Italian Hazelnut Cookies (Baci di Dama)

Italian Hazelnut CookiesChristmas On The Couch
It is officially December…which means cookie season is here! I love cookie season. Planning the selection. The cookie-palooza day of baking and the packaging. The best part, of course, is the delivery. The look on people’s faces never gets old.

This year is going to look a little different.

While on vacation this past July, I injured my knee—which required surgery. So, I am on the couch for the foreseeable future. That means cookie-making is not in the cards. At least not for me. But, I refuse to go without.

So, I am enlisting the help of my resident sous chef. And, between the two of us, we should be able to make things happen. First up will be our traditional Swedish Gingers Cookies which we will be devouring while I micromanage the decorating of the tree. After that, we will have to see…as this year’s cookie lineup has yet to be determined.

The list will no doubt include traditional favorites like Classic Scottish Shortbread,  Chocolaty Caramel Thumbprints, and Red and White Pinwheel Cookies. We’ve been looking at books and websites for some new additions. But, one thing I know for certain is that last year’s star of the show will be back.

These little Italian Hazelnut Cookies require a bit more labor and attention than the average cookie. But, they are soooo worth it. They are a hazelnut lover’s dream! I swap chocolate ganache for Nutella to make the sandwiches. This both adds hazelnut flavor and makes things a bit easier. And, this year I am all about easier!

Italian Hazelnut Cookies Recipe (Baci di Dama)
Adapted from Americas Test Kitchen
Yields 32 small cookies

These tiny Italian hazelnut-chocolate sandwich cookies are made from a very rich, fragile dough that easily crumbles when you bite into them. Read more…

Dark Chocolate Toffee

Dark Chocolate ToffeeCookie Palooza
It’s Cookie Palooza this weekend. For those of you who may be confused, Cookie Palooza is the weekend that my daughter and I make an insane amount of holiday cookies and other treats to give to our family and friends. This year my sister is joining in on the fun so I am expecting any number of crazy shenanigans and a whole lotta sprinkles. (Don’t worry. My sister and her family have been in our pod since Day 1).

There will be Gingerbread Men with scarves (my sister), there will be Macarons (my daughter) and there will be Toffee and Caramels (me) as well as an explosion of other cookies from Swedish Ginger Cookies to home made Cranberry Orange Biscotti  (I like the dried cranberries and some grated orange peel to make them more festive.)

Cookie Palooza could not happen if I didn’t have decent cookie sheets. Of course, everyone’s definition of decent will be different. Some bakers prefer the double-layer cookie sheets that allow the air in the pocket between to heat up. Others like the heavy duty rimless sheets that allow your cookies to slide right off. Personally, I like my heavy duty half sheet pans they’re just so versatile. You can make drop cookies or bar cookies and of course, you can make an excellent dinner. At an average of $20 for a quality cookie sheet, they also make a useful and cost-conscious holiday gift for your favorite baker. And if you really want to treat them, pre-cut parchment sheets can be life changing.

While my family has already enjoyed the first batch of our traditional ginger cookies, (You can’t trim the tree without ginger cookies.) what they are really waiting for is the toffee I make every year. It’s melt-in-your-mouth happiness and must be kept under lock and key if you want to have it around for more than an afternoon.

With the latest stay at home order in full swing, now is the perfect time to plan a Cookie Palooza of your own…

Dark Chocolate Toffee Recipe
Yields 24 pieces
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

This toffee is a lot like a Heath Bar—both tasty candy and delicious crumbled over ice cream and other desserts. Read more…

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…