Holiday Hibernation

A few stationary weeks calls for a celebration!

Hibernating in Atlanta for the past few weeks after five months of being on the road has meant two things; first, my Instagram feed has shifted from epic views back to its norm…cat photos. Second, we have paused in one location just long enough to squeeze in a Baker+Brown holiday party. Hostessing is one of my often unfulfilled joys in life—especially when we’re traveling more than we are at home. So, having the opportunity to catch up with friends and eat gobs of butter laden cookies was a treat!

This year I wanted to put on my world explorer hat and try out some new recipes. Several, inspired by our trip to Estonia and Finland a few winters ago and others inspired by a more recent trip to Ikea. No seriously, I have small obsession with Scandinavian and Nordic design (like this, this or this) so I though some lingonberry linzers and pepparkakor would go well with my party decor. (I have a problem).

When we were in Estonia I survived on glögg, black bread and goat cheese. Not that there weren’t other amazing things to eat, but these three had me at hello. Glögg is found all over Northern Europe in many different forms. I used a Swedish recipe found on Foodie Underground. To be utterly truthful, I skipped the part where you light the alcohol on fire as it pours into the wine over the brown sugar…that seemed like a Christmas accident waiting to happen.

Glögg

  • Ingredients
  • 1 bottle of red wine (a decent full bodied wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) rum
  • 1/3 cups (75 ml) brown sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 orange peels
  • 5 whole cardamom pods
  • 1 small piece of ginger, chopped
  • 20 raisins
  • a couple of dried figs
  • Served with:
  • Blanched almonds
  • Raisins

Directions
Heat up the wine without bringing it to a boil. Drop all the spices into the warm wine, turn the heat off and let rest covered for at least 4 hours (best overnight). Sieve the spices from the wine and heat it up in a saucepan. Again make sure it doesn’t boil.

In the meantime prepare a stainless strainer filled with the sugar. When the wine starts to get hot, place the strainer over the saucepan. Pour the rum over the sugar and light the alcohol steam below. Let some of the sugar drip into the wine mixture before adding all to the wine (if you wait for all the sugar to melt the alcohol will disappear with the flames).

Take the saucepan from the heat and cover with a lid to stop the flames. If you think the glögg is too sweet you may add some more wine or rum. Serve the glögg in small cups together with some blanched almonds and raisins in every glass.

I had difficult time finding a recipe for Estonian Black Bread. Finally hunted this one down in a book titled “Estonian Tastes & Traditions”. Thankfully this recipe doesn’t use yeast and is great for novice bread makers with little patience for all that kneading.

Pehme Must Leib
(Soft Black Bread)

  • Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 2 cups buttermilk, warmed
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • 1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup raisins optional
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • butter

Directions
Mix the molasses into the buttermilk until well blended. Stir in the caraway seeds, brown sugar, coffee and cocoa. In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat, rye and all-purpose flours, baking soda and salt. Stir the wet ingredients in to the dry ingredients until just combined. Don’t overwork the dough. At this point, also stir in the raisins and walnuts, if using.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 8˝ x 4˝ loaf pans and divide the batter evenly between them. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Test for doneness a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Rub the tops of the loaves with the butter. Turn out the loaves onto a wire rack and cover with a clean towel.

Moving on to the cookie portion of the evening. I tried a few new recipes like lingonberry heart linzers and pepparkakor. The pepparkakor are as The Foodie Underground mentions very spicy and very crispy. I added some royal icing to the cookies to make them a little sweet. These cookies are the perfect excuse to eat cookies for breakfast with your morning coffee. I also threw in a few old favorites, wedding cookies and cheese cookies. I entrusted my sister with the making of the wedding cookies (they’re her specialty.)

Lingonberry Hearts

  • Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Dash salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste* or vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup lingonberry or raspberry preserves
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Directions
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla bean paste until well combined and creamy. Beat in milk. Gradually beat in flour until combined.

On a lightly floured surface, roll one portion of dough to 1/8- to 1/4-inch thickness. Use a floured 2-1/2 to 3 inch heart-shape cookie cutter to make cutouts and place them 1 inch apart on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Use a smaller heart-shape cutter, about 1-1/2 inches, to cut out the centers of half of the large hearts. Reroll scraps and repeat cutting.

