Cookies and Memories . . .

I took a couple of days before Christmas to make Christmas cookies. I guess I was feeling nostalgic and probably missing my mother who has been gone for over ten years now but suddenly decided to include a batch of a favorite Christmas cookie in the bunch – Pfeffernusse. It is a small, roundish cookie with a lot of spice packed into it covered in a thin icing. To those used to cutout cookies loaded with icing and decorations, these might be pretty plain but enjoying a few of them with hot coffee or tea and you know you just found the best of the bunch. Not a difficult recipe but a very spicy one!

Pfeffernusse Cookies (translation: Pepper Nut Cookies)

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons thick sour cream
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine all the dry ingredients and set aside. Combine the brown sugar, honey, butter, and sour cream and stir together until melted and smooth. Cool for five minutes and then stir in the flour mixture. Add the egg and vanilla and mix in thoroughly. Bring the dough together into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate four hours to overnight to let the flavors develop.

To bake:
Preheat oven to 350 degree.

Form the dough into balls about an inch in size. A cookie scoop makes this an easy job if you have one. Keep the dough chilled so work quickly.

Place the the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake approximately 15-18 minutes or until browned on the bottom. Let cookies cool before removing them to a cooling rack. When the cookies are completely cooled, it is time to make the glaze.

Glaze:
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons of hot water or enough to make a workable glaze. Dip each cookie, face down, into the glaze, let excess drip off, and place on a cooling rack to dry. If you are quick or have a helper, you can use some colorful sprinkles on them.

The cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container.

Quick Fudge!

You get that craving for something sweet and you don’t want to spend time over a pot of boiling chocolate to calm that yearning for fudge NOW! This is a fun and fast way to get that chocolate fix.

Quick Fudge!
3 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Place everything except the extract in a large pot. Gently heat to melt and combine the ingredients. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla and mix well. Spread the chocolate into an 8-inch square pan lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate two hours our until set. Remove from the pan and cut into serving pieces. Keep in refrigerator.

I like the ease of this recipe and the fact that we have so many different kind of candy chips to use. I like using 2 cups of the semi-sweet chocolate and one cup of peanut butter chips. There is also mint flavored one that can be used for a holiday flare. I’ve been thinking of butterscotch chips with a cup of chopped, dry roasted peanuts might be good. Haven’t tried that one out yet!

All Your Christmas Cookies in One Recipe!

When I was little, my mother had a similar recipe for making many kinds of cookies out of one dough. Over the years, it has evolved so here are some of my favorite ways to make use of one cookie dough for a variety of flavors. We used to have Christmas Cookie Baking days with friends and this was always a great way to get started. Another plus is that you can make up all your favorite options listed and refrigerate them and spread out the baking time over several days. This is also your warning . . . December is tomorrow so can Christmas be coming rather quickly?

All Your Christmas Cookies in One Recipe
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons Cream of Tartar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups butter
3 cups powdered sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons butter flavoring/extract
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, extracts and spices. Mix in the dry ingredients until well-blended.

Now, you are ready to bake . . . But what kind of cookies do you want to make? All this beautiful dough ready for creation . . . Divide your dough into eight portions and start thinking!

Cherry-Orange Drops
Additions:
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
½ cup diced green and red maraschino cherries
½ cup finely chopped walnuts

Mix in a an eighth of your prepared dough. Refrigerate dough for an hour. Drop by teaspoonfuls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until golden in a preheated 375 degree oven.

Wedding Cookies
Additions:
Those popular Wedding cookies will take another eighth of your dough Simply stir in 1 cup of finely chopped pecans and chill dough for four hours. When dough is ready, shape into small balls on a parchment-line baking sheet. Cookie scoops make this easy. You don’t want golf ball size here. Bake at 375 degrees until set and browned on the bottom, depending on the size of the balls, about 5-8 minutes. Watch them carefully! Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a cup of powdered sugar in a bowl. If you happen to have vanilla powder on hand, do put a few teaspoons in the sugar. Now roll each of the warm cookie balls in the sugar and set aside to complete cooling. You want to do this when they are still warm.

