I know that many of us are prolific bakers this time of year. I'd love to hear about the cookies you just have to make every year, any baking traditions you have, favorite methods of sharing or storing, and favorite books.
The Christmas standards I have to make every year are my Scottish grandmother's shortbread and mince pies. I make my own mincemeat and use Nigella's frangipane mince pies recipe which is fab.
Then I try to make different new recipes. This weekend I made Maida Heatter's Pecan Passion from her Brand-New Book of Great Cookies which were so good, sort of Turtles in a cookie (their original name was Turtle Bars). A dense, chocolatey layer topped with caramel and toasted pecans.
Next weekend a Swedish friend is having a glögg party (it's a warm spiced red wine) so I'm going to make Swedish cookies from a book I borrowed from the library, Swedish Cakes & Cookies, which has sold more than 3.4 million copies in Sweden. Should be authentic! I'll report back on what I made.
The glögg party was last night, a lot of fun and I made four different cookies for it. The only one not from the Swedish Cakes and Cookies book was Brandied fruit bars from Maida Heatter's Brand-New Book of Great Cookies. I used dried blueberries, cherries, apricots, cranberries, figs and prunes plus toasted pecans. The fruit was soaked in brandy overnight. Great flavor.
The cookies I did from the Swedish Cakes and Cookies book were Coconut dreams (a plain coconut drop cookie), Almond jitterbugs (a butter cookie with a spiral of almond paste) and Chocolate cigars (a hazelnut finger cookie with the end dipped in chocolate). I think the last one was the most successful, the other two were nice enough but nothing exciting.
I have a few favorite cookies, but haven't baked or done anything about Christmas this year... maybe next year. Anyway, I love to make Jan Hagels, a favorite Dutch cookie that used to be found on the grocery shelf. It is a bar cookie with a thin crust, topped with sliced almonds and an egg white glaze with sugar sprinkled on top. I think it has cinnamon in it, too.
Another favorite cookie is a drop cookie with white chocolate, chopped cherries, and macadamia nuts.
My friends and i used to gather every year to bake cookies together. Once we made a no bake cookie with Nilla Wafers ground up, orange juice, maybe some nuts, then rolled into a ball, and covered in powdered sugar.
And don't get me started on Chocolate Crinkle cookies.
My favorite dessert of all is a red Velvet cake recipe that I got from Mark Bittman's column in the NYTimes. Wow. Now if I could figure out how to make RedVelvet cookies!
Pressing Matters! My cookie press died last year so my favorite spritz butter cookie made with ground almonds (Rose's Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum) is in dire danger. And I have a cookie exchange coming up. Book Eaters, what cookie press do you recommend? My Vilawear plastic tube got a splitting tube ache and died.
You could probably find lots of spritz cookie makers on Amazon. Some of them have metal tubes, which should be unbreakable! Wilton makes a couple of models with clear tubes so you can see how much dough you've got left. Good luck with this!
I haven't made spritz in many years, but I recall our press was metal. Perhaps Ebay or half.com would have one if Amazon doesn't have one? I hope you find one soon!!
Oh no! Spritz cookies have been THE official Christmas cookie in my family for my entire life (and well before I was born too)...I just took out the 2 pounds of butter needed to make 2 double batches this afternoon! My family owns a comical number of these cookie press machines (stashed in coat closets and above the fridge, among other places, because Heaven forbid, we get caught without a working machine this time of the year!)
My all time favorite is the Wear-Ever Super Shooter http://www.amazon.com/We...id=1323525079&sr=1-1. It's a much older model, but it's the one my Grandmother always used and remains my favorite (I found a pretty cheap one on Ebay, because I wanted one of my own and it is no longer made). You will only be able to find used ones, but in my experience, they really do seem to stand up to the test of time.
My Mom has had luck with the Hamilton Beach model: http://www.ebay.com/itm/...20bffb8418#ht_1559wt_932 (I guess this one is no longer made either, because I could only find it on Ebay) It works well, but is a bit of a pain because it runs on batteries, which you can go through fairly quickly depending on how many cookies you make.
Most recently, we've tried some manual ones and have been quite pleasantly surprised by how well they work. My aunt has an all-metal one, I believe it is this one from Norpro: http://www.amazon.com/No...okie-Press/dp/B00004S1AS. Once you get the hang of it and get a good rhythym, it works very nicely, but it does take some getting used to if you are accustomed to an electric machine.
And finally, I have a manual Kuhn Rikon I got as a wedding present that I really like: http://www.williams-sono...amp;cm_src=PRODUCTSEARCH||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-buy%20more%20save%20more%20event%20-%20copy-_- I'm sure you can find it on Amazon as well because it is a current model.
I hope this helps!
Spritz cookies are great! I wasn't aware of Rose Levy Berenbaum's recipe with ground almonds in the dough, though. Being an almond freak I'll have to look that up!
Our family has always liked fruitcake this time of year. Of course there are zillions of recipes, but to be honest, it's hard to beat the 3 lb. cake that Costco sells for less than $15! It's extremely good and almost all fruit! They seem to start selling them at the beginning of December, so there's time to soak it in brandy or other spirits and give it a chance to ripen before cutting into it!
I do want to try making panettone and panforte, though -- also holiday favorites.
I also want to try making soft Spanish turrón de Jijona. I found a video on YouTube that shows how to make it in just a few easy steps. It's in Spanish, but it's quite clear even if you don't speak the language. http://www.youtube.com/w...lwZw&feature=related For those who've never had it, it's a soft, halvah-like confection dating back at least to the Moorish days in Spain. It's made with toasted blanched almonds, honey, and confectioner's sugar (and some orange blossom water). There's also a hard version from Alicante that's similar to Italian torrone -- a nougat bursting with sliced almonds sandwiched between edible wafer paper. You can make it at home, too, but it helps if you have some experience as a candy maker! The soft version looks virtually fool-proof for anyone! The ingredients in the online demo are: 2 - 3 tbsp. oil, 1 cup of blanched almonds, 1/4 cup honey (orange blossom is best) and 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar. The recipe can probably be made entirely in the food processor. Add 1 tbsp. of orange blossom water for an even finer flavor! The finished turrón is served cut into small slices -- it's quite rich!
A somewhat less traditional version is also demonstrated on YouTube: the honey is heated with a half-cup of white chocolate into which you mix the ground roasted almonds, sugar and orange blossom water. The white chocolate undoubtedly helps everything bind together more easily when it cools and its flavor is virtually imperceptible.