eat in my kitchen

To cook, to bake, to eat and to treat.

Tag: christmas cookies

23 Recipes for Cozy Christmas Baking

Maltese Christmas Cookies

I’m sitting at our dining table, listening to Jingle Bells, wrapping Christmas presents, and waiting for the snow to fall. It’s the last weekend before Christmas, the last chance to fill the kitchen with the tempting smell of cinnamon, cloves, and citrus fruits, cardamom, chocolate, and candied nuts, so what am I going to bake? I picked 23 recipes from the last four years of cozy Christmas feasting on Eat In My Kitchen and I love each one of them. Just a look at the pictures and my taste buds get excited. I can remember the woody notes of my Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies, the citrusy-buttery sweetness of my Mediterranean family’s Maltese Lemon Christmas Cookies, the elegance of my mother’s classic, her Linzer Cookies, and of course, my annual highlight, the best Vanilla Kipferl in the world. You can find a variation of this famous German cookie in my Eat In My Kitchen book, wonderfully fragrant Cardamom Kipferl. So, happy baking, treat yourself to a cozy weekend with the ones you love and indulge in the pleasures of Christmas baking!

Click on the titles for the recipes:

Chocolate, Orange and Cardamom Stollen

Chocolate, Orange and Cardamom Stollen

Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies

Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies

Ginger Chili Double Chocolate Cookies

Ginger Chili Double Chocolate Cookies

Christmas Chocolate Panettone

Chocolate Panettone

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

Maltese Lemon Christmas Cookies

Maltese Lemon Cookies

German Elisenlebkuchen

Lebkuchen

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Bittersweet Chocolate Spice Cookies

Chocolate Spice Cookies

Claire Ptak’s Pecan Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Mulled Wine Pretzel Cookies

Mulled Wine Pretzel Cookies

Linzer Cookies

Sandwich Cookies

German Chocolate Baumkuchen

Chocolate Baumkuchen

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Gianduja Chocolate Cookies

Gianduja Chocolate Cookies

Maltese Essijiet Vermouth Cookies

Essijiet Cookies

Strawberry Pistachio Cookies with Oats and White Chocolate

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

Espresso Chocolate Biscotti

Espresso Chocolate Biscotti

 

Dark Chocolate and Apricot Sandwich Cookies

Chocolate Cookies

Vanilla Kipferl

Vanilla Kipferl

Red Currant and Oat Cookies

Redcurrant and Oat Cookies

Buttery Blue Cheese Crackers

Buttery Blue Cheese Cookies

 

Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies

21 recipes for Christmas Cookies

Rosemary & Lemon Heidesand Cookies

There are few things as relaxing as baking Christmas cookies during the busy days of December. Mixing and kneading pounds of dough while the air in the kitchen is soaked in fragrant sweetness is the best anti-stress remedy. Cinnamon, cloves, citrus fruits, and cardamom, chocolate, almonds and hazelnuts, you don’t need many ingredients to give a cookie an extra christmassy touch.

We still have 10 days to go – for the German Christmas on the 24th December, and 11 days for the English and Maltese Christmas. So we have enough time to throw a few more trays of delicious cookies in the oven, to fill the jars, and make our hips happy. Here’s some more inspiration from the last three years of Christmas cookie feasting on Eat In My Kitchen. Happy baking!

Click on the titles for the recipes:

Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies

Rosemary & Lemon Heidesand Cookies

 

Ginger Chili Double Chocolate Cookies

Ginger Chili Double Chocolate Cookies

 

Christmas Chocolate Panettone (let’s see it as a giant cookie)

Chocolate Panettone

 

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

 

Maltese Lemon Christmas Cookies

Maltese Lemon Cookies

 

German Elisenlebkuchen

Lebkuchen

 

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

 

Bittersweet Chocolate Spice Cookies

Chocolate Spice Cookies

 

Claire Ptak’s Pecan Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

 

Mulled Wine Pretzel Cookies

Mulled Wine Pretzel Cookies

 

Linzer Cookies

Sandwich Cookies

 

German Chocolate Baumkuchen

Chocolate Baumkuchen

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

 

Gianduja Chocolate Cookies

Gianduja Chocolate Cookies

 

Maltese Essijiet Vermouth Cookies

Essijiet Cookies

 

