Loukoumades—Greek pastries—on a blue plate

Loco for Loukoumades
When asked to name a Greek dessert, nine out of ten people polled will answer baklava. That one person out of ten that gives you a different answer is probably Greek. And, their answer would most likely be loukoumades.

I have several friends who go crazy for these little guys (and not just while attending the Greek Festival). Of course, all of them are of Greek heritage, and given their level of reverence for these crispy golden bites of awesomeness, you would think that loukoumades would have a bigger presence outside of a Greek restaurant. But, alas baklava is still king.

Loukoumades are without question comfort food. They are essentially Greek donuts. Their yeasted dough is rolled into little balls and then fried in oil. When finished they are doused with honey and sprinkled with nuts and sometimes cinnamon. It is also not unheard of to see them served with chocolate sauce. Walnuts are traditional but I, myself, am not a walnut fan. I prefer my loukoumades with chopped almonds or pistachios…but that’s just me.

Fair warning, they are sweet. They are also addictive so proceed with caution.

Loukoumades Recipe
Adapted from My Greek Dish
Yields approximately 5 dozen

Loukoumades are bite-sized fluffy honey balls, the Greek version of donuts. They are deep-fried until golden and crispy. Loukoumades are traditionally served soaked in hot honey syrup, sprinkled with cinnamon, and garnished with chopped nuts. Read more…

Molasses Spice Cookies

Viking Christmas
According to Ancestry.com, I am 84% Scandinavian. This is no great revelation because I grew up amongst of a bunch of very tall, sometimes grumpy, frequently loud, frustratingly stubborn, hard-partying Vikings on both sides of the family.

Holidays with this crowd as a kid were a lot of fun because no one loves barely controlled chaos more than a kid. The adults had different views. I thought it was great.

My grandmother was one of nine kids born to a couple of Danes who found themselves in California at the turn of the 20th century. Though they embraced their new country and refused to speak in their native tongue once they arrived, they did manage to keep a few of their traditions going.

We still have Ebleskiver every Christmas morning, though how my great-grandmother managed to feed that many people with one pan that only makes 7 at a time boggles my mind. (We continue to use her pan but have added a couple more.) And we still enjoy treats with a lot of the traditional warming spices of winter: cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, cardamom, and, of course, ginger.

I love a good chewy ginger cookie. But, I really only eat them around Christmas time, so they are, in fact, a treat. In all honesty, these wouldn’t qualify as a traditional Danish cookie except for the spices, though I don’t think Julemandon (Santa Claus) would object to these being left for his midnight snack.

Glӕdelig Jul!

Molasses Spice Cookies Recipe
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Yields about 22 cookies

These Molasses Spice Cookies have a nice crisp edge and soft interior. The warming spices and molasses flavor make them perfect for your holiday cookie tray. Read more…

Peppermint Meringue Kisses

Red and green Peppermint Meringue Kisses on a marble tabletop

Holiday Kisses
When I was a kid, a family friend would always make us a Christmas cookie assortment. I looked forward to them every year—mainly because there were a lot of spritz cookies in the mix. I love anything with that much butter.

I was always fascinated though by the separate container that accompanied the main box. This container had the meringue cookies. I thought it was weird that these particular cookies got their own container. Now that I have made them myself, I get it. You don’t put the time in to make the meringues only to have them shatter in a box full of sturdier cookies.

Meringues are a delight for the mouth. They are light as air and melt on your tongue. They can come in so many different flavors. My daughter is partial to espresso-flavored meringues. Personally, I like all versions. But, for a holiday box, I like to go with Peppermint Meringue Kisses as a change from all of the chocolate and nut flavors in the box. A palate cleanser of sorts.

The kisses below were included in my cookie boxes this year. Streaking the piping bags with food coloring is a fun way to add color and also signal the flavor.

Something to keep in mind when making these: just like French macarons and bread making, the weather outside matters. If the air has a lot of humidity, the meringues can take a little longer to dry and when the air is too dry, they can crack pretty easily. Read more…

Classic Chocolate Crinkles

A photo of Classic Chocolate Crinkles on a wooden board

Tastes of the season
It’s here. After a lot of musing, planning, and preparation, Cookie-Pa-Looza weekend has arrived. This means starting this evening, my daughter and I will begin the process of making and baking cookies—and distributing Christmas Cookie tins to friends and neighbors. It’s a labor of love. And, we love to do it.

For the most part, the cookie tins contain the same cookies each year—as some would be dearly missed if they were not there. (See the links to the recipes below). I like to make sure that there is a variety of flavors in the cookie box. Something with ginger, something with a citrus flavor, and always something decadent and chocolaty.

Last year we made Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies but I wanted to do something different this year. Still chocolatey, but different. So I am going with these Classic Chocolate Crinkles.

Chocolate crinkles are a well-loved Christmas cookie. The key is good quality chocolate. And, pro tip, roll the dough balls in superfine sugar before rolling them in powdered sugar. This ensures that the cookies get that snow-covered look.

Be careful with these as they can be very addictive. It’s amazing how many of them “break” and don’t make it to the cookie tin…

Amy’s Classic Christmas Cookies
Swedish Ginger Cookies
Gingies as we call them, are a family favorite. They are easy to make and go great with tea & coffee and you can keep a log in the freezer to cut and bake as needed. When in doubt make more than you need as it’s always fun to share…

Six Layer Bars
Somewhat rich, but oh, so good. This old-fashioned recipe makes great-tasting, nutty bars. It is an easy dessert made with common pantry items. Great for potlucks, parties, and bake sale treats!

Cranberry Orange Biscotti
This recipe is one everyone can enjoy—they are lighter than traditional Italian biscotti and still crunchy. Biscotti bake twice rather than once, but are relatively easy to pull together. They make a delicious, light dessert.

Italian Hazelnut Cookies (Baci di Dama)
These tiny Italian hazelnut-chocolate sandwich cookies are made from a very rich, fragile dough that easily crumbles when you bite into them.

Molded Gingerbread Cookies
I consider these to be project cookies–they take longer than usual to make. But, the results are very much worth the extra labor.

Classic Scottish Shortbread
This recipe adds some oats to the mix for a slightly nuttier flavor. It’s fantastic, and a good choice for gift-giving.

Classic Chocolate Crinkles Recipe
Adapted from King Arthur Baking
Yields about 5 dozen cookies

This variation includes espresso powder, giving the chocolate flavor a boost and adding the slightest aromatic hint of coffee. For a mocha crinkle, increase the espresso powder to 1 tablespoon or more, to taste.

Do ahead: Mix up the dough the day before and chill it in the fridge. Read more…