Now that my mom has moved to New York, I hosted my family for Christmas for the first time this year. We cut down two Christmas trees to make our home extra-festive! We also all had matching pajamas, of course.
We celebrated Christmas Eve with a (modified) traditional Ukrainian vegetarian feast from my husband’s family’s tradition and Christmas morning crêpes from my family’s tradition. It was great.
We had a crowd. I made two gluten-free quick breads in advance, Orange Glazed Cranberry-Pecan Bread and Banana Bread, to serve for breakfast. We also had bagels, panettone, Danish Almond Kringle, yogurt, oats, and cereal. Fresh fruit too.
I served my mom’s traditional pork roast Christmas dinner after Christmas- I may modify the order of these meals in the future. My sister-in-law also brought wonderful Austrian pastry crisps and cookies from Demel that we nibbled on every day.
I had also planned to make our favorite chili and butter chicken, but my family treated us out to dinner in New York City one evening and for take-out on another evening- Perfect. 🙂
Selfishly, I am posting my menus to help with planning in the future. Hopefully others may benefit in some way! Happy New Year!
These soft gingerbread cookies were my daughter’s favorite in the assortment! I bought Nordic Ware snowflake cookie stamps after seeing them on the beautiful blog The View from Great Island.
The recipe was adapted from Ottolenghi’s dessert cookbook, Sweet, via theviewfromgreatisland.com. I modified the method using another post on the same blog that used cookie stamps.
I also used a 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop instead of a 2 tablespoon scoop, resulting in less of the snowflake imprint being transferred. (I need a 2 tablespoon scoop!) I would also thin the glaze even more next time so that it would be more transparent, revealing more of the pattern of the stamp.
Alternatively, instead of the glaze, each cookie could be sprinkled with additional granulated sugar prior to baking.
Yield: 18 cookies (using 1 1/2 T scoop) (6 of each design)
For the Cookies:
6 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 packed cup plus 2 T (7 T) dark brown sugar
1/3 cup (5 T) molasses (do not use blackstrap, which is bitter)
1 large egg yolk
1 3/4 cups plus 2 T all-purpose flour
1 T Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly ground cloves
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
To Roll and Stamp:
small bowl of granulated sugar
For the Glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 T unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 T warm water, plus more for thinning
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Put your cookie stamps in the freezer to chill.
Cream together the butter, sugar, and molasses in a stand mixer (or with a hand held mixer).
Beat in the egg yolk.
Sift together the dry ingredients.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, beating on low until the dough comes together.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until all the floury crumbles are incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk. I did not have to chill my dough before rolling, but if yours is very soft, you may want to.
Use a medium (1 1/2 or 2 tablespoon) cookie scoop to portion out the dough.
Roll the dough into balls and coat in granulated sugar.
Stamp the balls of dough with your cookie stamp. Gently pry it off the cookie stamp by just nudging one corner. The cookie should come right off the stamp. (at this point, you can sprinkle the top with additional sugar if not making the glaze)
Place the stamped cookies in the freezer for 15 minutes. (I placed them on a parchment paper-lined cutting board.)
Place the cold cookies onto fresh parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies.
Bake for 8-10 minutes. You don’t want to over bake these cookies, so do a test cookie or two to figure out the best timing for your oven. The cookies will be soft when you remove them from the oven, but will firm up as they cool.
Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the pan before carefully transferring to a rack to cool completely.
When the cookies are cool, whisk the glaze ingredients together until they become a smooth thin glaze. Add more water if the glaze is too thick, it should have the consistency of maple syrup or a thin honey.
Brush the cooled cookies with the glaze. You want the glaze to be thick enough to settle into the design for a beautiful emphasis. It will become more translucent as it dries.
Let the glaze set up fully before serving or storing.
I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday! These are the cookies that we shared with our family and friends this Christmas season.
My list of favorite cookies continues to grow- at some point I will have to edit myself. 😉 I tried a new glazed gingerbread cookie using snowflake cookie stamps. I also made spritz cookies with almonds and almond extract using my grandmother’s cookie press. Festive and fun.