Espresso Chocolate Biscotti

Espresso Chocolate Biscotti

 

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

 

Dark Chocolate and Apricot Sandwich Cookies

Chocolate Cookies

 

Vanilla Kipferl

Vanilla Kipferl

 

Red Currant and Oat Cookies

Redcurrant and Oat Cookies

 

Buttery Blue Cheese Crackers

Buttery Blue Cheese Cookies

 

Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Around this time last year, I came up with a recipe that took my beloved persimmons and turned them into streusel bars – it was nothing less than divine. I’m a huge fan of this gorgeous fruit, especially when it’s overly ripe, soft as jelly and honey-sweet. To use it in Christmas baking is tricky, as it can easily get lost under spices and butter, it needs a balanced composition that allows its fine fruitiness to shine.

When I last bought a bunch of persimmons from my local vegetable man, I could have just turned them into another batch of streusel bars. But I love creating new traditions and I decided to challenge myself to come up with a new persimmon Christmas cookie recipe every year. So in 2016, I’m celebrating my young tradition with a cookie classic, jam filled thumbprint cookies, called Husarenkrapfen in German. The buttery shortcrust is refined with hazelnuts, cinnamon, and vanilla – at least in my kitchen. The fruity filling in the middle is usually red, made of red currants or raspberries. But as I looked at the orange coloured fruits on my kitchen table, I decided to purée and cook the pulp of a persimmon with a generous amount of vanilla to enhance its flavour. It’s an unfussy jam, a spoonful of honey, just a tablespoon of sugar, and 5 minutes on the heat. Perfect for my slightly nutty Husarenkrapfen.

Happy 2nd Advent!

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

 

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

You can either bake the cookies filled with the jam or bake the plain cookies first and drop a dollop of the jam into the holes once they are cool (which I prefer). It looks prettier and the taste of the fruit is more present.

Makes about 50 cookies

For the dough

plain flour 300g / 2 1/3 cups
ground hazelnuts 100g / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
baking powder 1/2 teaspoon
ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
butter, soft, 150g / 2/3 cup
granulated sugar 130g / 2/3 cup
vanilla bean, split and scraped, 1/2
organic eggs 2

For the jam filling

large ripe persimmon, peeled, 1 (250g / 9 ounces)
vanilla bean, split and scraped, 1/2
honey 1 teaspoon
granulated sugar 1 tablespoon

icing sugar, for dusting

For the dough, in a large bowl, combine the flour, hazelnuts, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla seeds until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well in between. Add the flour mixture, change to the hook attachment, and mix until combined. The dough will be quite soft. Scrape onto a long layer of cling film, form a thick disc, wrap it, and put in the freezer for about 25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350 (preferably convection setting). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

For the jam, purée the persimmon and vanilla seeds in a blender or food processor. Transfer to a small saucepan, stir in the honey and sugar, and bring to the boil. Cook over medium-high heat, it should be bubbling, stirring once in a while, for about 4 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Set aside and let the jam cool.

Cut off a slice off the dough, roll into a sausage shape, and cut off pieces, keep the remaining dough in the fridge. Using your hands, roll the pieces into 3cm / 1 1/4″ balls. Press the end of a wooden spoon into the middle of each ball, pushing almost through to the bottom and leaving only a thin layer at the bottom of the cookie (otherwise the holes might close during baking). Transfer to the lined baking sheets and bake, one sheet after the other, for about 14 minutes or until golden. Let the cookies cool completely, then fill with the persimmon jam and dust with icing sugar.

If you want to store the cookies in a cookie box, I recommend adding the jam filling before serving. They become a bit softer after a day if they are filled and it’s also easier to store them without the filling.

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

 

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

 

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

 

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

 

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Mulled Wine Pretzel Cookies

mulledwinepretzelcookies1

My mugs haven’t seen much mulled wine this season unfortunately. I had to go through the corrections of my book almost every single day of December and I didn’t dare blur my mind and risk some silly mistakes – and annoy my editor Holly – by enjoying more than a tiny sip of the hot wine. I’ve been a really good girl up until now, but a couple days ago I gave in all the files of my manuscript so now I’m ready to indulge in the sweet pleasures of the aromatic red juices. A large pot full of wine, orange, black tea and spices (you can find my recipe here) filled my kitchen with the most tempting smell of Christmas and I happily enjoyed it under our Christmas tree. In tune with the season and its treats, I came up with an idea for a mulled wine cookie, crunchy like shortbread and shaped like a pretzel.

