More than lights and decorations, scents from mum’s kitchen bring back holiday memories. Fresh, pretty, teeny tiny, fancy cookies that my mum bakes throughout December. We prepared a holiday cookies recipe series that will scent your home and please everyone’s palate. The first one is a classic, Janez’s favourite Linzer cookie with apricot jam. We upgraded the classic recipe using almonds for crunchiness and cinnamon for the holiday aroma (here’s the original recipe).
2/3 cup almond meal
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
confectioners’ sugar for decoration
jar of your favourite jam
Prepare the dough
Mix almond meal with 1/4 cup of sugar and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter (room temperature) and the remaining sugar. Mix until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. The secret of a perfect cookie is mixing a lot of air into the butter. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Now gradually add the almond mixture, then the flour mixture until combined. You can finish kneading the dough by hand. Divide it in half, flatten and wrap in a plastic wrapping, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Prepare two flat baking trays with baking paper so you can alternately bake and prepare the new ones. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to 1/8 inch thickness (if it’s to crumbly, and drops of water and knead it with your hands). Cut the dough into rounds, half of it without and half with a hole in the middle - for the top part of the cookie. We advise you to bake them separately, since the one’s with holes bake a bit faster. Re-roll and cut the remaining dough. If it gets too soft, refrigerate for a few minutes. Bake until the edges become gold, which takes about 10 to 12 minutes. Just enough time to prepare another tray. Cool slightly on the tray, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Let's assemble the cookie
Spread 1 teaspoon of your favourite jam (we used apricot) onto the bottom part of the cookie and top with the one with a hole. For making them even more handsome, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving them on our boards.
We spiced up the last beverage of our holiday series with a salted caramel sauce. You can prepare the sauce, store it in little glass containers and add it to various deserts like biscuits, cookies, brownies, pies, ice cream, rice pudding or many other sweets and drinks.
You will be needing 2 medium sauce pans to prepare the salted caramel sauce. Melt 2 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup (240 ml) of heavy cream. This takes about 3-4 minutes, then turn down the heat just keep the mixture warm. In a different pan heat up 1,5 cup of sugar in 1/4 cup of water. Wait until it’s melted, nice and dark and starts to smell of caramel. It takes about 8-10 minutes to get to this point. Don’t mix the melted sugar and even though it looks yummy don’t taste it because it’s boiling hot. You can just roll the dish around a couple of times. Turn off the heat and gradually add the butter-cream mixture to the sugar while mixing. Serve the sauce warm or chilled and store the cooled caramel in an airtight container in a refrigerator for up to two weeks.
For a chocolate drink, heat 1 cup (240 ml) of milk and add 50 g of dark chocolate, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence. Whisk until smooth and flavours combine.
Pour some caramel sauce around the insides of the glass, add hot chocolate and serve with whipped cream. Pour some more caramel on and if you like add some salt flakes on top.
Our third holiday drink also flirts with nuts, only this time it’s white chocolate and almonds. Homemade hot chocolates are so much better than store-bought dry, powdery mixes and very easy to prepare. You can serve them in a matter of minutes.
For two cups of white almond hot chocolate heat up 2 cups (240 ml) of whole milk and mix in 1/2 cup (50 g) of fine white chocolate, a pinch of salt and 1/2 scraped vanilla bean. Take it off the heat after a few minutes of mixing on medium temperature, when it becomes nice and smooth. Now add the magical ingredient, 1/4 cup (60 ml) of almond flavoured syrup. If you don’t have one, substitute it with 2 tablespoons of almond butter.
Serve on Ribrand’s platrers with a generous amount of toppings like whipped cream, pieces of white and dark chocolate and sliced or slivered almonds.
The first snowflakes this year’s winter have fallen, so we decided to prepare a richer hot chocolate with 70% of cacao. We’re also huge fans of the peanut-chocolate combination. It’s so creamy, rich and full of flavour. It reminds us of Nina’s peanut butter birthday cake <3. And it adds a bit of crunch in the end.
Prepare it by boiling 240 ml (1 cup) of milk and mix in 100 g of crushed dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao (at least 70%) until it melts and you get a smooth chocolate mix. Spice it up with 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, pinch of salt and 1/2 scraped vanilla bean. Cook for a few minutes so that all the flavours are well combined. From this amount of ingredients you get a bit denser hot chocolate. Serve it in small glasses. If you prefer a more liquid drink add more milk and serve it in a bigger glass. :)
Add a topping on the chocolate such as an unsweetened whipped cream, in order to balance the richness of the chocolate and sprinkle it with some salted peanuts and grated chocolate. Chocolate and salt are truly in love with one another.
Warm chocolate drinks remind us of snowy days so we decided to make a series of a bit different drinks for cold winter evenings. We are starting our series with a hot Matcha white chocolate.
Matcha powder, unlike any other tea, is made by mixing whole leaves into a green powder. Because you consume whole leaves, this type of drink contains about 10-times more nutrients than a regular green tea. Furthermore it’s simply delicious and has a very special aroma. We combined Matcha tea with with white chocolate and got a bland drink which is slightly different from our classical image of a saturated hot chocolate. The described ingredients are enough to make two large cups of this greenish smoothie.
The easiest way to make tea is with a bamboo whisk but we used a regular metal whisk and it also did the trick. Mix 2 teaspoons of Matcha powder in a dish and while mixing, gradually add 240 ml (1 cup) of water. Mix, mix, mix to make a soft foam. In a different dish, heat up 480 ml (2 cups) of milk of your choice (almond, coconut, cow…) and mix in 50 g of white chocolate. Mix the two together and serve.