holiday cookie by non other than Nick Malgieri. The author has so kindly offered me the privilege to share a couple of recipes from his book "Cookies Unlimited". The other recipe quoted is for the Berner Hasselnuss found here. I am sure you have your own favourite Linzer recipe but if you don't, try this one. The crust surrounding the jam is tender and nutty, it's like eating tiny little raspberry tarts and it is as delicious as it looks.

Linzer Hearts
as written from Cookies Unlimited by kind permission of Nick Malgieri pg. 276

Though this recipe calls for ground hazelnuts, almonds or pecans will work just as well. And the raspberry jam that sandwiches the rich nut dough can be changed to apricot, which would be just as good.

Makes about 18 cookies

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
16 tablespoon (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces (about 1 cup) whole blanched almonds, finely ground in the food processor
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling

2 or 3 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment or foil

  1. In a bowl, combine the flour and spices, stir well to mix.
  2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat together on medium speed the butter and sugar until soft and light, about 5 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and beat in the almonds and the flour and spice mixture, one at a time.
  3. Remove the bowl form the mixer and use a large rubber spatula to finish mixing the dough. Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape it into a rectangle about 1/2 inch think. Wrap and chill the dough until it is firm, about an hour, or up to several days.
  4. When you are ready to bake the cookies, set the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  5. Cut the dough into three parts and refrigerate two of them. Place one third on a floured surface and flour it lightly. Press and pound the dough gently with a rolling pin to soften it, then roll the dough about 1/4 inch think. Use a 2 1/2-to 3-inch heart-shaped cutter ( or any round one) to cut the dough. Place the cookies on the prepared pans, leaving about an inch around each in all directions. If you have a tiny heart-shaped cutter, use it to cut the center out of half the cookies, to make a "window" when they are sandwiched. Or use a small round cutter, or a pastry tube, or leave the cookies unpierced. Repeat with the remaining dough. Mass the scraps together and roll them once again to cut more cookies.
  6. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, or until they are a very pale golden color. Cool them on the pans on racks.
  7. While the cookies are baking, prepare the jam for the filling. Bring the jam to a simmer in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Let the jam reduce until it has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
  8. After the cookies have cooled, dust the pierced cookies lightly with the confectioners' sugar. Invert the nonpierced cookies and spread each with about 1/2 teaspoon of the reduced jam. Top with the pierced cookies, sugar side up. Use a small paper cone, a tiny spoon or the snipped corner of a nonpleated plastic bag to fill the window of the cookies with more reduced jam.
  9. Store the finished cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winter's Taste of Sunshine

After baking several cookies using just egg whites, I am left with 6 yolks! So what am I to do with with just yolks? I also have several naked lemons grated just for the peels. As I was having my morning cup of tea, I was struck by how sunny the day is even though it is winter and it occurred to me that I should make some tangy Lemon Curd. It is quick and a good way to use up my leftover supply of yolks and lemons.

This is my adaptation of a little taste of sunshine which makes a bright yellow and very tangy and tart curd.

Lemon Curd
Yields 2 cups

6 egg yolks
6 oz sugar - increase up to 1/4 oz for a sweeter curd.
150ml lemon juice - about 3 lemons
4 oz butter - room temp and cut into tablespoon size pieces
Zest of 1 lemon
pinch of salt

Whisk sugar into yolks over a bain-marie (water bath). Add salt and pour in the lemon juice and continue whisking over the bain-marie until the temperature reaches 170˚ on a candy thermometer and the curd starts to thicken. Remove the thickened curd from the bain-marie and whisk in pieces of butter one by one. Finally fold in the lemon zest. Pour into a jar and press a plastic wrap onto the surface and leave it to chill in the refrigerator until cold. As mentioned this makes a very tart curd. Although I have a sweet tooth, I am not particularly fond of overly sweet things. The thick consistency makes a good filling for sandwich cookies and cakes.

