Our this year's "Mediterranean inspired" Advent wreath - made from red-coloured cornus twigs, decorated with tiny olive twigs still bearing some black olives - in the "Cantina"
My Mom has always been a great cookie baker. No Christmas Season without Mom's special selection of cookies which are part of some very happy foodie childhood memories. But my Mom is just 20 years older than I (and interestingly enough, her mother, my grandmother, also was 20 when her elder daughter - my mother - was born, which was 2 1/2 months before World War II started....) and thus I am a happy receiver of a BIG tin box of her cookies every Christmas. For this reason I have not followed her traditions so far (and I think when I maybe try her recipes one day it will never be the same...) but have made up my mind to establish my very own collection. It's somehow a mixture of Herbert's childhood memories (goíng back to Löla and her famous cookbook, as regular readers of this blog know very well !), some Mediterranean specialities - and this year also new discoveries from fellow foodbloggers ! Due to a chronic lack of time I always concentrate on 6 recipes, but since I make two batches of each there is quite enough to give away assorted boxes to some very special friends, and of course to my Mom. Isn't it the SWAP effect which means the true challenge and fun about baking Christmas cookies ?
So have a look what has (additionally) kept me busy this week....
Löla's Bread and Butter
For the "bread" :
- 180 g pulverized almonds
- 3 ribs of chocolate (plain cooking chocolate)
- 120 g icing sugar
- 90 g butter
- 90 g all purpose flour
- 1 egg
For the "butter" (icing) :
- 2 egg yolks
- weigh the egg yolks and take the same weight of sugar
Mix all ingredients for the chocolate-almond-"bread" until you have a firm and formable dough (I always use my food processor, ok, Löla - please forgive me ....) and leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour. Form two or three dough "sausages" (with a diameter of approximately 2 cm), then cut off thin cookies which you place on a greased or non-stick baking tray. Bake them at approx. 150 C until they are firm - but take care since they burn easily (due to the chocolate contents). Leave to cool.
Beat the egg yolks and the sugar until the mixture turns pale and glossy. Gently spread some of this icing on every "bread slice" - like butter on bread. Leave to dry (I put them on the warm oven).
Johanna's (her Dad's) Vanilla Crescents
Please check here. Very crispy, very traditional. Since the recipe does not call for any egg the dough is not very easy to handle, but it's worth the effort. Thank you, Johanna, for sharing your Dad's recipe - and I hope you have a very romantic weekend in Paris now !
Löla's Pillow Corners
- 260 g all purpose flour
- 80 g unsalted butter
- 2 egg yolks
- pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp sour cream
- 1 dash of water
There is a nice little story having to do with these cookies and how to interprete an old cookbook - in case you are interested please just look it up under "My cooking roots".
But there is is even another story. These cookies were a must on the cookie plate during Herbert'`s childhood. He was so keen on these little jam-filled pieces that he usually locked himself up in the little chamber (under the staircase) where Löla stored all her treasures. After "stealing" several of these so-called pillow corners he stapled the ones which (fortunately) still were left in the big tin box by putting them somehow "upright" to use as much space as possible, so when Löla opened it by the time Christmas finally arrived it still looked "filled up" (at leat at the first glance, I presume ;-).
To be honest it's a nasty recipe. Roll out the dough and cut squares, put a little jam into the middle of each and fold them to triangles. Seal them well (I use a little wheel, I have no idea what it is called in English...) but I can tell you that you can hardly prevent that part of the jam will flow out during baking.... But since it's a matter of love (and childhood memories) you try it again and again.... ;-(
Zsofi's Walnut and Cinnemon Linzer Cookies filled with Orange Curd
Zsofi has been kind enough to combine an Austrian (maybe a K.u.K.- Emperial and Royal ?) recipe with a Mediterranean twist. Since I love all ingredients, but especially the citrus flavour, which are combined in her great recipe (and I generally adore Linzer cookies) I simply felt urged to give it a try. It's now my absolute favourite. Thank you, Zsofi !
For the recipe please check out here. There is one thing only I am going to change next time - and it is just a matter of "design". Like with original Linzer cookies I will punch a little hole into the upside cookie so you can see a little the beautful orange colour of the curd filling. ;-)
Amaretti Veneziani, my style
- 600 g pulverized peeled almonds
- 550 g icing sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla sugar
- 10 g ground cinnemon
- grated zest of two unwaxed lemons
- 100 g egg whites (unbeaten)
Mix all ingredients thoroughly and add as much of the liquor as needed to have a formable but not too wet dough. Leave to rest in the fridge overnight. Form dough "sausages" (with a diameter of approx. 3 cm), cut off slices and form tiny balls. Place them on a non-stick baking tray and bake - or rather dry - them at approx. 100 C (fan) until they are firm and crack (you won't miss the aroma spreading all over the house by the time they are ready). This can take up to three hours. Turn off the oven but do not remove the amaretti, leave them in the oven until they have cooled down completely (best is to bake them in the evening, turn off the oven before you go to bed - and they will be ready to be stored in boxes in the morning. These amaretti are crispy on the outside and still a little chewy in the middle.
(source: "Toscana - Küche, Land und Leute" by Martina Meuth and Bernd Neuner-Duttenhofer, page 214/215; slightly adapted)
A famous and utmost traditional recipe from the wonderful Tuscan city of Siena. It was only last year when I tried it for the first time and we simply got addiced to it. Above all it is now connected with a little story having to do with Dominik, Herbert's younger grandson, who is one of the best in Austria (in his age group) playing the classical guitar. On the occasion of our last year's traditional Christmas festivity "Natale per Amici" he presented (held ? still some problems with my English...) a little concerto and of course we wanted to "trick" our friends into putting a little donation for the young artist into a basket we had prepared (the sum would be generously doubled by Grandpa...). So how could we manage ? Thus I made little packages containing that mythical (and luck-bringing) panforte ("strong bread") and when the concerto was over I was barefaced enough to say "Here are two baskets, after you have been so kind to put a little donation into this one please help yourself and take a little package of panforte out of the other one...." Believe me, it worked out perfectly. And everyone liked the panforte. Needless to mention that it has been on my list again this year, even without having planned a concero this time. But what would Christmas cookies be without the stories surrounding them.....
(yields one large baking tray)
- 500 g runny honey
- 165 g sugar
- 500 g candied lemon, finely diced
- 250 g candied sugar melon, finely diced
- 750 g candied orange, finely diced
- 750 g peeled whole almonds, gently oven-roasted until light brown
- 400 g peeled hazelnuts, gently oven-roasted until light brown
- half a tsp coarsed black pepper
- 1 tbsp vanilla sugar
- half a tsp ground cinnemon
- 125 g all purpose flour
- large thin baking wafers (covering 2 x the size of a large baking tray)
Gently heat the honey and sugar in a large pot. Stir patiently until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the spices. In a large pan gently heat the candied fruits. After the honey-sugar-mixture has bubbled for 3 minutes add the roasted almonds, hazelnuts and candied fruits and combine well. Finally add the flour and again mix thoroughly. Cover the baking tray with wafers (drizzle some water over them to affix)and evenly spread the hot mixture over them. Cover with another layer of wafers, place in the preheated oven and bake for 5 - 8 minutes at 200 C. Remove from the oven, generously sprinkle with icing sugar and leave to cool. Cut into small pieces as desired.
Happy Advent Time !