Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sparkling New Year

Last week en route to the airport, I exclaimed to E about the lack of snow and how I wished it could be a white Christmas. Compared to last year, by now we were already blanketed with several snow storms. This year, it has only been a little more than dustings and flurries. I suppose Santa Claus decided to grant my wish because upon returning 2 days ago, we were unpleasantly greeted with heaps of billowing snow.

It continued to snow into the next day and while rummaging in the refrigerator to make breakfast, I found some sugar cookies that got left behind. Sugar cookies to me are quintessentially American. I was never fond of them until I took a bite from one my sister made. They have such a lovely and comforting vanilla aroma that they have become a part of my annual baking repertoire. Glittered with sanding sugar or painted with royal icing, they are simple tasting cookies that are a delicious compliment to a cold glass of milk. Still unable to work the fine motor controls of my thumb, I decided to just decorate them the way they taste, in a very simple manner.

Sis's Sugar Cookies

2 cups AP flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup butter - softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract


  1. Whisk dry ingredients together; flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and egg.
  3. Add in dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  4. Form dough into a flattened disk or square and chill until firm about 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Roll out dough to an even thickness of 1/4 inch. Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes.
  6. To sugar the cookies with sanding sugar, brush the surface with milk and sprinkle the sugar over the top before baking.
  7. Bake cookies spaced 1 inch apart in a preheated oven of 375˚ for 7 to 9 minutes until the edges start to turn a light golden colour. Depending on the size of cut out shapes it may take less time or longer. Cookies can be baked directly on ungreased baking sheets or on parchment paper.
  8. Cool cookies completely before decorating with royal icing.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Badener Chrabeli - Little Claws from Baden

When looking up the Spitzbuebe recipe, I came across this recipe which had been on my to -do list and seemed easy enough for me to execute.

It has a funny looking shape resembling claws with ingredients that didn't seem terribly exciting and I am not partial to "white" food but I was pleasantly surprised when I took my first bite. Lightly crisp on the exterior and soft and chewy inside, It is marvelously light with a subtle anise aroma. It was also fun to see them rise and form little "feet" like well made macarons.

The dough is the same for making Anisbroetli which is also the same as the German Springerle. If you have the beautiful molds to form them in by all means use it but if you don't you can make Badener Chrabelis instead. You may already have these classic recipes if you don't I would be pleased to share the recipe just leave me a message and I will email you the recipe.

Chrabeli's waiting to be baked

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spitzbuebe "Bad Boys"

Feeling extremely pleased with the jam thumbprints and doing a little more than rolling balls! although forming the thumbprints still involved rolling; nonetheless I felt accomplished and inspired to make something a little more involved yesterday.

I thought of making Linzers but didn't have enough nuts and E asked what Swiss cookies are you making this year? Given the ingredients I already had and it didn't seem terribly involved other than using a rolling pin and stamping cut-outs, why not some Spitzbuebe.

These are fragile cookies that are simply delectable and my nephew loves them.This recipe comes from Malgieri's book Cookies Unlimited. It is also published online at Saveur or you can find it below. According to Malgieri, Spitzbuebe means "bad boys" he also instructs piercing 3 small holes on the top surface. They actually do resemble "facial" expressions of "oh boy - am I in trouble!".

Note: I compared the recipe between book and Saveur's and the book doesn't incorporate eggs in the dough at all. Measurements are also different. If you don't have the book, I recommend it to you and would be happy to share this recipe with you, just leave me a message and I will email you the recipe.

Swiss Raspberry Preserve – Filled Sandwich Cookies (Spitzbuebe)
courtesy of Saveur
makes about 3 dozen

3/4 lb. (3 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 egg yolks
3 1/2 cups flour
1 cup seedless raspberry preserves


  1. Beat butter and 1 1/2 cups of the sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed. Increase speed to medium; beat until light and fluffy. Add yolks one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add flour 1/2 cup at a time, beating after each addition to combine. Scrape sides of bowl with a spatula; give the dough one last stir. Transfer dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and press it into a 9" × 11" rectangle. Cover with more plastic wrap, place on a large plate, and let chill for 1 hour.
  2. Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 325°. Divide chilled dough into 6 pieces. Rewrap 5 pieces individually in plastic wrap and chill. On a lightly floured surface, work the dough piece gently with a rolling pin to warm it slightly. Keeping surface and dough floured, roll dough into a 9" square. (If dough sticks, gently run a spatula underneath it, to release it.) Using a 3" round cookie cutter, cut out 9 circles of dough and transfer them to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet about 1" apart; reserve scraps. Repeat process with remaining chilled dough pieces. Combine leftover scraps into a ball. Reroll dough and continue cutting circles. Using a 1 1/4" round cookie cutter, cut a hole in the center of half of the circles—these are the tops. Bake all cookies in batches, rotating pans halfway through, until just pale golden, about 15 minutes. Let cookies cool completely.
  3. Put preserves into a small pot and bring to a boil, stirring, over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring, until thickened and reduced by about one-quarter, about 5 minutes. Transfer preserves to a bowl; let cool. Put remaining 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar into a sieve; dust cookie tops. Turn whole cookies upside down—these are the bottoms; spoon about 1/2 tsp. of preserves onto each. Using a small spatula, spread preserves to within 1/8" of the edges. Cover each with a cookie top. Transfer remaining preserves into a plastic bag and snip the end. Using it like a piping bag, pipe a small amount of preserves into each hole. Serve cookies immediately or store between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container at room temperature.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Stick a finger in it!