How thoughtful of mother nature to provide lemons for us in the cold winter months. It really is a taste of sunshine in the midst of winter's cold.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ginger Buttons for Santa

Ginger Button Crisps

As I was going through my baking list again, I felt a sudden pang of nostalgia. It has been fun trying new recipes but I am missing my mom's gingery buttons. They are light and crispy, a little larger than the size of a penny but packs a gingery punch. It is delicious with a cold glass of milk to quell the spiciness. The ingredients are basic and method is simple and requires no special equipment; just your good ol' hands. It's a great activity to get the family all involved. I remember being excited as a child rolling the tiny balls of dough and watching them puff in the oven. So this weekend, get the kids into the holiday mood and fill the house some Christmas aroma and spirit!

Mom's Ginger Buttons
Yields quite a bit of delectable spicy morsels

8oz AP flour
4oz Butter - softened
8oz Light Brown Sugar
4-6 tbsp Ground Ginger - 4 tbsp yields a mild spiciness
1 medium egg
1 tsp heap baking soda - fresh yields a crispier texture
1 tbsp milk
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven 350˚. Add AP flour, sugar and ginger ( to taste ) into butter and squish with hands until incorporated. Lightly beat baking soda, salt into the milk and egg mixture just to break up. Make a well in the center of the dough and pour in the egg mixture. Mix with hands until well incorporated, a ball of dough should form together.

Start rolling little balls the size of tiny marbles. To get consistent sizes, I make a long dough and cut it very much like making gnocchi. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets 2 inches apart, they will spread. Do not roll them any larger than a small marble or the cookies will bake hard. Bake in pre-heated oven for about 8 minutes until golden brown and crispy. These bake fast check the cookies around 7 minutes, it may take a few minutes less or longer in some ovens. Mine bakes perfectly in 8 minutes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Utziger Hasselnuss Leckerli

Finally I get to use the candied orange and lemon peels made a week or 2 ago. This cookie has many similarities in both basic ingredients and method to the Berner Hasselnuss in my last post.

Although, it has a completely different texture. It is fragrant from the fruit peels and has a chewy texture. This cookie can easily be made gluten free because the flour used is insignificant to the entire cookie (3 tbsp) and likely acts as a binder and can easily be replaced with sweet rice flour which will probably add to the chewy quality. Just like the Berner Hasselnuss, this recipe came from the same book. E likes this better than the Berner Hasselnuss but I like the Berner Hasselnuss better.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Berner Hasselnuss Staengeli

Swiss Hazelnut Bar Cookies from Berne.

I am not sure if these cookies are considered traditional Christmas cookies in Switzerland but it sparked my interest with it's all nut ingredient, simple components and method. These cookies were a delight to bake. It took no time to mix up with little fuss. The ingredients just consist of sugar, hazelnuts meal ( husk and all!), lemon zest, cinnamon and egg whites. Everything is just mixed together and the result is a delicious slightly chewy cookie with a crunch. I am tempted to dip these in some melted chocolate which I think would make it more divine.

In due respect to Nick Malgieri and copyright concerns I am afraid I am not able to post the recipe here. However I'll be happy to share them with you. Just leave me a message and I will email it to you. I highly recommend getting the book by Nick Malgieri - Cookies Unlimited from where this recipe came from. This book is chocked full of delicious cookies and a great addition to your cook book collection.

Edited by Sze Lin December 20

Yesterday, I kindly received the privilege to share this recipe from the author himself. Thank you Mr. Malgieri.

Berner Hasselnuss Staengeli
Swiss Hazelnut Bars from Berne
as written from Cookies Unlimited by kind permission from Nick Malgieri pg. 119

This is a typically Swiss recipe shared by my friend, cooking teacher and caterer Thea Cvijanovich. Thea was born in Berne, Switzerland, and this recipe is like many from the region. Though I don't think these were originally made without flour for religious reasons, they make a great Passover cookie.

