I am not particularly a fan of cookies. I prefer a nice big slice of cake any day. In the Christmas season though, I get myself a bag of assorted Christmas cookies from the local supermarket and am content to much on them all through December. The ones I'm enjoying right now are the classic Swiss cookies, Mailänderli (butter cookies with a hint of lemon) and Zimtsterne (cinnamon spiced star-shaped cookies). Despite not being a big fan of eating them, I love making cookies. I love the entire process of making cookies, especially ones which require a firm dough that can be rolled out and cut into shapes.
Making cookies for the holidays has become serious business. Here in Switzerland, it is not a common practice to walk over to your neighbors house with a tray of cookies or sweets. But back in India, not only do we do this all the time, we also stay while for a chat, have a cup of chai and then get something in return. At my parents' house in India, at this time of year, our wonderful Goan neighbours walk over at any point in the day, dropping off home-made Dodols, Bebinca, Doce, deep-fried Rose cookies (my favorite of the lot). My mom, who prefers to stock up on savory food instead of sweets, makes them have a seat and then fries up a batch of spiced beef patties (she makes them in a big batch in December, and keeps them refrigerated, ready to be fried for neighbors who come bearing goodies).
We finally began baking for the holidays last week. Not all of them were edible bakes though - the last weekend, my three-year old and I baked our first batch of salt dough ornaments. We painted them, made a lot of mess, and had an absolute ball of a time. And, bonus, kids don't like to eat the dough because it is extremely salty.
As for bakes that can actually be eaten, I made these Linzer sables this week, originally planning to take them to a children's Christmas party at my friend's place. The recipe I followed is a classic, from Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking: From My Home to Yours", it has a light a buttery texture, is not too sweet, and has a tart jam filling. We didn't make it to the party because of a badly mismanaged traffic situation that day. We came back home, frustrated and cold, and calmed down a little after snacking on these beauties.
This festive season, I'm planning to roll up my sleeves and hit the flour and butter, churn out at least a couple batches of cookies and share the stories here. Cookie making beckons!
- 1 1/2 cups finely ground almonds or 1 1⁄2 cups hazelnuts
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons water
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup tart jam I used strawberry-rhubarb
- Icing sugar for dusting
- Whisk together the ground nuts, flour, cinnamon, salt, and cloves. Using a fork, stir the egg and the water together in a small bowl.
- Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until smooth (about 3 minutes), scraping down the bowl as needed
- Add the egg mixture and beat for 1 minute more. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the dough.
- Don't work the dough too much, if dry crumbs remain on the bottom of the bowl, mix the dough by hand or with a spatula
- Divide the dough in half. Put the dough between two large sheets of baking paper (or plastic wrap), and press down with your hands, flattening the dough t a disk.
- With a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is around 1/4 inch thick.
- Leave the dough in the paper and then do the same with the second ball of dough
- Without removing the baking paper, place both of the the flattened and rolled disks with the papers, in the freezer for 45 minutes
- Center a rack in the oven, and preheat to 180 C (350F)
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper
- Take out the dough from the freezer
- Remove the baking paper and using a cookie cutter, cut out the shapes
- I used both ends of a small round tipped piping nozzle for the peekaboo cut outs
- Place cut outs on the baking sheet, and transfer to the oven to bake for 11-13 minute or until they are lightly golden and firm to the touch
- Transfer to a rack to cool. Repeat with the other half of the dough. When cool, spread the jam on, and sandwich the cookies
- Dust with icing sugar just before serving
Combine the remaining scraps of dough once you transfer your cookies to the oven, and gather it all to form another disk, freeze for your next batch of cookies