A little impaired but slowly healing, I am now definitely in the mood and motivated to make more cookies! the only thing is that I've been doing nothing but rolling balls of dough. At this point I've likely rolled several hundred balls of every kind; nutty balls, ginger balls, chocolate balls and I am getting bored. As I was rolling the Peppermint Pixies, I stopped for a moment, stared at the round sphere and stuck my finger in it and thought duh! that's easy what about some jam thumbprints!

This recipe appeared in Gourmet maybe a year or 2 ago. They ran an article on Gourmet's Favourite Cookies over the years. Not sure what year this was originally published but all I know is that this simple basic recipe is one of best I've eaten and quickest to make; no fancy equipments necessary and just one bowl to wash! The crust is tender and delicate and balances well with a preserve that is not too sweet. Unable to locate the link on their site to the recipe, I've quoted it below.

Strawberry Jam Tarts
from Gourmet: This is just one of Gourmet’s Favorite Cookies: 1941-2008. Although we’ve retested the recipes, in the interest of authenticity we’ve left them unchanged: The instructions below are still exactly as they were originally printed.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
2 large egg yolks, beaten lightly
1 cup strained strawberry jam

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, the sugar, and the salt, add the butter, and blend the mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in the egg yolks, blend the mixture until it forms a dough, and chill the dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Let the dough soften slightly, roll level teaspoons of it into balls, and arrange the balls about 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheets. Using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each ball, being careful not to crack the dough around the edges. (If the dough cracks, reroll it and try again.) Fill each indentation with about 1/4 teaspoon of the jam and bake the cookies in batches in the middle of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are pale golden. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, transfer them to racks, and let them cool completely. The cookies may be made 1 month in advance and kept frozen in airtight containers. Makes about 100 cookies.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Orange scented chocolate bites

When I was picking up some chocolate bars for the peppermint pixies, I noticed Lindt offered an orange flavoured dark chocolate bar and I figured it would be perfect to make another chocolate bite a little more festive.

These dark chocolate bites are as easy to make as it is to pop them in your mouth. The addition of orange zest, orange oil and orange peel studded chocolate bars makes these already decadent treats just a little more special and festive. Permeated with a marvelous citrus aroma, they bring back memories of the orange groves in Andalusia intoxicated with the heady scent of orange blossoms. Because the ingredients are few and simple, it's advisable to use the best quality ingredients available.
This particular cookie has certainly been around the baking universe and it would be no stranger to those familiar with Dorie Greenspan and Pierre Hermé. I believe it was my sister who introduced me to them many years ago. Since then, it has been an annual staple and a favourtie for our family. This recipe is actually not Greenspan's but rather Hermé's which I happened upon in an article from F&W site. It differs ever so slightly but the small difference I believe in the amount of sugar and flour makes Herme's dough a little less crumbly and easier to work with. I've made both and couldn't tell the difference. I only chose to work with Hermé's recipe over Greenspan's as it is much easier to handle.

Chocolate chocolate chip cookie
adapted from F&W article
The New Classic Cookies I Pierre Hermé's Christmas Cookies

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 sticks plus 6 tablespoons (11 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
1 teaspoon orange oil
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (2 cups) for more orange intensity with orange peel - use Lindt's Orange chocolate bar.
Zest of 2 oranges

In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the cocoa and baking soda. In a large bowl, cream the butter. Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, fleur de sel, orange oil and orange zest and beat until combined. Beat in the sifted dry ingredients just until blended; the dough will be fairly crumbly but will hold together. Knead in the chocolate until evenly distributed. Divide the dough in half and transfer to 2 large sheets of plastic wrap. Shape each piece of dough into a 1 1/2-inch-wide log and wrap in the plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 4 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using a sharp, thin knife, cut the logs into 3/8-inch slices and arrange about 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets. If the slices crumble, re-form the cookies, pressing the dough together. Bake the cookies on the middle and lower racks of the oven for about 17 minutes, or until puffed and cracked on top; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 2 months.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Peppermint Pixies

Maybe it's the season, weather or just something in the air but lately I've been having a peppermint craving, the more intense the better it is. Since it's Christmas, I decided to make an ordinary chocolate cookie a little extra ordinary so that's how these peppermint pixies came to existence.