I only used a few tablespoons of the spiced wine for the dough as I didn’t want to soften the shortcrust pastry too much. To enhance the Christmassy feel and taste, I added a spice mixture of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, all spice and orange zest to the dough. A pink glaze made of icing sugar and mulled wine sprinkled on top finished my Christmas pretzels off.

Happy 4th Advent! xx

mulledwinepretzelcookies3

 

mulledwinepretzelcookies5

Mulled Wine Pretzel Cookies

For the cookies

plain flour 300g / 2 1/3 cups
salt 1/8 teaspoon
cinnamon 2 teaspoons
nutmeg, preferably freshly grated, 1/4 teaspoon
cloves, crushed in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon
allspice, crushed in a mortar, 1/4 teaspoon
butter, soft, 160g / 2/3 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon
organic egg yolk 1
granulated sugar 130g /2/3 cup , plus more for sprinkling
orange zest, freshly grated, 1 1/2 teaspoons
strong mulled wine 3 tablespoons (you can find my recipe here)

For the icing

icing sugar 100g / 1 cup
mulled wine, about 2-3 tablespoons

For the cookies, combine the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice in a bowl.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, egg yolk, sugar, and orange zest with an electric mixer until creamy and well combined. Add the dry flour mixture and the mulled wine and mix with the dough hooks of an electric mixer until combined. Divide the dough in half, scrape each half on a piece of plastic wrap and form both into logs then wrap tightly in the plastic wrap. Freeze for 15-20 minutes or until the dough is hard enough to cut with a knife.

Set the oven to 180°C / 350°F (preferably convection setting). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

When the dough is hard, take it out of the freezer. Cut thin slices off the log. Roll each slice to a ball between your hands then roll into a 24cm / 9 1/2″ long pencil shape on a counter top. Twist into a pretzel and spread on the lined baking sheets, sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes (slightly longer using conventional setting) or until golden. Let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before you transfer them onto a cooling rack. If you want to sprinkle them with icing, they have to be completely cool.

Whisk the icing sugar and mulled wine until well combined, add more sugar or wine to reach the desired texture, and sprinkle over the cookies. When the icing is hard, you can store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

mulledwinepretzelcookies6

 

mulledwinepretzelcookies4

 

Mulled Wine Pretzel Cookies

 

mulledwinepretzelcookies12

 

mulledwinepretzelcookies8

Persimmon and Orange Streusel Bars

Persimmons and Orange Streusel Bars

I had cookie-like streusel bars on my mind but I couldn’t help myself, they tasted too good, so I ended up cutting them into big pieces rather than petite bars. My idea was to combine a buttery shortbread base with crunchy crumbles and a sweet filling of puréed persimmons, orange juice and lots of fresh vanilla. The candied fruitiness was distinct although it was hard to guess which fruit it was exactly if you hadn’t seen the overly ripe, jelly-like persimmons on my kitchen table. My boyfriend pointed this out with a hint of criticism in his voice. However, when one of our friends tried them he was particularly impressed by their fruity taste. He also couldn’t tell what fruit it was – but much like me – he didn’t care.

It’s already the 3rd Advent today and I still have quite a few cookie baking projects ahead of me before Christmas. Here’s a list of a few recipes – my favourites –  which you’ll definitely find in our cookies jars:

Vanilla Kipferl

Gianduja Chocolate Cookies

Chocolate and Apricot Sandwich Cookies

Lebkuchen

German Shortbread and Jam Sandwich Cookies

Mince Pies (they aren’t cookies but still amazing, I already baked my first batch of them)

Maltese Lemon Cookies

Granny Doris’ Peanut Butter Cookies

Ginger Orange Cookies

Espresso Meringue Cookies

There are more recipes on the blog but I think I have to stop here for now, this is more than enough to keep our jars filled.