Makes about 48 cookies

4 1/2 cups ( about 18 ounces) whole unblanced hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus more for rolling out the dough
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 large egg whites ( a little more than 1/2 cup)

2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment or foil

  1. In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the hazelnuts and half the sugar. Pulse repeatedly at 1-second intervals until finely ground. Add the lemon zest and cinnamon and pulse again.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites to break them up. Whisk in the remaining sugar in a steam. Add the hazelnut mixture and with a large rubber spatula combine the ingredients to form a very firm dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to let the dough mature for about 30 minutes. (This resting time is to get all the sugar melted so the dough doesn't change consistency while it is being rolled or baked.)
  3. When you are ready to bake the cookies, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  4. Scatter granulated sugar on a work surface and scrape the dough onto it. Use the palm of your hand to flatten the dough and scatter sugar over it. Roll out and press the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick – it should make a 12-inch square. Using a ruler for accuracy, cut the dough into 1-inch wide strips. Then cut across at 3-inch intervals to make 48 cookies.
  5. Transfer the cookies to the prepared pans, leaving about an inch all around each. Bake the cookies for about 15 to 20 minutes, until they are slightly puffed but still soft to the touch of a fingertip. Cool on the pans on racks.
  6. Store the cooled cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


This weekend we took a little break and headed up to Beaver Creek for some powder brought by the snow storms earlier in the week. It was misty and cloudy so we didn't take any pictures but the snow was soft and nice in some spots for early season skiing.

Before we left I managed to bake some Mailaenderli, another typical Swiss favourite from an assortment of doughs I mixed, waiting in the refridgerator to be rolled out. They came from a terrific article I found here written by Nick Malgieri. The recipe for Basler Brunsli in my last post is also shared here. The Mailaenderli are very delicate buttery cookies, plain and simple compared to other types of heavily spiced and flavorful seasonal cookies. It's subtle flavors are probably best enjoyed with a hot cup of cocoa or a cup of tea.

The recipe is below if you are having trouble downloading the article.

Mailaenderli- Little Milanesi
by Nick Malgieri

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

Egg Wash
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 pinch salt

2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment or foil

For the dough, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, beating smooth after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the flour over the butter mixture, thoroughly folding it in with a rubber spatula. Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and form it into a 10-inch square, about 1/2-inch thick. Slide the dough onto a cookie sheet and chill it for at least 2 hours, or until it is firm. The dough may be made several days ahead.

When you are ready to roll out the cookies, make the egg wash. Whisk all the ingredients together and strain them into a measuring or other cup. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut the square into quarters. Place one of the quarters on a lightly floured work surface and return the remaining ones to the refrigerator. Lightly flour the dough and gently press it with a rolling pin to soften it slightly. Roll the dough to a 6-inch square. Use a fork to streak the top of the dough in a series of straight stripes about 1/16-inch deep. Cut the dough into 2-inch rounds or diamonds with a lightly floured cutter. Arrange the Mailaenderli on the prepared pans about an inch apart in all directions. Repeat with the remaining dough. At the end re-roll the scraps to make more cookies. After all the cookies are cut, paint them carefully with the egg wash. Place the pans of cookies in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 325 degrees. Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, or until they are pale golden and firm.10.Cool on the pans on racks. Store the Mailaenderli in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover between sheets of wax paper.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Basler Brunsli

First on this year's Christmas Cookie list is Basler Brunsli; a popular and festive Chocolate spiced cookie enjoyed throughout the Christmas season in Switzerland. I was excited when I reviewed the ingredients as it has no flour at all so I am able to enjoy them in it's original form. I have never made this before so was unsure of the texture and appearance. I may have been too eager and was not patient after stamping them out as instructed by the recipe so the cookie spread whilst baking. The cookies filled the house with a gorgeous aroma whilst baking and certainly added to the Christmas spirit. This is again a Nick Malgieri recipe featured in Gourmet's Cookies Favourites 1942-2008. Recipe can be found here or for convenience below.

