Christmas and the New Year are just around the corner. Since we can’t have our usual Christmas activities with friends and family maybe this is the time and the year to enjoy some peace and quiet, to be reflective, to light a candle and find things that make us happy.
I am trying!
I am decorating the house for myself (my husband and son could care less) by putting up a few things that weren’t stored in the attic. I bought some new things at a local store just to support them. Several nights ago, I watched the sunset with my German girlfriend who lives next door. We shared some Glühwein (mulled hot wine) and we had fun sitting in her garden. I am trying out some new cookie recipes and was pleased with these apricot chocolate biscotti. It is a real treat to dip one of them into my morning coffee or afternoon tea. The biscotti are chewy with the fruity flavor of apricots and orange flavored semisweet chocolate. I am happy to add them to my baking arsenal and make them again.
These little gingerbread house ornaments make a great project for children. A warning though, cutting the graham crackers for the tiny house ornaments can test your patience.
I am contemplating making my French country pâté, giving a little to my friends and freezing some. Instead of taking it to a party I can have it for lunch.
If you are looking for cookie recipes, here some suggestions: gluten free hazelnut meringue cookies, or Basler Brünsli, made with chocolate, almonds and some Christmas spices.
My mini muffins with blueberries are a little labor intensive but oh so good. They are my son’s favorite.
For this recipe I used unsulfured dried apricots that were soft. I love orange flavored chocolate but any other semi-sweet chocolate would be fine. Both, the butter and the eggs should be at room temperature.The biscotti are easy to make but it takes some time to bake them twice. Make sure you don’t burn them. If you want more chocolate, dip one half of the biscotti into melted chocolate. I didn't do that. They will keep in a tin for several weeks.
I was looking through my Christmas baking folder for some inspiration (which I need desperately these days) and came upon a recipe from a 2002 Gourmet magazine issue. I had written “excellent” on the recipe. Last year, I made a a similar cookie recipe from Luisa Weiss’s Classic German Baking called Baseler Brunsli (click here for the recipeBaseler Brunsli). Both these cookies belong to the family of Lebkuchen. You can find many different recipes for Lebkuchen throughout the German-speaking countries. Lebkuchen is a blanket term for German gingerbread, and this particular recipe is a smoother and more cake-like version, with a hint of chocolate, hazelnut and almond too. I love them because they are not overly sweet, but my American family is not a big fan of this tasty treat. They will go for the sweeter shortbread, sugary kind of cookie. That’s why I bake a variety of different cookies, put them in my tins and have one I like in the afternoon with my tea.
I baked these cookies because they remind me of the German Elisenlebkuchen, a treat from the German town of Nürnberg. Traditionally, they are baked on wafers and covered with either chocolate or a powdered sugar icing. I didn’t add the wafers and the icing, which makes them less sweet and easier to bake. I also liked the combination of ground hazelnuts and almonds. Instead of chocolate, this recipe uses unsweetened cocoa powder. Like all Lebkuchen recipes, these cookies improve after being stored in a tin for a few days or weeks. They are soft and chewy, and should not be stored with other cookies.
This year will be a special Christmas because my niece and her husband are visiting from Germany. It doesn’t happen very often that I get to celebrate with my German family and it is always very special to me when they come to my home in California. So, I am baking and decorating as much as I can. Check out my post from 2016 with most of my family’s favorite cookie recipes. (click here)
If you feel like a savory treat for the holidays, try my country pâté. It’s a great party pleaser.(click here )
My dear readers, I wish you all a peaceful holiday filled with good food and surrounded by people you love. May the stars shine upon you and may your home be filled with warmth and good cheer.
Fröhliche Weihnachten and best wishes for the coming year!
This is a soft, chewy cookie that will improve with age. Store them in a tin box between wax paper. For the nut flour, use roasted and peeled hazelnuts and peeled almonds.
For the last couple of weeks I have been baking up a storm. Those who follow me on Instagram and Facebook have seen my photos. Baking cookies has given me some peace in these turbulent times.
Because I like to reduce or replace sugar in recipes, some of my cookies were rejected by my tasters. One of them was my German chocolate cookies, the ones that look like paws. I liked them but nobody else did, so I won’t post that recipe.
My husband’s favorite cookies are the biscuits de Noël (French sable cookies), they are sugary and remind him a little bit of his mother’s sugar cookies minus the frosting. The recipe comes from Clotlide, who lives in Paris and has a lovely blog called Chocolate and Zucchini.
