Danish Pebernødder Cookies

Danish Pebernødder CookiesDane Good Cookies
If you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that I come from a big tribe of Vikings. In one corner of the ring you have my dad’s side of the family, The Swedes. In the other corner you have my mother’s side, the Danes…and there really is no contest. The Danes outnumber the Swedes by a significant amount. Because of our familial makeup, it makes sense that many of our holiday celebrations have Scandinavian roots. This is no more apparent than in our Christmas cookies.

Scandinavians are fantastic bakers. In fact we can trace a lot of tasty treats back to the old country. The Danes even have an entire category of breakfast named after them. Where they really shine, in my opinion, is with their cookies. It wouldn’t be Christmas in my family if there weren’t any Gingie cookies. I have written about them before, and you will be happy to know that I have gone through two batches already. I will be making two more batches this weekend to hand out to friends. Can’t let Sweden have all the glory though. I will be making traditional Danish Pebernødder along with them.

The Danish people love their warming spices especially at Christmas time. Cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves are wildly popular flavors that are found all through Danish baking recipes. Pebernødder (or Peppernuts) contain all of the above but they take spice one step further by adding white pepper for some kick. If you are lucky enough to live in an area with a large Scandinavian population, you might be able to find these spices already mixed in specifically for Pebernødder this time of year but it’s just as easy to do it yourself.

These cookies are tiny little addictive balls of crunchy goodness that you can eat by the handful. The good news is this recipe makes a lot of them. They are great with a hot cup of tea or coffee or even better with a glass of milk for Santa…

Danish Pebernødder
Makes about 200 small cookies
Read more…

Amy’s Fat Pants Potatoes

Amy’s Fat Pants PotatoesAny Way You Slice It
I have a number of kitchen tools that I just can’t live without. Some of them I use on a daily basis (like my mini prep) but other tools only come out occasionally. These tools are worthy of their spot in the cabinet because they make quick work of whatever I am doing. My tortilla press is one example. My mandolin is another.

If you do not own a mandolin, I would highly recommend you put it on your Christmas list. It doesn’t even need to be one of the super-expensive freestanding kind, though those are pretty nice. The only requirement is that it be sharp because to do what it needs to do, you gotta have a sharp blade. Just watch out for your fingers. It’s really easy to take off the tip of your finger. I speak from experience!

Don’t let the danger turn you away, though. A mandolin can be the key to crispy homemade potato chips or really fantastic gratin dishes like the one below that I like to call Fat Pants Potatoes. I only ever make these during the holidays because if you eat them more often than that you will have no choice but to wear pants with a little give in them.

If you don’t have a mandolin, never fear. A similar result can be found using a food processor with a slicing blade or by even, gasp! using a knife like most people.

Amy’s Fat Pants Potatoes
Adapted from Food 52 Genius Recipes
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…

Cranberry Orange Biscotti

Cranberry Orange BiscottiCrazy Cookie Lady
My daughter and I fought the crowds this past weekend not because we were trying to find the best deals on the latest 75-inch flat-screen, but because we needed to stock up on cookie tins. Now, you would think that this is a pretty straightforward mission. They’re just cookie tins, after all. But, you would be wrong because when it comes to cookie tins and cookie gifting I am very high maintenance, my friends. I have serious issues.

Here’s the deal… I want anything I give to people to look a certain way, whether or not it’s cookies. I have been known to drive great distances to achieve this goal. From the boxes (or tins) to the ribbon, everything has to be just right. Unfortunately for my daughter, she had to go with me on my journey because she wants to give cookies to her friends. You might be surprised to know that finding cookie tins on the first weekend in December can be a challenge. This is mainly because all of the other cookie bakers with issues, who are better planners than I am, have already stocked up leaving a less than abundant selection in their wake.

Finding the right tin takes much thought and consideration. Do you go with the round tin which is traditional but darn near impossible to put a ribbon on or the square version? What about the tin’s color and decoration? Will it be a monochromatic holiday this year or something more whimsical? Then there is size to consider. Just how many of those tasty treats are you willing to part with? And, would it require a deeper tin? So many options it makes your head spin!! And last but not least, do you get a matching mini tin for the toffee you plan to make? It’s madness! Madness I tell you!

Anyway, we managed to find the tins that meet all of our needs. Now for the hard part, narrowing down the list of cookies we want to fill them with. For my family, it’s not the holidays without our Swedish Ginger Cookies. And, you can find multiple lists of cookie possibilities on our Christmas Cookie Collection post.

This year I am definitely including Cranberry Orange Biscotti. I tested a batch about a month ago and my kids went crazy for them…

Cranberry Orange Biscotti
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields 24 to 30 biscotti (depending on cut size) Read more…

No-Shrink Pie Dough

No-Shrink Pie DoughUpper Crust
Thanksgiving can be stressful. That is no great revelation. The stress can come from many sources. For some, it’s having their entire family under one roof and the tension that can cause. For others, it can be the actual meal preparation. I’ve had numerous conversations over the years about what stresses people out about the Thanksgiving meal. For some, it’s the cooking of the turkey. For others, it’s having enough drippings for a really tasty gravy. But, without a doubt, the thing that causes the most stress, at least according to the people I have spoken to, is the pie crust.

I can’t really speak for other families, but in mine, the pie course of the Thanksgiving meal is extremely important so when the pie crust doesn’t work it’s a problem. Last year my daughter and I were responsible for the making of the pies and because I didn’t want to ruin Thanksgiving, I did a lot of research on pie crust. I tried A LOT of them. I basically landed on two that I thought were the best. One is a traditional half butter and half shortening pie crust. This is the pie crust I use year-round for everything from sweet pies to pot pies.

The other is a crust that uses a technique I had never heard of before that comes from Japanese bread baking that uses a cornstarch “gel” as the moisture for the pie crust. I was intrigued to say the least. The recipe was created by Christopher Kimball of America’s Test Kitchen fame but can be found along with a video on the Williams Sonoma website and on YouTube.

I used this crust for my pecan pies last year and the results were amazing! It’s very easy to work with and rolls out beautifully. The crust was flaky and tender but held up well to the filling. I have yet to try it on a two-crust pie, like apple. My sense is that it might be too “short” for that kind of pie but you never know.

If you are in charge of the pies this year and have some time this weekend to experiment, give this crust a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

No-Shrink Pie Dough
Adapted from Christopher Kimball and William’s Sonoma
Yields one 9-inch pie crust Read more…

Farro with Cranberries and Pecans

Farro with Cranberries and PecansSide Job
Truth be told, I am a Thanksgiving freeloader which means I do not usually host Thanksgiving. However, since food is my job, I have been thumbing through numerous magazines and cookbooks looking for interesting recipes for the big day and I have found a few that are intriguing enough that I gave them a try.

Most people are pretty traditional when it comes to Thanksgiving and are resistant to change, myself included. I have been known to pout like a child if certain things are missing. However, if the usual required dishes adorn the Thanksgiving table alongside a few new introductions I can be talked off the ledge. The bonus is sometimes you run across a recipe that works in everyday life and not just for special occasions. The recipe below falls into that category.

I have always loved the nutty flavor of farro. The fact that it is easy to prepare is a bonus. Farro is the perfect fall side dish. Whether it’s plain with a little butter or dressed up with garlic and onions it can be a welcome change from the usual when served beside your favorite roasted meats. In this case, the addition of cranberries and pecans just screams turkeys and pilgrims. Ergo, it would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving feast.

You don’t have to wait for Turkey Day, though. I made this the other night and served it alongside some pan-fried pork chops and it was delicious…

Farro with Cranberries and Pecans
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Yields 6 servings Read more…