Advent is a time of waiting. Advent is a time of baking (for me, at least).
This month’s Woman Alive features my article, “Love on a Plate,” which shares this American’s love of Christmas cookies with a British audience. I’ve already seen photos of some wonderful cookies that readers have made (posted on our Facebook group); love the upside-down gingerbread people that turn into reindeers!
As a bit of background, Christmas cookies remain popular in America, having been introduced by European settlers – German, Dutch, Swedish and Norwegian in particular. Americans without English roots don’t eat Christmas pudding, cake or mince pies; instead we enjoy Christmas cookies and candies.
In the article I promised more cookie recipes. Here you go!
Peanut (or almond) Blossoms1 ¾ cup (220g) flour ½ teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking soda ½ cup lard (or butter) ½ cup peanut (or almond) butter 1 egg 2 tablespoons milk 1 teaspoon vanilla ½ cup (100g) sugar ½ cup (100g) brown sugar 1 package of chocolate stars or milk buttons or Hershey’s kisses Sift together flour, salt, and soda. Cream together butter/lard, peanut butter, egg, milk, vanilla, sugars. Chill. When chilled, shape into balls and roll in sugar. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes at 375F/190C/gas mark 5. Remove from oven and press in chocolate.
Oatmeal Toffee (or M&M) cookies1 cup (250 g) butter 2 cups packed light brown sugar 2 eggs 2 teaspoon vanilla 1 ¾ cup flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon cinnamon ½ teaspoon salt 3 cups oats 1 ¾ cups toffee bits or M&Ms or raisins or chocolate chips or mixture above 1 cup coconut flakes (optional) Heat oven to 375F/190C/gas mark 5. Lightly grease cookie sheet (or use magic liners from Lakeland). Beat butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until blended. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and beat. Stir in oats and other ingredients as desired. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheet and bake 8 to 10 minutes.
Lemon-Poppy Seed Cookies1 cup butter (about 250 g) 1 cup granulated sugar (about 250 g) 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 teaspoon poppy seeds (I use more) 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel ¼ teaspoon salt 2 cups flour Beat butter for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat until combined. Beat in egg and vanilla. Then add in poppy seed, lemon peel, salt and flour. Chill for an hour or two. Shape into 1-inch balls. Cook on ungreased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes in a 375F/190/gas mark 5 oven. Frost with lemon juice/icing sugar for an extra pop of lemon. Yum.
Gingerbread People2¼ cups plain flour 2 teaspoon cinnamon 2 teaspoon ginger 1 teaspoon baking powder* ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon cloves ¼ teaspoon nutmeg ¾ cup of butter (roughly 180g) ½ cup packed light brown sugar ½ cup dark molasses 1 egg Combine flour through nutmeg. Beat butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses and egg. Gradually add flour mixture; beat until well blended. Shape dough into 3 discs. Wrap well in cling film and refrigerate for an hour. Preheat oven to 350F/180C/gas mark 4-5. Work with one disc at a time. Roll out on floury surface. Cut into gingerbread shapes. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Ice with butter frosting or icing sugar frosting. * This refers to American baking powder. I’m told you can substitute ¼ teaspoon baking powder plus ½ teaspoon cream of tartar for every teaspoon of baking powder.
Almond Logs (or Bursts)
An adapted recipe from my grandmother, Nellie Wiese Mohni, whose parents moved from Germany to Iowa in the late 1800s.1 cup (about 250g) of butter 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 2 teaspoons almond essence ¾ cup (150g) sugar 1 egg 3 cups (375g) flour 1 teaspoon nutmeg ¼ teaspoon salt Cream the first three ingredients; add sugar and blend in the egg. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Roll in ½ inch logs about 3 inches long (or however you want to make them; I generally form them into small balls). Bake at 350F/175C for 8-10 minutes on a greased pan (I never grease the pan, but just use those magic liners from Lakeland).
Frosting1/3 cup (75g) butter 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 teaspoons almond essence 2 cups (250g) icing sugar (powdered sugar) 2 tablespoons milk Mix above together; frost when cool and sprinkle top with nutmeg. Try to share with your loved ones; makes about 36.
Dark Chocolate Truffles1/3 cup heavy whipping cream 12 oz semisweet chocolate, divided (I use best 70% chocolate – fairly traded!) 2 tablespoon Grand Marnier (or other liqueur such as Amaretto or Kahlua) Powdered sugar Cocoa powder (if desired) Pour cream in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and immediately reduce heat. Add 6 oz of the chocolate, broken into small pieces. Stir constantly until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and stir in Grand Marnier. Transfer to a mixing bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Using a melon baller or teaspoon dipped in hot water, scoop 1 inch balls out of the truffle mixture onto a plate (I just formed them into balls myself). Dust with confectioners’ sugar, shape into balls, and place on wax paper. Freeze for at least 1 hour. Melt the remaining chocolate in a double boiler, stirring occasionally. Set aside. If you wish to dust with cocoa (I didn’t), cover the bottom of a small shallow baking pan with cocoa powder. Remove truffles from freezer and dip in melted chocolate, one at a time, coating all sides. Drop coated truffles into cocoa powder. Gently shake pan to coat. Place truffles in a single layer in a covered container and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature and try not to eat them all in one sitting.