Click here for the recipe.
My girlfriend, Marie, likes my hazelnut meringue cookies. Click here for the recipe.
My favorite cookies this year are Basler Brunsli, a specialty of Basel, a city in German-speaking northern Switzerland. These cookies are chocolatey and chewy with the flavors of Christmas. The main ingredients are chocolate and raw almonds (no flour), just some confectioner’s sugar, egg whites, cinnamon and cloves. Both, the hazelnut meringue cookies and the Basler Brunsli are gluten-free.
I started my blog because my girlfriend, Diane, took me to our local bookstore over three years ago to listen to an author who was promoting her new book, My Berlin Kitchen. “Oh no,” as I thought she was one of those plump German women dressed in a dirndl with braids in her hair promoting sauerkraut and dumplings. I didn't want to disappoint my girlfriend, so I agreed to go. Off we went and I almost fell from my stool when I saw a beautiful, shy young American woman introduce herself as Luisa Weiss. This was definitely not the person I had expected. She opened my heart and allowed me to be German again. You see, I was never proud to be German, as I was mostly ashamed of Germany’s ghastly past. That evening, when I listened to Luisa read an insert from her book, my heart finally opened and I allowed myself to be German for the first time ever. It was okay, I would and could never forget what happened in Germany during the Nazi times, but I could be German and learn to love my native country.
In her first book,My Berlin Kitchen,Luisa describes her life in Berlin. Born to an Italian mother and an American father, her childhood takes place in the divided Berlin of Soviet Times. She describes many situations that are very familiar to me, such as her search to belong somewhere and her experience of different cultures. In food, she finds a common denominator. After living a successful life in New York, she leaves for love in Berlin. You can also follow her on her blog, “The Wednesday Chef.” This year, she has published a beautiful, new cookbook called Classic German Baking. This impressive volume opens up the world of Germanic baking to all of us. The Washington Post included it in the round-up of the year’s best cookbooks. According to them, Classic German Baking is “a happy marriage of European craft and American sensibilities.” When I showed it to my 16-year-old friend from Berlin, who is living with her American father here in Santa Cruz for a year, her eyes lit up and she was transported back to Berlin through all the recipes she loves.
Click here for her website The Wednesdaychef
Fruit and Nut Chocolate Chunks. No cooking required. Click here for the recipe.
These Blueberry Mini Muffins are my son's favorite. Click here for the recipe
Since this is a new recipe for me, I followed Luisa’s recipe and made no changes. The recipe is thrown together in no time but rolling out the dough was a little bit of a challenge. I used a small wine glass that I dipped in sugar as a cookie cutter. For chocolate, I used Trader Joe’s Pound Plus chocolate. Luisa recommends 60-70% cacao in the chocolate. According to Luisa, the cookies will last for a month if kept in a tin.
Hopefully, I will find some time for baking my favorite sweet treats for Christmas. Last year, I baked up a storm, packed most of it to take to the mountains where we have celebrated Christmas many times. As we left on December 23, I got messages from my niece saying that my 91-year-old mother had fallen down and was on her way to the hospital with a fractured hip. I made my poor husband turn around and was on a plane to Germany the next day, December 24, arriving in Germany on Christmas Day. My mom by then had peacefully passed away with my brother's family around her.
I took a tin of cookies with me sharing them at the airline ticket counter and later in Germany. They were a connection to my life in California. Food can be so comforting and nourishing. As long as I can remember, I have baked goodies for the holidays. I don't always bake the same things. My Christmas recipe folder is bulky. Depending on how I feel, I bake different things, some of which I haven't posted yet. For my girlfriend, Marie, I bake the hazelnut
meringue cookies (click for recipe here). My husband's favorite treat are his mom's sugar cookies that my sister-in-law bakes every year for him. His second favorite are my chocolate chip walnut bars (click for recipe here). I like gingerbread cookies, but nobody else does, so I don't make them very often. My Vienna vanilla nut cookies remind me of my childhood (click for recipe here).
My fruit and nut chocolate chunks are a healthy and tasty treat. Click here for the recipe.
I enjoy making individual graham cracker gingerbread house ornaments with young children. These cute little ornaments are a lot of fun and children just love them (click here for the recipe ).
Another staple in my family have been blueberry mini-muffins.These tiny muffins have a crunchy almond sugar flavor with a burst of blueberries and lemon. The recipe comes from an old Gourmet recipe and is my son's favorite.