While unloading my CSA box, I spoke with another member about what she was making with all of the butternut squash we were receiving in our share. She said that there was no better way to use it than this soup! It was a great recommendation.
This recipe was adapted from Thomas Keller’s “Bouchon,” via The New York Times, contributed by Amanda Hesser. Hesser described it as “astonishingly flavorful and complex.” It was creamy, silky, and incredibly delicious. I made it for my mom on her birthday! 🙂 It would also be wonderful as part of a holiday meal.
I loved that it incorporated leeks, shallots, and yellow onions- and brown butter, of course. The toppings also gave it a lovely presentation.
Yield: Serves 6
1 3-to-3½-pound butternut squash
2 tablespoons canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sprigs sage
1 cup thinly sliced leeks (about 2 leeks)
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots (about 2 carrots)
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
6 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons honey
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock, more if needed
Bouquet Garni made of 8 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs Italian parsley, 2 bay leaves and ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, all wrapped in a packet made of 2 green leek leaves or cheesecloth
1/4 cup crème fraîche
freshly grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced chives
extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.) Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Cut the neck off the squash and set it aside. Cut the bulb in half and scoop out and discard seeds. Brush each half inside and out with about 1½ teaspoons of the canola oil. Sprinkle the cavities with salt and pepper and tuck a sprig of sage into each. Place cut-side-down on the baking sheet and roast until completely tender, about 1 hour. Remove the squash from the oven and let cool, then scoop out and reserve the flesh (discard sage).
Meanwhile, using a paring knife, peel away the skin from the neck of the squash until you reach the bright orange flesh. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch pieces (you should have about 4 cups).
Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and thinly slice into half moons. Soak in a bowl of water. Using a slotted spoon, lift from the top before using.
Put the remaining canola oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat, add the leeks, carrots, shallots and onions and cook, stirring often, for about 6 minutes.
Add the diced squash, garlic, 11/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook gently for 3 minutes, reducing the heat as necessary to keep the garlic and squash from coloring.
Stir in the honey and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the stock and bouquet garni, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the squash is tender.
Add the roasted squash and simmer gently for about 30 minutes for the flavors to blend.
Remove from the heat and discard the bouquet garni.
Transfer the soup to a blender, in batches, and purée. Alternatively, use an immersion blender in the pot.
Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning. Let the soup cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
Place the crème fraîche in a small chilled bowl and stir in nutmeg to taste. Whisk until the crème fraîche holds a shape. Cover and refrigerate.
Gently reheat the soup until just hot. If it is too thick, add a little more stock.
Heat a medium skillet or butter warmer medium-over high heat. When it is very hot, add the butter and rotate the skillet over the heat as necessary to brown the butter evenly, scraping up any bits that settle in the bottom. As soon as the butter is a hazelnut brown, pour it into the pot of soup — keep a safe distance, it may sputter — then stir.
Ladle the soup into six serving bowls. Top each with a dollop of crème fraîche. Grind some black pepper over the top and sprinkle on the chives. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top.
WOW. My daughter declared that these are the best cookies I have ever made!
They are composed of crispy and crunchy, thin toffee cookies sandwiched with fabulous brown-butter buttercream. The filling is the perfect complement to the toffee flavored cookies.
This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Sohla El-Waylly. I modified the method and increased the amount of filling. I also used toffee with chocolate- now I’ll have to try them without as well. Amazing!
The original recipe notes that these cookies are ideal for shipping and sharing because they have a long shelf life. They didn’t last very long in my house! 😉
Yield: 34 to 36 sandwich cookies
For the Cookies:
227 g (about 1 1/2 cups) English toffee bits, preferably without chocolate (such as Heath Bits O’Brickle)(I used Trader Joe’s Toffee Chips with both dark and milk chocolate, coarsely chopped)
112 g (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt
3 T (42 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, white and yolk separated, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (224 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 cup (40 g) sliced almonds, or more, for garnish
For the Brown-Butter Buttercream Filling:
16 T (227 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp plus a pinch Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 1/8 tsp Morton kosher salt
320 g (2 2/3 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
To Make the Cookies:
In a food processor, process the toffee bits, sugar, baking soda and salt until the toffee is mostly ground and the mixture is sandy, about 1 minute.