Persimmons and Orange Streusel Bars

 

Persimmons and Orange Streusel Bars

Persimmons and Orange Streusel Bars

Makes 12 large pieces or 24 bars

For the filling

very ripe persimmons, pulp only, 500g / 17 1/2 ounces (about 3-4 persimmons)
orange juice, freshly squeezed, 2 tablespoons
honey 1 tablespoon
vanilla pod, scraped 1/4
pinch of salt

For the dough

plain flour 400g / 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons
granulated sugar 200g / 1 cup
vanilla pod, scraped, 1/4
salt 1/4 teaspoon
butter, soft, 225g / 1 cup
organic egg, beaten, 1

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F (preferably convection setting). Butter a 23 x 28cm / 9″ x 11″  baking dish.

For the filling, purée the persimmons, orange juice, honey, vanilla seeds, and salt in a blender or food processor until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, vanilla seeds, and salt. Add the butter and cut it into the flour with a knife until there are just small pieces left. Add the egg and quickly rub the butter and egg into the mixture with your fingers until crumbly.

Take about 2/3 off the crumbles and spread in the buttered baking dish. Push the dough firmly into the baking dish, especially along the edges. Spread the persimmon filling on top and even it out. Spread the remaining crumbles on top of the filling and bake for about 52 minutes or until golden brown (slightly longer using conventional setting). Let it cool for about 15 minutes before you cut it into streusel bars and take them out of the baking dish.

The streusel bars taste best on the first and second day. You can keep them in an airtight container for up to 4 days but they will soften.

Persimmons and Orange Streusel Bars

 

Persimmons and Orange Streusel Bars

 

Persimmons and Orange Streusel Bars

 

Persimmons and Orange Streusel Bars

meet in your kitchen | London: Clair Ptak’s Pecan Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Walking down one of east London’s quiet roads lined with cute brick houses on a Sunday morning was more than pleasing, but knowing that I would enter the private kitchen of one of the most acclaimed baking goddesses of the hour piqued my excitement. I flew to London to meet Claire Ptak from California who followed the love of her life to live in Hackney and start a baking business ten years ago. She learned her profession in Berkeley, at Alice Waters’ legendary Chez Panisse, before she left California for Europe and opened a sweet stall at Broadway Market in London. Her baked goods were well received from the start, the long lines leading to her mobile shop got longer and longer every Saturday. Claire had to turn her cozy London kitchen into a busy bakery to keep up with the production, two days of hard work from the early morning until late at night before the weekly market day was her weekend routine for years. The huge demand for her utterly delicious cookies, cupcakes, pies and cakes called for a change and Violet Bakery was born. She opened a cafe in 2010 on the same street where she lives with her husband, and today it seems like this is the place that everybody is talking about when it comes to the best sweets – not only in London.

Claire works with only the best ingredients, often organic, and she respects the seasons. Something she learned as a child through her parents. Growing up in a village, an hour outside San Francisco, she picked fruit from the trees and bushes in their garden when they were ripe and foraged for mushrooms and wild berries when they were in season. Her mother used to bake so many pies with her that little Claire mastered the perfect crust and fruit fillings at a young age.

Claire has a confidence, intuition and calmness in the kitchen that impressed me as soon as she took out the baking sheets for her amazing pecan shortbread and salted caramel sandwich cookies – Alfajores, the most addictive sandwich cookies ever. She works instinctively and uses her years of experience and, as a creative mind, she takes it onto the next level. It’s not a surprise that she has already written several cookbooks, as well as her own column for The Guardian and works as a food stylist for established authors, such as Jamie Oliver and Yotam Ottolenghi. And she has one of the best cookbook collections I’ve seen in a long time!

Here’s the link to Claire’s fantastic new book – a baking bible – the Violet Bakery Cookbook!

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

 

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Claire Ptak’s Alfajores – Pecan shortbread and salted caramel sandwich cookies

Makes about 12 sandwich cookies.

For the cookies

unsalted butter, softened, 250g / 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
icing sugar 100g / 1 cup
salt 1/8 teaspoon
plain flour 300g / 2 1/3 cups
rum 1 tablespoon
pecans, finely chopped, 70g / 2 1/2 ounces
Icing sugar for dredging

For the caramel filling

double cream 150g / 5 1/4 ounces
vanilla bean, scraped, 1/2
water 4 tablespoons
caster sugar 250g / 1 1/4 cups
golden syrup 2 tablespoons
lemon juice 1 teaspoon
fleur du sel 1/4 teaspoon
unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 65g / 1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon

Cream together the butter, sugar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the flour and mix just to combine. Add the rum and pecans and just until it all comes together.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C convection setting) / 350°F (325°F convection setting). Line two baking sheets with parchment.

