December 22, 2021

2021 Holiday Cookies


Here's a roundup of the holiday cookies I made this year and gifted to friends and family.  Every year I tell myself, "don't go overboard, two to three different cookies will suffice," and every year I ignore that advice.  I can't help it!  When the holidays come around I'm constantly inspired by all the baking I see and inevitably I end up finding something new or different that I want to make.  

Clockwise from top right:


December 21, 2021



One of my close friends is gluten-intolerant and when the holidays roll around I'm always on the hunt for  flour-less cookie recipes that she can enjoy.  Given that the majority of the baking I do involves wheat flour this can be quite a challenge.  In the past I've just substituted gluten-free flour, in place of all-purpose, in a "normal" recipe.  Unfortunately that trick doesn't always yield stellar results because of the chemistry involved in baking.  My preference is to make cookies that are naturally gluten-free so you don't even miss flour. 

Normally I would go with macarons but I had no desire to make them because it would have been an arduous and multi-stepped process.  I wanted something quick that still tasted great.  Enter Ricciarelli, the Italian almond cookie that originated in Siena.  They're similar to amaretti cookies, except softer and chewier.  I'd never heard of ricciarelli before until I saw them on Thida Bevington's Instagram stories. She used this recipe from Italian chef Silvia Colloca and they looked so intriguing I had to make them for myself.

I dare you to find a cookie that's easier to make than ricciarelli.  Almond flour, sugar, lemon zest and egg whites are mixed together by hand into a stiff dough.  Then tablespoonfuls of the dough are shaped, dusted in powdered sugar and finally baked.  How simple is that?  I shaped half the cookies into the traditional rectangle and the other half into thumbprints filled with raspberry jam.  I couldn't believe how similar the baked ricciarelli smelled to macarons.  One taste of the cookie and they could easily give their French cousin a run for their money.  Anyone, gluten-intolerant or otherwise, will love these cookies.

December 20, 2021

Iced Chocolate Star Cookies


I've had this set of Nordic Ware cookie stamps for a while but never really used them.  That is, until I  was inspired by this post on Beyond The Butter's blog and made these Iced Chocolate Star Cookies.  One glimpse of the gorgeously iced chocolate cookies and I was motivated to bring out the stamps from hiding.  The stamp does all the work, and with very little effort you get the most beautiful cookies.  That's a win-win situation in my book!

Beyond The Butter calls these cookies "Oreos" because they are jam-packed with chocolate flavor, similar to the famous filled sandwich cookie.  But I actually think these cookies taste even better because they are nice and soft.  They almost remind me of a brownie, in cookie form.  I'll definitely be adding these beauties to my holiday cookie list.

December 19, 2021

Raspberry-Filled Viennois


Here's another recipe to add to your holiday cookie arsenal, Raspberry Filled Viennois.  The cookie recipe comes from pastry chef extraordinaire Pierre Hermé so you know it's absolutely fantastic.  Last year he published the recipe on his Instagram account and I saved it straight away.  I shaped my cookies into stars and embellished them further by adding a dollop of raspberry jam in the center. 

The main tip I would offer when making these cookies is to ensure the dough is really soft.  You'll pipe the dough by hand using a decorating bag and tip so you want it to be as pliable as possible.  Otherwise your hand will be aching, trust me on that!

These viennois are utterly delicious - so buttery, with a tender crumb and a burst of fruit in the center.   Everyone I know loves them.  Make them as a gift and your recipient will be forever thankful.

December 18, 2021

Poinsettia Red Velvet Cake


I asked my friend Gracie what kind of cake she wanted me to make as XMAS gift and she immediately said red velvet, which I wasn't surprised by at all.  It’s her and her son's favorite!  Since this was for the holidays I made this Poinsettia Red Velvet Cake.  

For the cake layers I used my favorite recipe from Cook's Country that produces the most tender crumb.  For the frosting I chose Stella Park's cream cheese buttercream, which is super fluffy, delicious and a lot less sweet than the traditional frosting made with cups and cups of powdered sugar.    

To give the cake a festive feel I featured a large poinsettia as the main design.  I went online and watched a few videos on YouTube on how to pipe the flower using icing.  I know my poinsettia isn't the most botanically correct, but I think it will more than suffice, and I can live with that!

December 16, 2021

Ginger Molasses Cookies


Ginger Molasses Cookies are definitely in my top 3 favorite holiday cookies.  I love the warmth of the cinnamon spice, the crackly tops and the chewy texture.  Utterly delicious!   My favorite recipe comes from Mandy at Baking With Blondie.  

Here's the part where I diverge from my normal baking protocol.  To ensure I get a great chewy texture on my cookies I tweaked Mandy's recipe slightly by replacing the butter with butter-flavored Crisco shortening.  What?!  Shortening instead of butter? Yes way!  Now, before you cast dispersions on me, hear me out.  I find that using shortening reduces the likelihood of these cookies spreading too much during the baking process.   Nothing worse in my opinion than a super flat ginger molasses cookie.

Normally I roll the dough balls in turbinado sugar before baking, but this year I left some without the sugar coating because I wanted to dip them in melted white chocolate.  I was a bit worried that the addition of white chocolate would render the cookies too sweet, but I'm happy to report I was wrong.  I only dip a small portion of the cookie in the chocolate so it's not overwhelming.  Plus, nothing beats the appeal and aesthetic of the green and red holiday sprinkles.

December 12, 2021

Kanelbullar (Swedish Cinnamon Buns)


I'm a huge fan of bread recipes using tangzhong, a cooked flour and liquid paste, because it creates a super soft and fluffy interior.  When I saw that the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine featured a recipe for Kanelbullar (Swedish Cinnamon Buns) using tangzhong I knew I had to make them.  About five years ago I made kanelbullar for this blog, but while they tasted good, I found that after a few hours the finished buns were a bit too dense and hard.  Tangzhong to the rescue!

The difference with a Scandinavian cinnamon bun compared to the American version is the addition of cardamom spice and pearl sugar and the omission of an icing.  I like a hint of cardamom, but too much of it can be off-putting for me so I reduced the amount from the recipe.  Without a sticky icing to deal with you can easily freeze these buns to enjoy later, although you may not have any leftovers..they're so good!

Now that colder weather is upon us in the Bay Area it's the perfect setting for hygge (comfort and coziness) and a fika (Swedish coffee break) featuring the kanelbullar and a steaming cup of coffee. 


December 9, 2021

Gingerbread House Bundt Cake


November came and went by in a flash with very little baking on my end.  To be honest I just didn't have the motivation after returning from a holiday in Europe.  Perhaps subconsciously I was also storing my energy in preparation for the whirlwind of holiday baking and candy making that awaited me in December?
My first real bake for the holiday season is this super cute Gingerbread House Bundt Cake using this Nordic Ware pan.   For the cake itself I used White Lily Flour's recipe for a cream cheese pound cake.  I need another bundt pan like a fish needs a bicycle but I couldn't help myself.  The design on this pan was too cute to pass up and will be added to my growing bundt collection.  
What I especially love about a bundt cake is how easily you can achieve fantastic results with very little effort.  Especially ideal for you novice bakers out there.  Let the cake pan do all the work for you!  But, whenever making a bundt cake the golden rule you have to follow is to grease the pan well.  I swear by Baker's Joy cooking spray (with flour) and 99% of the time my cakes release without any issues.

Let the holiday baking extravaganza begin!
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