Transfer the toffee mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer).
Add butter, egg white and vanilla. Mix together with the paddle attachment on medium until creamy and fluffy, stopping once to scrape the bowl and paddle, about 2 minutes.
Add flour, and mix on medium-low until the mixture comes together into a soft dough, about 30 seconds.
Divide the dough in half. Pat each half into a disk. Wrap and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes before proceeding. (I wrapped each disk in plastic wrap.)
Dust a piece of parchment paper and dough with flour. Top with a second piece of parchment paper.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out 1/8-inch thick between the two sheets of parchment (the thickness of two stacked pennies), turning the dough frequently to ensure it moves freely, dusting with more flour as needed. Each sheet of dough will be about the size of a standard sheet of paper.
Place the dough on a flat surface (I used a cutting board) and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter dusted in flour, cut out cookies from one sheet of dough. Using an offset spatula, transfer rounds to a parchment paper lined rimmed sheet pan, placing another sheet of parchment paper between layers. (I stacked the rounds between sheets of plastic wrap but it was slightly difficult to remove them once frozen- parchment paper seems like a better plan.)
Repeat with the remaining sheet of dough.
Gather and knead together any scraps, refreeze and re-roll, repeating until all the dough has been rolled out for a total of about 68 to 72 cookies.
Wrap the rounds of dough on the sheet pan with plastic wrap; freeze on sheet trays for at least 30 minutes before baking. (Alternatively, once the cookies have firmly frozen, stack them between parchment in a freezer-safe container or zipper-lock bag for up to 3 months.)
Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat oven to 350 degrees. (I used the convection setting.)
Whisk together the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water and evenly brush on the tops of half (34 to 36) of the chilled cookies.
Sprinkle the yolk-brushed cookies with almonds, pressing gently to adhere.
Bake the cookies until deeply browned like a pretzel, switching the sheet trays from top to bottom and rotating from front to back halfway through, 10 to 14 minutes. (I simultaneously baked 3 pans of 12 cookies each for 10 to 11 minutes on convection.)
Bake the remaining cookies (without almonds) at the same temperature for the same duration.
Let cookies cool completely on the sheet pans.
To Make the Filling:
Set a piping bag in a tall and narrow container, like a deli quart container, and fold over the top edge to secure.
Flip over the cookies without almonds. (You need to pipe the icing onto the cookies immediately after mixing, so make sure you are set up.)
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until foamy, about 3 minutes.
Continue cooking butter, stirring and scraping frequently with a stiff silicone spatula, until the sputtering has subsided and the butter solids look deeply browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape the butter and any brown bits into the bowl of a stand mixer (or into a large bowl if mixing by hand).
Stir in the vanilla and salt.
Sift over the powdered sugar.
With the paddle attachment, mix on low until creamy and combined, about 1 minute, stopping once during mixing to scrape the bowl and the paddle. (You can also mix with a stiff silicone spatula until creamy and combined.)
Transfer the icing to the piping bag and cut a 1-inch wide opening at the tip. (I used a round piping tip instead.) The icing will be warm and fluid.
Pipe a scant tablespoon of filling onto a flipped cookie and immediately top with an almond-topped cookie.
Gently press to adhere so that the filling reaches the edges of the cookie.
Repeat with remaining cookies and icing. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.
I made these delicious cookies for my daughter and some of her friends for their Valentine’s (Galentine’s!) Day celebration. Tanya Ott, the amazing baker of globalbakes.com, promised that they would hold their shape and she was right. I was so pleased! 🙂 Because the dough does not contain a rising agent, the cut out shapes stay completely intact while baking.
The cookie recipe was adapted from globalbakes.com. I made half the recipe, used fine sea salt, increased the chilling time, and baked the cookies in a convection oven. Tanya’s blog has many informative videos with amazing royal icing techniques and ideas. I highly recommend checking it out. 🙂
The royal icing recipe is from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.