On a lightly floured surface, roll your cookie dough out to about 3mm / 1/8″ thickness. Use a 60-70mm / 2 1/2-3″ round cutter (or a drinking glass will work too) and cut as many rounds as you can. You can re-roll to get a total about 12 sandwiches (24 individual rounds).

Bake until it just starts to colour. They should move out of their spot when nudged.

Sift over them with icing sugar whilst still warm and let them cool completely. Meanwhile, make the caramel.

In a heavy saucepan, measure the cream and vanilla. In another large saucepan put your water, sugar and golden syrup. Have the other ingredients measured out and ready to go. Begin by heating the cream. Keep an eye on this as it can scorch quite easily. Meanwhile start heating the water, sugar and golden syrup, all the while keeping an eye on the cream. As soon as the cream starts to bubble, turn it off. Do not stir the sugar pot, but you can swirl it if need be. Once it starts to colour, give it a few swirls. You want the sugar to turn golden brown and then almost black. A swisp of smoke will start to rise out and then you know it is done. Take the caramel off the heat and immediately whisk in the vanilla cream. Don’t worry about the pod at this point as it will continue to infuse flavour. Stir in the lemon juice, salt and butter until smooth. Allow the caramel to cool before using it in the cookies. Once the caramel is cool to the touch, it can be used. Caramel will also keeps well for up to two weeks in the fridge and three months in the freezer.

To assemble the sandwiches, turn 12 of the cookies upside-down and place a heaped tablespoon on caramel on top. Sandwich together with a second cookie. Sift over with a thick layer of icing sugar and devour! Will keep for two weeks in a cookie tin.

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

In 2010, you opened Violet bakery and café In Hackney, east London. What moved you to take this step?

I had been baking from home for 5 years but there was a moment when it had kind of taken over our home, so we decided to look for a location. Originally, I actually didn’t want to have a café, I just wanted to have my stall and have that kind of nice creative expression of what I like to cook and bake, and then do my styling and writing. I was very happy with that but there was something, I don’t know, the baked goods were so well received that it seemed crazy not to have a brick and mortar. I thought I could grow it a bit, get help, and hire good people, and I could still do the other stuff I wanted to do. Originally this was just going to be like a production kitchen for more markets but then the whole neighborhood was knocking on the door while we were fixing it up saying “this is so great, you’re opening here!”, so we thought “let’s do that”, it kind of came organically.

How did working as a pastry chef at Alice Water’s Chez Panisse in Berkeley influence your creative work as a baker?

I was really inspired by how much they place value in the ingredients and the quality of the ingredients. That is kind of everything about what she does, it’s really about eating things at the perfect moment and that could be like a day difference. So we were going to have something on the menu and we’d think “no, actually, those pears need another day to ripen”, so we’d change the menu and do it tomorrow. And that kind of detail is so incredible when you’re working in a restaurant because, so much of the time, in restaurants, it’s just like “that’s what we’re doing, make it work, turn it out!”. And there it was “we’ll make something else and it has to be exquisite”. Every single day everything changed. You’d have a guideline of what you’re going to do but then, if things weren’t right that day, you’d change it to make it as good as it could be. So in terms of my aesthetic, because that’s so integral to how I also cook, it’s pretty natural because I think it’s really about highlighting and emphasizing the ingredients but then making them feel professional but not mass-produced. If everything looks super homemade it’s not special enough, it’s nice to have something that’s a bit of a stretch, so you’d think “I wish I could make it look that nice at home!” – it’s about giving it a little extra lift and still being natural.

Have you always been more into baking than cooking? What fascinates you about baking?

I started baking at home, with my mum and my grandmother, when she’d visit or we’d visit them. I always had an affinity for the sweet side of things but my father is also a great cook and so I’ve always cooked as well. And now, with the bakery, it’s been 10 years as a business, I’m drawn a lot more to the savory side of the kitchen. So we’ll see, I think my next book is going to have lot more savory in it.