Bake in a 375 degrees oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Spread about 2 teaspoons preserves onto the bottoms of whole hearts. If you like, sift powdered sugar over the hearts that have cutouts before placing them on top of the cookies with preserves. Store assembled cookies in a single layer in a covered container for up to 2 days at room temperature.

Tip
Make-Ahead or Storage Place unfilled cookies in a single layer between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days, or label and freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw cookies, if frozen. Assemble as directed. To serve, thaw cookies, if frozen. Assemble as directed.

I don’t have many cookie cutters sitting around so I had to buy cutters to make the linzers. Fortunately I found this linzer cookie cutter set to make things easier.

Franska Pepparkakor
(French Gingerbread Cookies)

  • Ingredients
  • 1 cup (almost 250 ml) almonds, chopped
  • 7 oz (200 g) butter
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) molasses
  • 4 teaspoons ginger
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons cloves
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 cups (700 ml) flour

Directions
Cream butter, sugar and molasses. Mix dry ingredients with almonds, then combine with butter, sugar and molasses. Knead together with your hands. Roll dough into cylinders, about 12 inches long and wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes

Cut dough into 1/4 inch slices. Bake at 380 for 10-12 minutes. This recipe is adapted from the Swedish classic: “Sju sorters kakor.”

Royal Icing

  • Ingredients
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (16 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions
In a large mixing bowl, beat powdered sugar, meringue powder, cream of tartar, the water and vanilla with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Beat on high speed for 7 to 10 minutes or until mixture is very stiff. Stir in more warm water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until icing reaches desired consistency. (If the icing ever gets too runny, just add powdered sugar.) If not using immediately, cover bowl with a damp paper towel and then with plastic wrap. Icing can be chilled for up to 48 hours. Makes 3 cups.

Wedding Cookies
This is for a doubled recipe, 6 - 7 dozen.

  • Ingredients
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups butter (4 sticks)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups finely chopped nuts (I use walnuts)
  • Powdered sugar to dip cookies after baking

Directions
Spoon flour into measuring cup, level, then put in bowl. Add powdered sugar and salt. Using pastry blender, cut in butter until crumbly. Add vanilla and chopped nuts. Mix with hands to form smooth dough. Shape into 1-inch balls. Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheet. Bake 14-17 minutes at 325 degrees or until firm (not brown). Do not overbake. Immediately remove from cookie sheets and roll in powdered sugar.

Spicy Cheese Coins

  • Ingredients
  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Directions
In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the cheddar and mix until well blended. Beat in the salt and cayenne. Add half the flour and beat until well blended, then beat in the remaining flour. The dough will be stiff, if necessary turn it out onto floured work surface and knead until smooth.

Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into an eight inch cylinder under your palms.  Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two baking sheets. With a sharp knife cut dough into 1/4 inch slices. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the crackers are set and just barely golden around the edges.

Of all the cookies, sweets and treats, the shining star of the night was the kale salad—we must have healthy friends. I modified the recipes a bit, making the salad portion from a recipe found on Chowhound and mixing it with a dressing recipe from Cookie and Kate. I’ll list my exact dressing recipe below because I modified that a bit in a pinch.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Kale Salad with Tahini Dressing
For the salad.

  • Ingredients
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bunches flat kale
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (I used sunflower seeds)

Directions
Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss together the squash, red onion, olive oil, a big pinch of salt, and black pepper to taste. Spread into an even layer. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender and slightly caramelized, about 30 minutes. (If the onions start to get too brown, remove them and set aside.) Set aside to cool completely, about 1 hour.

Strip the kale leaves off the stalks and discard the stalks. Stack the kale leaves and cut into fine strips. Add them to a large, shallow salad bowl. Sprinkle the kale with a little salt and massage the leaves with your hands just to soften them slightly. Add the cooled squash mixture. Drizzle with some of the dressing, enough to moisten the salad. Toss and taste. Add more dressing, salt, and/or black pepper as needed. Scatter the pine nuts over the salad and serve.

Salad Dressing

  • Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup tahini (I don’t know how much I used)
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons white miso (I didn’t use this because I forgot to buy it)
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup (Who knows how much I used)
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the tahini, vinegar, miso, maple syrup and red pepper flakes. Whisk in the water until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Some brands of tahini are thicker than others, so if your dressing is too thick, add a bit more water and/or vinegar, to taste.


Wishing you the happiest of holidays and the merriest of cookie making!

 

 

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