Yield: about 48 3-inch cookies
For the Cream Cheese Sugar Cookie Dough:
227 grams (1 cup; 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
114 grams (4 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
337 grams (2 1/4 cups plus 2 T) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until well blended and smooth.
Add the sugar, vanilla extract, and egg yolks, and mix until just combined.
Add the flour and salt, and mix to form a soft dough.
Shape the dough into a ball, press into a 1/2-inch disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into desired shapes with cookie cutters, and place them on a plastic wrap-lined cookie sheet. Place another layer of plastic wrap between each layer of cookies. (I stack similar shapes on top of one another.)
Chill for at least 15 minutes. (I chilled the cut shapes overnight.)
Preheat the oven to 350F, preferably on convection. Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking sheets.
Place the chilled cookies one inch apart on prepared baking sheets. (Bake cookies of similar size at the same time.)
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until light golden brown around the edges. Bake time will vary with the size and thickness of the cookies. Allow to cool completely before frosting or decorating.
For the Royal Icing:
1/2 pound (8 oz) Confectioners’ sugar
2 1/2 T meringue powder
liquid or gel-paste food coloring
sanding sugar or sprinkles, as desired
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, meringue powder, and a scant 1/4 cup (4 T) water on low speed. Beat until mixture is fluffy yet dense, 7 to 8 minutes.
To thin the icing for flooding (filling in areas with additional icing), stir in additional water, 1 teaspoon at a time. Test the consistency by lifting a spoonful of icing and letting it drip back into the bowl; a ribbon should remain on the surface for 5 to 7 seconds.
To tint icing, dip a toothpick or wooden skewer into food coloring, and gradually mix it in until the desired shade is reached. (I used 3 shades of pink once the icing was “flood” consistency.)
Using a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip, pipe a border around each cookie. Then, thin the icing to a flood consistency and fill in the border. (I used a larger tip to fill in the cookies.)
Decorate with sanding sugar or sprinkles before the icing has set, if desired.
I do admire people who post Christmas cookie recipes prior to Christmas! 😉
This recipe was adapted from one of my absolute favorite books, Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland by Shauna Sever. I used almond extract, Irish butter, a cookie press, and baked the cookies on convection. Simple and classic.
They can be made in any shape to suit the season. The original recipe also suggests topping the cookies with sprinkles, sparkling colored sugars, or drizzling or sandwiching them with chocolate.
Yield: about 3 dozen cookies
8 oz (225 g) unsalted European-style butter, at room temperature (I used Kerrygold)
120 g (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pure almond, lemon, or anise extract
256 g (2 cups, spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
sprinkles or sparkling colored sugars, optional
melted dark or white chocolate for drizzling, optional
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F (180 C), preferably on convection.
Line 2 baking sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper. (Silicone liners make piping a little bit easier because the they don’t lift up as the cookie press or piping tip pulls away.)(I used both!)
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy.
Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue to beat until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Reduce the mixer speed to medium and beat in the egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and the additional extract of your choice. Blend for 1 minute more.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the flour, salt, and baking powder. Scrape down the bowl well and make sure the dough is well mixed.
Immediately transfer the dough to a cookie press or a heavy-duty piping bag fitted with a large open star tip, such as Ateco #826.
Spritz the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets. If using a pastry bag, pipe the cookies into desired shapes- aim for cookies about 2 inches (5 cm) wide, spaced about 2 inches apart.
Decorate with sprinkles or sparkling sugars, if desired.
Refrigerate on the sheets for about 15 minutes, or freeze for 5 minutes. (I placed the parchment on a plastic cutting board in the freezer.)
Bake until lightly golden at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Cookies on parchment will brown faster; those on silicone mats will need a little more time to color.
Allow the cookies to cool on the sheets for 2 or 3 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely. To finish non-sprinkled cookies, drizzle or sandwich with melted dark or white chocolate, if desired.