Basler Brunsli
- by Nick Malgieri adapted from

1 1/2 cups whole natural almonds (8 ounces)
1 1/2 cups sugar plus additional for coating work surface
6 ounces Swiss or other fine-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup egg whites (from about 2 large eggs)

In a food processor combine almonds with 1 1/2 cups sugar and pulse until ground fine (do not overprocess or mixture will become warm and melt chocolate when added). Add chocolate and pulse until ground fine. Add spices and pulse twice. Add whites and pulse until mixture forms a stiff dough, adding 1 teaspoon water if necessary. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.

On a surface coated with additional sugar press out or roll dough about 1/4 inch thick. With bottom of fork held facing down and tines touching dough at 60-degree angle, score dough about 1/16 inch deep by pulling fork across in a series of parallel vertical lines. With a 2-inch heart-, star-, and/or clover-leaf-shaped cutter cut out cookies and transfer to prepared baking sheets. Press dough scraps together and cut out more cookies in same manner. Let cookies stand, uncovered, at room temperature 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Put cookies in oven and immediately reduce temperature to 300° F. Bake cookies, switching position of sheets in oven halfway through baking, 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are just firm (do not overbake or cookies will be hard), and cool on sheets on racks. Keep cookies in an airtight container up to 2 weeks. Makes about 60 cookies.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Getting Ready for Christmas

Usually immediately after Thanksgiving, after lots of pie baking, I get the urge to start my annual Christmas baking! I look forward to this time of year especially when the mercury level begins to drop and I can turn on the oven, this to me is a fantastic way to warm up the house. This year being our first Christmas together as a married couple, I've decided to bake Swiss Cookies in honor of E's heritage. He said he remembers the delicious cookies his aunt used to bake when he was a child. Unfortunately, those recipes are no where to be had but what I have is a book that my sister gave me many years ago by Nick Malgieri which has several traditional Swiss Christmas cookies. Ironically, as much as I bake and cook, I don't own many books; save a few and this happens to be my one and only cookie book which I reach for year after year. Thanks sis!

Well to kick start the baking frenzy, I started getting ready by making a half pound of candied orange and lemon peel last week and warned E that I would be smelling of butter for the whole month of December. OK, ok! it's not Swiss but I decided to warm-up first by making a wheat free version of my mom's Chocolate Chip cookies for myself to curb my hands from reaching for the "normal" cookies I'll be baking in the next 2 weeks. I also had some lingering chocolate chips and almonds I wanted to use up before delving into nice fresh nuts and chocolate for Christmas baking.

These cookies a meant to be made small unlike the typical American cookies. To me, they are tiny morsels of crispy delight I always look forward to once a year as a child. Using Spelt instead of flour adds to the lightness and crunchy aspect of the cookie. Try it! I hope you love it as much as I do.

Mom's Chocolate Chip Morsels

250g Butter - room temp

200g Brown Sugar
60g Milk Powder
300g AP Flour or Spelt
100g Corn Flour
100g Almonds - chopped or if for convenience slivered
80g Chocolate - chopped into 1/4" pieces. This is recommended and yields better results in texture than chips. Although contrary to my suggestion, I used chips this time for ease.
1 tsp Vanilla
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 325˚

Stir together flour, milk powder, corn flour and baking soda and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla and beat until well blended. Gently fold in the dry mixture and mix until just incorporated. Finally add in chocolate and almonds and mix until evenly distributed. To keep the crispy integrity of the cookie, the less the dough is handled the better it is, this is especially so if using AP flour. Next, time to bake these delicious morsels! Grab a small 1" scoop if you have one and start scooping up the dough and plonk it on a parchment lined baking sheet 2"-3" apart. Alternately using a teaspoon, drop the dough and gently mound the dropped bits together onto the baking sheet. Do not roll it, squish it or compress it too much. Slide it into the hot oven for about 12-15 minutes until it is a beautiful golden brown.

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