Chocolate Cinnamon Balls
Additions:
Similar to the Wedding Cookies but with a spicy, chocolate element. Add in ½ cup finely diced walnuts and ½ cup of mini-chocolate chips. Follow the directions for baking the cookies like the Wedding Cookies. Let the cookies rest before rolling them in a mixture of ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and a dash of ground cloves.

Crispy Cut-Out Cookies
No additions here but you will need to chill the dough a couple of hours to facilitate rolling it out. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about an eighth of an inch thick. The fun part? Using your choice of cookie cutters to create you edible Christmas good wishes. Place your cookies on a parchment-line baking sheet(s) and bake about 6-8 minutes in 375 degree oven. Watch carefully to insure golden cookies. A quick brush of icing is a cup of powdered sugar and enough cream or milk to form a spreadable icing. Those plastic pastry brushes are great from quick icing. Be sure to have some sparkly sugar or colorful decorations to add before the icing sets.

Gingerbread Men
Additions:
1/4 cup molasses
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Follow the directions for cooling, cutting, and baking the Crispy Cut-Out Cookies. Hope you have a gingerbread man cookie cutter on hand!

Chocolate Sandwich cookies
Again, no additions but a fun, tasty cookie. Take your eighth portion of dough, divide in half, and roll each into a roll about 1 ½- inches in diameter. Refrigerate a couple of hours and then slice the cookie rounds about an eighth thick and place on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake in 375 degree oven for 5-8 minutes. Let cool a bit before removing to a cooling rack. Meanwhile, carefully melt a cup of milk chocolate chips. Take one cookie and spread some chocolate on the bottom and sandwich it (bottoms sides facing) with another cookie. For a fun decoration, when the cookie sandwiches are done, Melt ½ cup white, mint, or peanut butter chips (Your choice!) and drizzle it over the tops of the cookies and sprinkle with some colorful sugar or decoration.

Sugared Cookies
No additions but some colorful sugar would work well here. As usual, make sure the dough has been refrigerated at least an hour. Scoop up heaping teaspoonfuls of the dough, roll in the sugar, and place about two-inches apart on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Press gently down on each cookie – not TOO thin! Bake for approximately 5-6 minutes or until lightly golden in 375-degree oven. Let rest before removing to cooling racks.

Brown Butter Frosted Walnut-Nut Drops
Additions:
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Mix in the walnuts/cinnamon and refrigerate the dough. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls on parchment-lined baking sheets about two-inches apart. Bake for approximately 5-7 minutes or until golden and set. Now, this is what elevates the cookie to dramatically tasty! In a small pot, melt a stick of butter and watching carefully cook it until it starts to brown, stirring constantly. Remove from stove and add 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and enough cream or milk to combine. Mix well. It should not be runny but not too thick, either. Add drops of milk or cream if it is too thick. Now, pick up each cooled cooking and dip it halfway into the icing and set back on the cooling rack to set. Before it sets, however, would be a good time to sprinkle some chopped nuts or colorful decorations on them.

Chocolate Peppermint Patty Cookies
Additions:
2 ounces of melted and cooled baking chocolate
Mix the chocolate into your eighth portion of dough thoroughly. Divide in two and form into two rolls about 1 ½-inches in diameter and cool for two hours. Slice off rounds of cookies into approximately one-eighth slices. Place on the parchment-line baking sheets and bake for 5-6 minutes. They should be set but be careful of scorching. Chocolate tends to do that! Let rest on baking sheets before removing to cooling rack. Meanwhile, beat 1½ sticks of softened butter with approximately two cups powdered sugar. Drops of milk or cream helps if it is too thick. You need fluffy and spreadable here. Tint it with a tiny bit of red food coloring to get a pink hue. You can add ½ cup of crushed candy cane to the frosting or simply flavor with a drop of peppermint extract.

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Prepare the dough and baking as shown above for the Chocolate Peppermint Patty cookies. This time, beat together ½ stick of softened butter, 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, and enough cream or milk if it needs thinning down a bit. Fill the cookies as shown in previous recipe. For an added treat, melt 1 ½ cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips and dip each cookie half way in and then set on waxed paper to set.

Yes, I know there are eleven choices here. You can pick our favorite eight! You can also divide a couple of your ‘eighths’ of dough in half which would work well with the drop cookies to try all eleven ideas.

