All posts tagged “Christmas

Peppermint Cookies_Katherine Sacks
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Peppermint Chocolate Cookies

I love our new life in Berlin, but I’m so thankful for this holiday trip back to the US and the time I’ve been able to spend time with my friends and family in New York, Philadelphia, and Virginia. But my traveling has kept me busy, which means our Christmas cookie baking didn’t really kick into gear until this morning. We kept it simple with just a few variations, including these chocolate peppermint beauties I’ve been wanting to try out. I saw these cathedral cookies a few weeks ago and I’ve been stuck on trying out the idea with peppermint candies ever since. The sablé cookie is sandy and just salty enough to offset the sweet minty candy, a really nice addition to the cookie plate. We also tried it out with ginger candies, and the technique would really work with any hard candy. Butterscotch? Cinnamon drops? Yum.

Whether you make these for a last minute Christmas treat or save them for after the New Year, I hope you enjoy. I’m headed to California in the morning to visit more family and friends (with a bag of cookies in tow) and am really looking forward to a festive end to the week. Wherever and however you are celebrating, Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas! Read More

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Rugelach

Rugelach Recipe, Christmas Cookies

My holiday season isn’t complete without baking several batches of cookies to share with loved ones. Although I’m away from my family this year, I was lucky enough to see both my Mom and Dad, and TH’s parents, in the month before I left the US. My mother and I baked up a storm, working through four different cookie recipes in order to send out some early holiday cheer.

It was fun to try some new recipes with her; the gingersnaps were delicious, a less sweet cranberry-orange cookie would be excellent for crackers, and the raspberry-walnut swirls were very pretty. But just like every year, my favorite was the rugelach. In part, it’s because we’ve been making these cookies since I was a kid. We aren’t Jewish—my mother originally found the recipe in an international cookbook—but the traditional Hanukah cookies have become my quintessential holiday cookie. And it’s hard not to love the flaky, buttery dough, wrapped around whatever delicious filling you choose.

Growing up we always used a combination of cinnamon and toasted walnuts for our filling, but for our latest version my mother and I chose a delicious fig jam. The jam caramelizes slightly in the oven, making a sweet, slightly sticky filling that is beautiful inside the tender dough. Topped with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, they are my perfect Christmas treat.

Rugelach
Servings: 4 dozen cookies
1 cup butter, cubed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk
¾ cup sour cream
Powdered sugar
½ cup jelly 

In a medium-sized bowl, cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or two forks until coarse crumbs form. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolk and sour cream together, then add into the flour mixture. Mix until just blended. Divide into three portions, flatten each into 1-inch disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove one portion of dough from the refrigerator and let it warm for several minutes. Dust the dough lightly with powdered sugar and roll out between two pieces of parchment paper or non-stick baking mats into a 1/8-inch thick circle. Spread the jelly in a thin layer over the surface of the dough. Use a pizza cutter to slice the dough into 16 wedges, and roll the wedges up, starting at the wider end. Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the remaining dough. When cookies are lightly browned, remove from oven and cool on wire racks. Dust with powdered sugar to finish.

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Weekend Inspiration: Christkindlmarkt

Christkindlemarkt

Through the rose tinted glasses of my childhood, Christmas in Germany seemed like the best thing on earth. A place where the cobblestones and medieval towns of fairy tales met with a month of pure festivity as snowy nights filled with rich hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts, and as many candied nuts as we could eat.

I find myself back in Germany at the start of the holiday season, and I can say with full confidence that my attraction to this country’s celebration was more than childhood memories romanticized. Christmas in Germany is something special. Take for instance yesterday, December 6th, the special holiday of Nikolaus Tag. Children all over Germany clean their shoes the night before, putting them outside the door (as I did growing up). The next morning, the shoes are filled to the brim with chocolates, oranges, and little trinkets—special Christmas treats to start the holidays. The advent calendar here is treated with reverence, from the candle-decked holiday wreath inside churches to the candy-filled paper version sold at every grocery store. And from the first weekend in December, the Christmas markets light up city’s both small and large; more then 50 markets have taken over Berlin’s squares and boulevards, not as a tourist attraction but something thoroughly and completely enjoyed by the locals. Giant trees, nativities, pyramids, and nutcrackers can be found everywhere.

Walk through the carnival-like Alexanderplatz market during a weekday and you’ll see business men enjoying champignon for lunch while Berlin’s mothers entertain their children on mini ferris wheels and roller coasters. At the more beautiful but just as crowded Gendarmenmarkt, cloaked entry guards help lend a historical flair, while artisans offer handmade goods. Nearby our new home in the Prenz Lauerberg neighborhood, the Kulturbrauerei market is a very locals affair. It’s small size is outweighed by authentic flavor, with a Scandanavian/Saint Lucia theme offering food and drink from Finland, Sweden, and Norway.

With endless options for food—pommes, bratwurst, fluffy latkes with lox, stewed green kale with ham, fluffy pizza with bacon and cream sauce, plus the sweet crêpes, waffles, candied nuts, and roasted chestnuts—we could go to a market every night and never get tired. And no matter how cold it gets, there is always a glass of warm gluhwein or hot chocolate to drink. Germany is beautiful in the summer and fall, but I am so lucky to have come now, my favorite time of all.

*Some exciting holiday news to share, I’ve been nominated for FriendsEAT.com’s 2012 Best Food Blogger in the Recipe category. Please vote for my page by clicking the “love” button here http://friendseat.com/lavitacucinare*