What fascinates most people about baking, is that you can start and finish a project in an hour. I think there’s nobody who doesn’t love the way that feels. To take an hour and just bake something is such a nice feeling of accomplishment.

What is the hardest part about running a bakery and café?

It’s managing all the staff, even though I’m so lucky, I have such a wonderful crew of people, you still have fifteen personalities, sets of emotions, and lives that you have to work within and around. I very much want to create a space where people are happy to come to work and enjoy their work. Part of having an open kitchen was about that, I don’t want to hide all my cooks in the basement. When people come in and buy the cakes the cooks just made, they get to see the reactions and appreciation. That’s so much more fulfilling as a cook. But still, it’s so challenging. Maintaining that good working environment and being a good boss is way more challenging than I ever imagined.

You studied film theory and video art at Mills College in Oakland, California. Although you didn’t choose to work in this field, how did this experience influence your food business?

Mills is a women’s college, it’s a great place to be, and I loved studying video art and film theory there. I wanted to go into film making, I wanted to be a writer and director. So the writing has always been there, although I wanted to write film rather than cookbooks. Somehow I also did a lot of cooking when I was in university, I did a lot of films with food in them, and I would focus on that in my work. But I ended up working for an LA director for a year and I decided that I’d rather not do that. It was brutal work and the kitchen seems like a walk in the park compared. I think I wasn’t passionate enough about it, I was more passionate about food.

You grew up in California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and now you live in London. What made you move?

I grew up an hour outside San Francisco, quite a rural village, so we were picking wild blackberries and foraging, food was really central, which was great. Then I went to live in San Francisco for university and I loved the urban life as well. I was really drawn into it and I suddenly saw this whole other life. I loved the sort of country background that I have but then I really loved being in the city. I thought “this city is a small city and I’d love to see a bigger city”. I met my husband in San Francisco who’s from the countryside in England and we both thought it would be so great to live in London. So we moved here. It’s very different but with starting my business and having a real California influence on my business, I managed to make my California life incorporate into my London life. I try to bring it all together and it worked out really well. I miss San Francisco and I visit it, and whenever I go back, I think “yes, let’s live here” but at the end of three weeks I want to go back to London. 

In the 1960s, your parents moved to a community of intellectuals and artists, how did this lifestyle influence your relationship with food?

Automatically, growing up with the seasons, having a real strong connection to nature, both cultivated and wild, because we also did foraging too, for mushrooms and berries, seafood, my brother is a great diver, you’re already close to seasonal, organic, sustainable. All the stuff that everybody talks about and that’s trendy, in real life, it’s quite different. I realize, I’m very, very lucky to have grown up with that. I encourage that philosophy coming into mainstream but I would like it to be a bit more understood.

There’s the best farmers’ market in our (home) town because there are so many farmers and the weather is such that you can grow everything all year round. Just having that is pretty inspiring to cook when you have all that kind of raw ingredients around you. We had fruit trees and wild blackberries in our backyard, so my mum and I would make a pie because we had to get rid of the apples, and then, every year, you’d be so excited when the apples were falling outside. You had a real sense for when to do it and why to do it without having to have a theory behind it.

What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in London?

As a small business owner, I really value my local loyal customers who come to Violet for their morning coffee, and order cakes for special occasions. We feel so lucky to be part of a wonderful local community, and some of my favourite places in London are right on my doorstep! I regularly eat at Raw Duck, and love to browse J Glinert and Momosan Shop on Wilton Way when I’m passing by. If I’m meeting a friend for a drink after work, I love to go to Pinch on Greenwood Road.

Broadway Market will always be a special spot for me, as it’s where Violet began and still has a stall every Saturday. It’s a great place to pick up flowers, bread and organic produce for the bakery. I also love Chatsworth Market, which is where the wonderful London Borough of Jam – who suppliers our jam at Violet – is based. Spa Terminus is another seasoned favourite for beautiful ingredients from likeminded suppliers.

And for occasions, I always choose The River Cafe. The food is so special, it’s totally worth travelling across town for. When I’m in meetings in central London, I’ll often stop at Bao Bar, which is definitely one of the shining additions to west-central eating of 2015.

If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?

