Archive for December, 2012

Christmas cookies | Almond and currant (Corinth raisin) cookies

22 December 2012

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Traditionally, my mother and I divided baking duties for Christmas. I baked Stollen, she made everything else. A most delicious fruitcake that soaks in bourbon for weeks, gingerbread with the children, Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars), Haselnuss Leckerli (Swiss hazelnut cookies), and these almond and currant cookies. Recipes from our childhood, which she has baked for decades.

In a newly discovered enthusiasm for baking cookies, in the past couple of years I’ve sought out new recipes, to complement the Christmas spread. Last year I also decided to make these myself, to pick up the tradition, perhaps? They are understated, without the heady Christmas spices. They are my favorite.

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The cookies must sit in the refrigerator overnight so plan accordingly, otherwise they are extremely quick and easy to make. They improve with time so, ideally, they should be prepared a few weeks in advance. Oh well.

1 cup (225 g) butter

1/2 cup (115 g) sugar

4 egg yolks

3 1/4 cups (400 g) flour

1 cup (100 g) slivered almonds

3/4 cup (100 g) currants (Corinth raisins)

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Let the butter soften at room temperature.

Mix the butter and sugar and light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and flour and mix well until the dough is homogenous and smooth.

Divide the dough into two equal parts. Add the almonds to one half and the currants to the other, kneading well until they are completely integrated.

Roll each half into a long log approximately 2 in (5 cm) in diameter. (Optionally, to make squarish cookies as shown above, flatten the log on four sides.) Wrap each log first in parchment paper then clingfilm, and place in the refrigerator overnight.

When ready to bake the next day, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

With a thin sharp knife, cut the logs into thin cookies 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake 8 to 10 minutes, until they just start to turn golden. (They will feel soft to the touch but will harden as they cool.)

Store in a tin in a cool dry place for up to a few weeks.

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Related recipes

Christmas cookies | Swiss Anisseed Chrabeli

Stollen

Savory oat, leek, and pecorino scones

17 December 2012

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English purists wouldn’t accept these as ‘scones.’ Scones are plain, eaten at tea time, with strawwwberry jam and clotted cream. I’ll worry about that in a few months. I’m still firmly implanted stateside and not above studding scones with currants (ha!), dried cranberries and apricots, almonds, gruyère, walnuts, or even caraway.

I could have named these differently, of course, but they are scones because I made them using a scone recipe. From England. It’s a recipe I copied when I lived there many years ago, when I was ten or so. It’s the second oldest recipe I collected, just after that of the banana cake.

These scones were a happy accident. Leo had a performance at school last week, which was to be followed by a potluck breakfast. As often — or always — happens, at first I wasn’t sure what to bring, then decided I’d pick up something easy like juice since Thomas was in London and I alone with the children all week; later I realized too many parents were already planning to bring juice. So for once, just this once, I wouldn’t bring anything. It’s OK to do that once. Of course the night before, filled with guilt, I felt I absolutely had to bake something, and must make do with whatever was in the house.

So these scones happened. I tasted one just a few minutes out of the oven, with butter melting from the warmth. It was really good. And better still with a little citrus jam — er, ‘marmalade.’ Cold, the next morning, the scones were not quite the hit. It seems people prefer sweets in the morning.

I would insist that these scones, which are very quick to prepare, should be made just before breakfast (or brunch) and eaten immediately, warm, or, if later, toasted.

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Makes about 16 scones

I used za’atar to add zest and depth of flavor, but I realize it’s not necessarily a house staple (I just happened to have some) and could be substituted with chopped fresh thyme (lemon thyme even better! — is that not helpful?).

1 1/2 cups butter
3 cups flour
1 cup rolled oats
6 tsps baking powder
2 tsps za’atar
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup coarsely grated pecorino
1 long or 2 small leeks
Zest from 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and butter generously.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, oats, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and za’atar.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and add the milk and melted butter. Combine this with the oat/flour mixture until all the flour is absorbed.

To clean the leek remove the coarse outer leaves, rinse thoroughly under running water, opening up the inner leaves slightly to make sure no sand remains. Slice the leek very thinly.

Add the leek, ground pecorino, and lemon zest to the dough. Stir to combine well.

With a large soup spoon, scoop out balls of dough and place them on the baking sheet.

Bake for 22 minutes. The outside should be starting to turn golden and feel slightly resistant to the touch but not firm (it will become harder as it cools).

Serve quickly, while still warm, with delicious butter and orange marmalade…

(These scones are really very delicious when warm, so they should be eaten immediately, or toasted or reheated in the oven later.)

Candied orange and lemon peel

8 December 2012

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For years I’ve wanted to do this. Every time, as I gather all the ingredients to make Stollen in early December, I think I really should make candied citrus peel myself. But caught in the rush I end up scrambling and scouring stores desperately to find an acceptable option — usually just barely.

So I’m quite excited. It’s not as if I’d suddenly been graced with lots more time, rather to the contrary, but I guess that’s how it works.

It does take time — a few hours. Peeling, cutting, staying close to the boil. Repeating. It’s time-consuming. But simple. It’s meditative. And worth it.

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Orange peel

I candied the peel to use in Stollen, but there is plenty left over, which can be eaten as is, rolled in sugar, or dipped in dark melted chocolate to make orangettes. Mmmm.

5 oranges

3 cups (600 g) sugar

1 1/2 cups (350 ml) water (more for the first step)

To peel the oranges, trim off a ‘cap’ at either end so the orange sits in a stable position. Cut pieces of peel, equal to approximately a sixth of the fruit, from top to the bottom, including the pith and a bit of fruit. (The flesh can be used elsewhere for example in a fruit salad.) Slice the pieces of peel into strips 1/2 to 1-inch (1 to 2 cm) wide.
Place the peel in a smallish saucepan, cover with water, bring to a simmer and boil for a couple of minutes. Drain, discarding the water. Cover the peel with fresh water and repeat this three times (4 boils altogether).

Rinse the saucepan. Pour the sugar and 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) water, bring to a boil, then add the peel. Simmer, partially covered, for about an hour, removing scum if it occurs, until the peel is soft and translucent on the sides. (The pith should be translucent too.)

Place the pieces of peel on a rack or baking sheet covered with parchment paper and let dry for 24 to 36 hours.

Keep the syrup in the fridge and mix with sparkling water for a refreshing drink, or drizzled over plain yogurt.

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Lemon peel
(Same technique but the quantities are halved, and lemon peel can also be dipped in dark chocolate to make ‘lemonettes’!)

5 lemons

1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar

3/4 cup (200 ml) water (more for the first step)

To peel the lemons, trim off a ‘cap’ at either end so the orange sits in a stable position. Cut pieces of peel, equal to approximately a sixth of the fruit, from top to the bottom, including the pith and a bit of fruit. (The flesh can be used elsewhere for example in a fruit salad.) Slice the pieces of peel into strips 1/2 to 1-inch (1 to 2 cm) wide.

Place the peel in a smallish saucepan, cover with water, bring to a simmer and boil for a couple of minutes. Drain, discarding the water. Cover the peel with fresh water and repeat this three times (4 boils altogether).

Rinse the saucepan. Pour the sugar and 3/4 cup (200 ml) water, bring to a boil, then add the peel. Simmer, partially covered, for about an hour, removing scum if it occurs, until the peel is soft and translucent on the sides. (The pith should not be white anymore, completely translucent.)

Place the peels on a rack or baking sheet covered with parchment paper and let dry for 24 to 36 hours.

Keep the syrup in the fridge and mix with sparkling water for a refreshing drink, or drizzled over plain yogurt.

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Related posts

Stollen


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