I hope your holidays are filled with warmth and happiness.
A healthy and tasty treat
I have made these chunky nut and chocolate bars for years. They are easy to make, no cooking is required, and since they make a healthy snack, they are not just for Christmas. They look great on the cookie platter and make a nice gift. This is also a fun project to do with children. Everybody loves to lick the bowl at the end. Choose whatever is your favorite nuts and dried fruit to put into these crunchy chunks. Last year, I added pistachio nuts, raisins, dried cranberries and candied orange peel. For my latest batch, I used mixed nuts, dried figs, raisins, and crystallized ginger. The sky is the limit. I always roast the nuts unless I use pistachios.
Put the things you love into these chocolate bars.
May your holidays be peaceful and filled with love and good food
Have tea for two…make cookies for a crowd…or bake them with children. These cookies are crunchy and full of flavor
Do you remember the little treats that come with your cappuccino or tea when in Europe (or any nice place) that always leaves you wanting another? These tasty morsels remind me of them—buttery, sugary, hazelnut cookies with a texture unlike any other. They are delicate and will melt in your mouth. As a matter of fact, while writing this post I ate too many. Thank God, butter is in again and is supposed to be healthy. I'm all for that because I love butter. These cookies are easy to make and have few ingredients. If you don’t eat them all, they will last for a week in an airtight container.
Here in the mountains, I have a few folders with recipes and is where I found this one. The original comes from an old issue of Gourmet magazine.
The original recipe says that the dough freezes well and that you can double the recipe. This is a good recipe for children.
These buttery vanilla nut cookies are irresistibly delicious
The city of Vienna has a wonderful coffeehouse culture. Here you will find plates with scrumptious little sweet morsels made with the fruit of the season on a delicate crust topped with Schlag (whipped cream), rich pieces of cake, layers upon layers of nuts and chocolate, cream and caramel. The Kipferl is a crescent-shaped pastry, an ancestor of the croissant going back to the 13th century. The Vanillakipferl in this recipe is a nutty, crunchy, buttery cookie that will melt in your mouth. Shaped into small crescent moons and rolled in powdered sugar (flavored with vanilla), they make an irresistible treat. My friend Inga has baked these cookies for years and shared them with my family. They are so good that I decided to put the recipe on my blog to share with all of you. Let me know if you like them as much as I do.
These cookies have a rich buttery, nutty flavor
I used regular powdered sugar mixed with a store bought package of vanilla sugar for the dusting of the cookies . You can just use powdered sugar or you can make your own vanilla sugar by placing 1and1/2 to 2 cups of sugar in a pint jar. Split a vanilla bean in half lengthwise and with a tip of a sharp knife, scrape the seeds into the jar with the sugar. Add the vanilla pod to the jar and shake well. Let stand for a few days, shaking the jar occasionally. You now have vanilla flavored sugar. Grind the sugar mixture in a food processor to make powdered sugar.
A cookie you can't resist
My friend, Tory, introduced me to these bars years ago. The recipe came from a 1976 Cuisine magazine and it has been in my Christmas folder for many years. The crust is buttery and has only one teaspoon of sugar which combines well with the chocolate and nutty topping. These bars are rich, so I cut them into small pieces. It's a yummy treat throughout the year. I've taken them to many events and they always have been a hit. They are easy to make and will last up to a week. I don't have a chance to freeze them because my family just eats them as fast as I can make them. But the original recipe suggests that they can be frozen for up to 6 months. Instead, I keep them in a covered container and hide them from my family.
These are not your usual meringue cookies. They are delicate, dense, frothy and chewy, more like a macaroon. My French girlfriend calls them macaroons. Over the years, I have reduced the amount of sugar in them, so do not put less sugar than is in this recipe.
I played with the topping and this time I added chocolate chips. A whole hazelnut is another option. The ground hazelnuts provide a distinctive nutty flavor. You could also substitute ground almond meal, available at Trader Joe's. Since I have never made them with ground almonds, let me know how they taste.
These cookies are easy to make and will last for a week—and they are gluten free!
WELCOME TO SUNNY COVE CHEF
Thank you for visiting my blog. My two passions are cooking and traveling. Traveling exposes me to a wide variety of food and experiences. I walk around cities looking for markets, restaurants, bakeries, shops, you name it, and if it is related to food you will find me there, tasting, smelling, talking to vendors, and having a great time.