Richard Olney because he edited all these good cookbooks (the Time-Life book series), I would love to have met him. He was a great influence on Alice Waters and they were great friends, he was an American living in France. Olney cooked everything in a fire pit in the garden, anything that he would make, if it’s a little piece of lamb and some beans, that’s what I want. Or a salad, I would just love him to make me a green salad.

You’re going to have ten friends over for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?

My husband doesn’t eat meat but he eats fish, so I love to just throw a fish over some potatoes, with some herbs, bake that, and make a salad.

What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?

As a kid, pie, I was obsessed with fruit pies. As we had a lot of fruit growing, we’d make pies all the time. I got really into getting the pastry right and getting the fruit right. I’m really loving English fruit cake at the moment, I think it’s because of the season. It’s cold outside and the cake is warming. I’ve just been developing this recipe for my new column (for The Guardian) with dried figs and whiskey, it’s delish.

Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?

I love to cook with other good cooks, I can’t cook with people that don’t have the same level very well, it’s not fun. I prefer to cook with my fellow chefs, I love it.

Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?

I like a planned meal, but it will still have a simplicity to it. I like to be organized.

Which meal would you never cook again?

I had a really hard time making fried chicken a year ago. I couldn’t get the oil hot enough. I made a mistake of having a huge pot of oil because we had so many people, rather than just quickly frying it in less oil. And it was so frustrating, it tasted amazing but it was pale.

Thank you Claire!

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

 

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

 

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

 

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

 

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch & Paris on my mind

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

We are all one, we may all be different, unique individuals, but still, we are all one.

We were out at a concert and got home late on Friday night, we saw the news on TV and were shocked. Paris had been attacked, but not only this city, everybody who believes in freedom, tolerance and compassion was attacked that night. This wasn’t against a state or against a religious group, it was an attack against individual lives, to make us feel scared, to spread hatred and fear amongst each other, everywhere in the world. We felt shaken on Saturday, we were sad and confused, not knowing where all this would lead to. Why does humankind have to be like this, why can’t we learn from our history? We know all this violence won’t lead anywhere, it will only spread the seeds for even more pain and suffering, and if we continue following this sickening road, nothing will ever change.

Yesterday, we were invited to dinner, to my aunt and uncle’s traditional St. Martin’s celebration feast. We took our bikes and rode through the city, down the Unter den Linden boulevard until we got to the Brandenburg Gate at the Pariser Platz, lit up in blue, white and red, in the colours of le tricolore. We wanted to pass the French embassy which is right there but we couldn’t, we had to stop and get off our bikes, to take a minute for ourselves. Hundreds of candles, flowers and letters all over the pavement, people standing and sitting on the floor, in silence. We didn’t know each other but it’s easier to stand the pain when you can share it. We looked into each other’s eyes, coming from different countries, not sharing the same language, lives and beliefs, but this doesn’t matter, in this moment we all cried and were one.

Later on, when we sat at the dining table together with our family and friends after enjoying a wonderful meal cooked by my aunt Ursula and my uncle Uwe, I felt a little more peaceful again – and safe. We discussed and shared our opinions, some of them were close, others were further apart, but still, we sat at the table together, looked into each other’s eyes and used words to express our feelings, worries and beliefs. Eight individual people, with individual opinions, knowing that we can’t escape the fact that we are all different yet still one.

When we rode home, we stopped in front of the French embassy again and I read a handwritten note – Nous sommes unis. This gives me hope.

There was a lot of silence in the past couple days, we were speechless, no words to express what we felt but it wasn’t necessary either. My boyfriend and I felt the need to sit down together more often than usual, we drank tea and ate cookies. My ginger cookies were made for happier times, but still, they made us feel good, warm and cozy, exactly what we needed.

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

 

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

Makes about 20 cookies

For the cookie dough

plain flour 355g / 2 3/4 cups
baking soda 1 teaspoon
fine sea salt 1/2 teaspoon
cloves, ground in a mortar, 1 teaspoon
ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
allspice, ground in a mortar, 1/8 teaspoon
butter, soft, 130g / 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon
granulated sugar 175g / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
fresh ginger, grated, 1 1/2 tablespoons
cane syrup or molasses 80g / 4 tablespoons
honey 60g / 3 tablespoons
organic egg 1

For the oat crunch

rolled oats 90g / 1 cup
butter, soft, cut into small pieces, 60g / 4 tablespoons
granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon

For the cookie dough, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon, and all spice in a large bowl.

