Who can resist a cookie with a powdery sugar overcoat and dark chocolate peeking out from the crinkles?
When I was young, I would seek out those chocolates the shape of an orange that had to be banged on a table in order to get the slices to come apart – Terry’s Chocolate Orange, I think they were called. The reward? Delicious orange-slice-shaped wedges of chocolate infused with orange flavor. With this holiday favorite in mind, I added essence of orange to my chocolate crinkles. I also put in chopped pecans for another layer of flavor and a little crunch. Voila, a new holiday favorite is created!
Chocolate Orange Pecan Crinkles
1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp orange extract
1/2 tbsp orange zest
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and granulated sugar.
Stir in vegetable oil.
Mix in eggs, one at a time.
Stir in vanilla and orange extracts and zest.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt into the cocoa mixture.
Fold in chopped pecans.
Refrigerate for about 45 minutes so the dough is nice and firm.
Place confectioner’s sugar in a zip top bag.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Using a cookie scoop, or a small ice cream scoop, scoop out a dough ball and drop it in the confectioner’s sugar, making sure it is well covered.
Place sugar covered dough balls on parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat until you’ve filled a baking sheet with 12 cookies.
Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for a minute before removing to wire rack.
Two thin, crispy cookies sandwich delicious homemade Alaska blueberry jam. This “anytime” cookie is too good to reserve for holiday cookie trays!
When we received a Christmas package from our friends at Alaskagraphy, we knew that these crispy vanilla cookies would be the perfect canvas for the flavor-packed wild blueberry jam they included. Experiment with your own jam creations!
Swiss Spitzbueben Cookies
5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg white
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Alaskan blueberry jam, or jam of your choosing
2 tbsp confectioners sugar, for dusting
In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter until soft and fluffy.
Add sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat until completely mixed.
Add egg white. Beat until completely mixed.
Add flour. Mix until flour is incorporated completely.
Turn dough out onto plastic wrap. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 30 – 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cover baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll dough out on parchment-covered surface to about 1/4 inch thickness.
Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Keep in mind that you need two cookies for each sandwich and the top cookie needs to have a smaller shape cut out in order for jam to show through.
Bake cookies for 6-8 minutes. Cookies should just brown at bottom edges.
Jam needs to be thick. If it is runny, cook down jam over medium heat for a few minutes. Spread jam on bottom cookie and place second cookie with cut-out atop first.
Tart dried cherries, sour cherry concentrate and almond extract combine to create wonderful flavors in these cookies which can be cut into fun and festive shapes to suit any holiday.
One flavor we enjoy in our culinary creations is sour cherry. It has a wonderful flavor and stirs memories of our home in Sacramento and our sour cherry tree laden with ripe, bright red fruit. We always looked forward to seeing the birds this tree attracted as well as the ice creams, biscotti and sauces for pork and chicken the fruit starred in. While we can’t get sour cherries here in the Arctic, dried cherries are a must on our annual shopping list. This past summer during our annual bulk shopping, we came across sour cherry concentrate at Natural Pantry, a health food store in Anchorage. The concentrate, which claims antioxidant benefits when consumed daily, was in the store’s vitamin section.
Of course, our first thoughts upon finding this concentrate went to the kitchen where we imagined an extraordinarily tangy-sweet syrup for our homemade Italian-style sodas and for Jack’s giant pancakes. The combination of the concentrate and the dried cherries sets these cookies far apart from the ordinary. Cherry liqueur might be a good substitute for the concentrate in the dough recipe.
Sour Cherry Almond Cookies
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup finely chopped dried cherries
1 tbsp sour cherry concentrate
2 oz. cream cheese
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp sour cherry concentrate
1 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl, combine butter and cream cheese. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until incorporated.
Add sugar, almond extract, salt and sour cherry concentrate. Mix until well incorporated.
Mix in half the flour until combined.
Mix in dried cherries and remaining flour until combined.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out desired shapes using a cookie cutter.