Commonly called chocolate crackles, chocolate crinkles and chocolate snowcaps, these cookies are delicious and bursting with chocolate flavour all on their own. The addition of creme de menthe and peppermint oil elevates them to another dimension and makes them seasonally special. As a child I recall fairy tales which often portrayed pixies as short and ill tempered little creatures. Therefore it would only be fitting to call these peppermint pixies because although they are tiny, they pack an intense mighty minty punch!

Fresh and cooled after baking, they are crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. They will be chewy after a day. These are a simple roll and bake cookie. You may already have your own recipe if not enjoy the one below.

Peppermint Pixies
yields about 2 dozen

6 oz Bittersweet Chocolate
1/2 teaspoon Peppermint oil
1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
3/4 cup AP Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
3/4C Light Brown Sugar - packed firmly
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons creme de menthe (optional - omit for child friendly morsels)
Granulated and icing sugar for rolling - about 1 cup each


  1. Chop chocolate into small pieces and melt over a bain marie. Set aside to cool.
  2. Sift dry ingredients together; Cocoa powder, AP flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Cream together butter and sugar until mixture is light and fluffy. Add in egg and beat until just combined. Stir in peppermint oil to cooled chocolate and add to butter mixture. Beat until well combined.
  4. Add half of sifted dry ingredients and mix on low until just combined. Add in milk and creme de menthe if using and continue to mix on low speed. Finally add in remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  5. Portion dough in two and between parchment paper press each portion into a square about 3/4 inch thick. Place in refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours.
  6. When ready to form balls. Pop the chilled dough into the freezer for about 7-10 minutes. While waiting, prepare the icing sugar and granulated sugar separately in a medium sized bowl for rolling.
  7. Remove dough from the freezer, using a knife cut dough into 3/4 inch squares. Since I find the dough to be of a sticky and wet consistency, I found that this method of working the dough as cold as possible helps alleviate the sticky situation.
  8. Between the palm of your hands, roll each square into round balls which will be roughly 1 inch in diameter. As you are rolling, the warmth of your palms will start to melt the dough which is what you want as this will make the granulated sugar stick to them.
  9. Chuck the balls into the bowl with the granulated sugar and swirl them around to be completely coated. Pick them out and set aside. Do this to all the remaining dough. You may have to wash your hands between rolling but I found for myself that working the dough in 2 portions only required my hands to be washed before getting to the 2nd final half.
  10. After all the balls are formed and covered in granulated sugar. Preheat oven to 350˚. Roll the chocolate balls in icing sugar to generously coat them. Don't be skimpy here as this is what will create the black and white contrast of the cookies.
  11. Place the icing sugared balls onto parchment lined cookie sheets about 2 inches apart and bake 10-12 minutes until they puff and crack. Keep in a tightly sealed container for up to a week.

It may appear that there are many steps but don't let this deter you from attempting this recipe. It's all about ease and efficiency and being organized. You'll understand the messy and sticky situation when you start or attempt this recipe. It really is easy if you are organized and have everything ready.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tangy & Tender Lime Cookies

Earlier this week driving home from my PT appointment, it occurred to me that making cookies could be a good form of therapy for my thumb as the putty like object the PT used for my thumb rehab has the consistency of soft cookie dough and so I started planning a list as soon as I reached home.

I begin with some ginger buttons crisps and buttery pecan balls. Feeling rather proud of myself, I decided to progress to a roll and cut cookie. Thankfully there were no mishaps wielding the knife with my left hand. Maybe the lesson for my injury is to slow down a little as I am accustomed to whizzing through anything I do and some of you know especially so in the kitchen.

The ingredients are as simple and basic as it can be. Everything is easily mixed together with the exception of zesting the lime and slicing them before baking, which was a little inconvenient with my condition. But it was worth the effort as it was a delight to smell them baking. Despite them being drowned in confectioner's sugar, it isn't tooth achingly sweet but rather a tangy and refreshing taste and melts delicately in your mouth. Perhaps you can try them and taste it yourselves.

Tangy Lime Cookies
recipe from
Martha Stewart

1 1/2 sticks butter softened
1/3 cup Icing sugar
Zest of 2 limes
2 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
Additional icing sugar for coating cookies - about 1 cup


  1. Cream butter and icing sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in lime juice, zest & vanilla.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, cornstarch & salt. Add to creamed butter, beat on low speed until combined.
  3. Divide dough in 2. Using parchment paper, roll dough into two 1 1/4-inch-diameter logs. Chill in refrigerator for a couple of hours.
  4. Preheat oven 350˚. Slice well chilled logs 1 1/8 inch thick and place on parchment lined cookie sheets about 1 inch apart.
  5. Bake cookies until barely golden. 12-15 minutes.
  6. Cool cookies slightly and toss them just barely warm in the additional icing sugar.
  7. Cookies can be stored in air tight containers up to 2 weeks.
This is a great do ahead recipe. The dough keeps in the refrigerator for several days and up to a couple of months in the freezer. These are usually the first cookies that gets mixed right after Thanksgiving and thrown into the freezer until it they get baked just before Christmas.

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