In a second large bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and ginger with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the syrup, honey, and egg and mix well. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and mix with the dough hooks of an electric mixer until just combined. Scrape the dough together, leave it in the bowl, and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (an hour would be even better).

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 355°F (preferably convection setting). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

For the oat crunch, mix the oats, butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and mix with the dough hooks of an electric mixer until crumbly.

Form a spoonful of the cookie dough into a 4-cm / 1 1/2-inch ball. Continue with the remaining dough and spread the balls on the lined baking sheets, leaving enough space, about 5-cm / 2-inch, in between them, they will rise. Lightly flatten the balls with the bottom of a small espresso cup (dip the bottom in water before you touch the dough) and scoop a generous amount of oat crunch on top (see the picture below). Bake in the oven for about 13-15 minutes, the tops of the cookies should be slightly soft when you touch them, don’t overcook them or they will get hard. Let them cool completely.

You can store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

 

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

 

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

 

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

 

gingercookiesoatcrunch12

 

gingercookiesoatcrunch11

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

There is a very popular Christmas cookie in Germany called Zimtstern, meaning cinnamon star. They are a tiny bit chewy inside, soft and juicy. The dough is made without flour and butter but with lots of ground almonds or hazelnuts and egg whites which gives it its typical texture. This sweet is a classic which you can find on every German Christmas cookie platter and I have faithfully baked them for years. It has always been one of the recipes that I look forward to with excitement, these cookies bring out the best of my beloved cinnamon!

As so often when I follow a tradition with such consistency, at one point I need a little change or at least a variation, which is the substitution of spices in this case. I took out the cinnamon and replaced it with lots of freshly grated ginger, orange zest and cloves. The result is an extremely aromatic cookie with the same texture as the Zimtstern, they are equally soft and chewy inside. I covered them in a thin layer of orange glaze to give them a glowing festive look. As I had already broken with the tradition I thought I might as well give them different shapes. When I took out my cookie cutters I went straight for the sausage dog, reindeer and squirrel apart from the classic trees and stars!

I wish you a happy Advent!

Meike xx

If you’re looking for some more baking inspiration for the next days, here are my Espresso Meringue Cookies with Cardamom Ganache, a Chocolate and Orange PanettoneVanilla KipferlChocolate and Apricot Jam Sandwich CookiesBittersweet Spice CookiesMaltese Lemon CookiesGerman Spitzbuben Cookies and Elisenlebkuchen with Bittersweet Chocolate.

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

 

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

For about 60 cookies you need

ground hazelnuts and/ or almonds 320g / 11.5 ounces
(I used 100g / 3.5 ounces hazelnuts and 220g / 8 ounces almonds)
organic egg whites 2
a pinch of salt
sieved icing sugar 250g / 9 ounces plus 100g / 3.5 ounces for the glaze
freshly grated ginger 20g / 3/4 ounce (about 3 teaspoons)
grated zest of 1 orange (about 2 tablespoons)
cloves, crushed in a mortar, 20 (about 1 teaspoon)
freshly squeezed orange juice, about 6 teaspoons, for the glaze
granulated sugar, to roll out the dough

Set the oven to 160°C / 320°F (fan-assisted oven) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the ground nuts with the ginger, zest and cloves. Spread and rub the ginger with your fingers into the nuts until well combined.

Whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff and mix in the icing sugar (gradually). Mix in the nuts and spice mixture with a wooden spoon until well combined. Scrape the dough onto cling film, form a ball and keep in the fridge for about 2 hours.

Roll out the dough between sugared cling film, it should be about 1/2cm / 1/4″ thick. Dip the cookie cutters in sugar and cut out cookies, spread them on a baking sheet with a little space in between them and bake for 11-12 minutes or until golden. They should still feel a bit soft. Let them cool for a few minutes before you put them on a wire rack.

For the glaze, mix 100g / 3.5 ounces of icing sugar with 5 teaspoons of orange juice, the mixture should be very thick and slightly runny. Add a few more drops of the juice if necessary, mix until smooth and brush the cookies with the glaze.

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

 

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

 

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

 

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

 

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

 

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

 

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

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