Place cut cookies on cookie sheet.
Bake for 14 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned.
Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then finish cooling on wire rack.
While cookies are cooling, make frosting.
Clean and dry mixer bowl and beater.
Combine cream cheese, butter and sour cherry concentrate in mixer bowl and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds.
Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Frosting should be of spreading consistency.
When cookies are cooled, pipe frosting onto center of cookie.
Sweetened dried cranberries and white chocolate chips pair up in a dessert especially appropriate to the winter holidays.
People in our generation sometimes still flinch a little when cranberries are mentioned – as they invariably are here in America – around holiday time. Gloppy canned cranberry sauce heated (or not) and served alongside such tasty items as turkey dressing, rutabaga with raisons and mashed potatoes with giblet gravy were, for many of us, the original “I don’t want any of that touching the rest of my food” item. It was always something of a puzzle to me. The packages of whole, fresh cranberries at the grocery store looked so pretty. Why didn’t the grownups use those? It seemed that the advent of mass-produced, mass-marketed food had caused generations of Americans to forget what real cranberries taste and look like, and a debased form of the fruit was kept on menus as a nod to tradition rather than gustatory pleasure.
Years later, we discovered the pleasure of cooking with whole, fresh cranberries in our own kitchens, and dishes such as cranberry sauce with tangerines became a much anticipated Thanksgiving and Christmas-time tradition. The tart, bright-red berries sweetened with sugar and cooked on the stovetop are the perfect accompaniment to a holiday bird that has been brined overnight and roasted to perfection.
While the following dessert uses dried cranberries rather than fresh, it keeps our cranberry tradition going strong here in the Alaskan Arctic where the local grocer doesn’t carry fresh berries. If you’ve never had a really great cranberry dish, forget everything you thought you knew about these festive berries. You’ll want to save room for this scrumptious cranberry dessert!
Cranberry Bliss Bars
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup dried cranberries (we used Craisins, which are made from cranberries and sugar)
4 oz. white chocolate chips
5 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
5 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish.
Beat butter and brown sugar until smooth.
Incorporate eggs, one at a time, into butter mixture.
Mix in ginger and vanilla.
Gradually mix in flour and baking powder.
Fold in craisins and white chocolate chips.
Pour batter into baking pan. Even out batter so that it is uniformly on bottom of pan.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.
Let cake cool in pan on wire rack.
Make frosting by mixing cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla extract with an electric mixer until smooth.
When cake has cooled, spread frosting evenly over the top of the cake.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup craisins on frosting.
Make drizzle icing by whisking powdered sugar and milk.
Fill small Ziploc bag with drizzle icing. Cut off a small piece of the bottom corner of bag. Squeeze out drizzle icing over the frosted cake in zig-zags.
Cover cake and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
Slice the cake down the middle, lengthwise. Then slice the cake across the width, three time. You will have 8 rectangular pieces. Cut each of these pieces in half, diagonally, to make 16 decorative pieces.
Growing up, my favorite Christmas cookie was Mailanderli. This Swiss recipe yields buttery, crunchy golden cookies with a citrus essence. As a kid, I loved making the dough and cutting shapes with shiny metal cutters. After the cookies were baked, we kept them in a brightly colored Christmas tin. I remember eating them by the dozen. Christmas is here again and this year I was inspired to bring this tradition back into my own home.
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 1/8 cups butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm
1 pinch salt
4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange (or lemon) zest
2 egg yolks, beaten
Beat the two egg yolks and set aside. These will be used to brush to the tops of the cookies later.
Whisk eggs in a large bowl. Blend in sugar and beat until mixture is thick and pale, about 10 minutes. Mix in the melted butter and salt. Gradually fold in the flour and orange zest. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or, preferably, overnight.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Lightly grease cookie sheet.
On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters. Place cookies on greased cookie sheet and brush with beaten egg yolks.
Bake in preheated oven until golden at the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool cookies on racks.