05 December 2006
Outside the Box Baking
What is it about holiday baking that is so instinctive? Every year, as the weather gets cold, and the holiday decorations go up, I find myself creaming butter and sugar or melting chocolate, stocking up on flour. Unlike my usual planned, thought-out baking endeavors, it’s as if some carnal force has taken my by the hand and led me, unconcious, into the kitchen. Bake, they tell me, and I comply.
This year, I told myself I wouldn’t do any baking; I am moving yet again, all my pans are packed away and I have empty cupboards. It hasn’t even been cold yet. But a few days and a coldsnap later where do I find myself but digging through boxes, spilling scarves and dishes out onto the living room floor, just so I can find that little tin of nutmeg that has to be here somewhere. And after repacking my boxes, I realize that the microplane zester also must have been in there somewhere, prying open the box again, if I could just put my hand on it.
So I succomb, let the holiday baking begin. At least I can share them with you here throughout the season. With all the flour flying, the holidays are the time to pull out some family favorites and also experiment with new recipes. The famous Dorie Greenspan chocolate cookies which have been published as korova cookies, Pierre Herme’s Chocolate Sables, and World Peace cookies (recipe here), are always welcome at our house, that is, if we don't nibble most of the delectable dough from the freezer. Two new favorites are the following: Lebkuchen, a spicy gingerbread-like cookie which happen to keep well and are surprisingly low-fat. And a nice twist on chocolate chip cookies, except made with thin slivers of shaved chocolate and chunks of almond, in a recipe I adapted from David Lebovitz.
What old favorites are you resurrecting, what new recipes are you trying? Either way, you go get baking now, I'm going to clean up my boxes.
My mom always picked up a box of these around the holidays. I was pleased to find they are easy to make and keep very well, especially if you tuck a slice of apple with them in a sealed container.
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons lemon or orange peel
2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup ground almonds (almond meal)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 rounded tablespoons diced crystallized ginger, finely ground
1. In a medium saucepan, bring the honey and brown sugar to a boil while stirring occasionally. Remove the mixture from the heat and cool it until it's just warm.
2. When the mixture is cooled beat in the egg and the peel. Add the flour, baking soda, almonds, spices and ground crystallized ginger and beat until very well-combined. The dough will be on the stiff side, but also very sticky. At this point you can go ahead and bake the cookies but they will be even better if your refrigerate the dough overnight and bake the next day.
3. Preheat the oven to 350, grease your baking sheets. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick. You can cut into simple bars or into shapes, transfer them to the baking sheets. Bake 20 minutes, do not let brown. Let cool.
4. To glaze, you can stir together 1 cup powdered sugar and 3 tableespoons water (or brandy!) and brush over.
Chocolate Almond Cookies
These are wonderfully crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle, I like the more delicate texture of grated chocolate here, but use chips or chunks if you prefer.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups flour + pinch salt
1 cup grated dark chocolate
1 cup whole almonds, roughly chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 300 F, line your baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat.
2. In a bowl, cream the sugars and the butter together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla. Stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt, then add to the mix. Fold in the chocolate and nuts.
3. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons on the baking sheets. Bake 18 minutes or until pale golden brown.