Benevolent Bread Pudding

Ever have one of those days when you don’t know how you are going to get dinner on the table much less come up with dessert? My favorite go-to has always been the ‘lowly’ bread pudding . . . only bread pudding doesn’t have to be considered at the end of the wanted list for dessert. Another plus with bread pudding, that it takes care of the aging bread on the counter.

Benevolent Bread Pudding

3 cups cubed bread
4 cups whole milk, scalded
3 beaten eggs
1/3 granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter

Add bread cubes to milk. Combine eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, spices to the bread mixture. Pour into greased pan and dot with the butter. Bake for approximately 45-60 minutes our until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Ideas:
White bread is not the only ingredient you can use. Think about sourdough bread, raisin bread, Hawaiian bread, etc.

Adding dried fruit like crasins, raisons, diced fresh apple, diced peaches . . .

Want to go wild for the children, chocolate chips and serve with ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup.

Chopped nuts are allowed, too!

Quick Gingerbread cake

I think that Gingerbread has to be one of my favorite flavors. It reminds me of the onset of the holiday season and seems to go so well with a cup of hot tea and a little peace and quiet.

Quick Gingerbread Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup molasses
1/3 cup softened butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Warm up the molasses and butter until the butter is melted and mixed in. Add the egg and buttermilk to the dry ingredients, incorporate a bit to break up the egg and then mix in the warm molasses mixture.

Bake in either 2 vegetable-oil sprayed 8-inch cake pans or a 9×13 oblong baking pan.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Cool and serve with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Butter pecan ice cream can be pretty festive!

Long lasting whipped cream.

In order to make your whipped cream a hour or so ahead, whip up a pint of heavy whipping cream with 1/4 cup sour cream until it holds a peak. Add a bit of vanilla or almond extract for the final beating. Be careful, you don’t want to turn it into butter! Serve immediately or put in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

The Trouble With Truffles . . . You Don’t Want to Share!

Christmas Truffles

1 ½ sticks butter (no margarine, please!)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
Finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons brandy
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (pecans or almonds work, too)

Melt butter in saucepan and stir in the cocoa until smooth. Keep stirring while slowly adding the condensed milk. Stir and cook over low heat for about 5-6 minutes or until the mixture thickened and is shiny and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in rum, zest, and nuts.

Pour into a pan and refrigerate for several hours or until the mixture is firm enough to shape. Using a small cookie scoop or spoon roll into 1-inch balls. At this point, you can roll the balls into more ground nuts or some red and green decorations for the Christmas spirit. Place on a plate to refrigerate a few more hours before serving. Something that can be made the day before to have on hand for a party or just a great treat.

Ideas . . .

This recipe is open to other flavors! Mint? Add a little creme de menthe in place of the brandy or just add some peppermint extract. Could mix in some crushed candy cane in lieu of the nuts, too.

A bit of instant coffee power in the cooking stage take the treat to a more grownup level.

You can roll them in either sweetened cocoa power or the unsweetened version depending on the state of your sweet tooth!

Adventurous? You can get some coating chocolate in either chocolate or white, melt it, and dip some of your truffles in that and sprinkle with decorations for an added dimension.

Christmas Cookie Baking!

Practiced some holiday baking during the week. Our church had an Advent Festival so I brought in some homemade treats for them to sell. For the first time in a couple of years, I baked with wheat flour and enjoyed it quite a bit! Yes, I can duplicate just about any wheat flour recipe using gluten-free ‘flour’ blends but it was nice to go back to my old methods just for the day.

I had another reason for bringing wheat flour offerings. My husband is gluten-sensitive so having wheat flour in the house doesn’t bother him unless he eats anything made from it. However, people with celiac can be effected by just being around wheat products and since my home is not thoroughly ‘cleansed’ of all that is gluten, I don’t like to advertise my treats as being gluten-free when they might not be safe for someone with more sensitive issues.

I am able to just about replicate a good loaf of bread without using wheat flour now, but it was great to just through together a ‘regular’ batch and get the feel of the real deal under my hands. I suppose that might account for the fact that I kind of went overboard in my baking . . . just having too much fun!

P1010166

P1010161

P1010162

P1010163