Springerle Cookies

I dug a little deeper in my mother’s recipe mayhem and much to my surprise, I found my mother’s springerle recipe. If you are not familiar, don’t worry, you are not alone. Pre-internet, I searched forever to find a recipe for these little, hard anise gems. I think I have mentioned before that my hometown had a small but fierce German contingent, my grandfather and hence my mother being part of it. These cookies were a remnant of that somewhat faded tradition. In fact, my memory of sringerles is pretty dim and it was not until well into my 30s that I have any memory of these funny little cookies.

When I came across my mom’s I was surprised by how simple her’s was. I was also surprised that there was no fat, no butter or crisco or anything. Subsequently, I did find others on the internet that left out the fat as well. I think you could add a little butter and not hurt anything, but here is my mother’s recipe as is. All I have done is organize it in my format and typed it so you can read it. There are very few people on the planet that can read my mother’s scrawl.

Ingredients

  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 2 1/4 Cups Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Anise Flavoring or Oil

Tools

  • Mixing Bowl
  • Flat Space or Board for Rolling
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Rolling Pin
  • Springerle Rolling Pin or Forms (optional)
  • Spatula
  • Paring Knife
  1. Stir together the eggs, sugar and flour.
  2. Add the anise flavoring.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough until about 1/8 inch thick.
  4. Cut with springerle rolling pin, cookie cutters or just cut into rectangles aprox. 1″ x 1 1/2″. The tradition is to have the little designs specific to these cookies but the rolling pins are hard to find and not so easy to use. If you enjoy the tradition then by all means, but I usually cut them into little rectangles and just enjoy the taste tradition.
  5. Leave them on the cutting board at room temperature for at least 10 hours.
  6. Pre heat oven to 325.
  7. On a lightly buttered cookie sheet, bake cookies for 12-15 minutes.
  8. They will keep in a tightly sealed container for a long time. Part of the tradition is to age them until they are really hard. I could never wait.
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Red Velvet Cake

Tonight is Christmas Eve for most of us. My friends in the UK and Europe are long since tucked in and my Chinese and Australian friends are already nursing hangovers or opening presents or both. Most of us are extremely fortunate to have good health, make a good living and have interesting and successful lives filled with lots of friends and family. This is the season of giving. Please give what you can to those not as lucky and fortunate as you. Be careful, be thankful and be gracious. From my warm hearth to yours, Merry Christmas!

I know, I know another sweet thing. It is Christmas after all and this is the perfect Christmas cake. There are many variations of this cake floating around. What makes this one special is the icing and my lovely wife makes it so well.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 1 1/2 Cups Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1 1/2 Cups Butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 Cup Buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 Large Eggs, room temperature
  • 4 Teaspoons Red Food Coloring
  • 1 Teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

For Icing

  • 16 Ounces Sour Cream
  • 1 1/2 Cups Shredded Coconut
  • 1 Cup Sugar

Tools

  • 2 Large Mixing Bowls
  • Fine Sifter
  • Stand Mixer or Hand Mixer
  • 3 Cake Pans, buttered
  • Whisk
  • Small Mixing Bowl
  • Wire Racks
  1. Pre heat the oven to 350.
  2. Butter and lightly flour the cake pans.
  3. Sift the flour, sugar, soda, salt and cocoa into a mixing bowl.
  4. In the other large mixing bowl whisk the melted butter, eggs, buttermilk food coloring, vinegar and vanilla.
  5. In or with a mixer, combine the dry and wet ingredients just until a batter is formed.
  6. Pour batter into the three cake pans, divided evenly.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, then switch positions and bake for another 15 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out dry.
  8. While baking, combine the sour cream, coconut and sugar in the small mixing bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
  9. Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool on wire racks.
  10. Stack the cakes on a cake stand and ice. We like ours iced on the top and sides.
  11. Refrigerate and keep refrigerated until gone (this won’t last long). If you have the option, it is better the next day.

Monkey Bread

Our kids might flip out if there weren’t presents under the tree, although not necessarily. They might be upset if we did not open the “surprise” gift of pajamas on Christmas eve, although maybe not. If there were not Christmas dinner or burritos on Christmas Eve they might not notice. But, if the steaming, gooey sweet monkey bread was not ready first thing on Christmas morning…I shutter to think.

If you haven’t had this tradition in your family, now is a good time to start. There is not much to it and grown ups will probably enjoy only a bite or two, but the kids will love it. There is something about tearing it apart that appeals to the under 10 (or 20 or 30) set.

Ingredients

  • 24 Frozen, Uncooked Dinner Rolls or Regular Rolled Biscuits
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Small Butterscotch (regular) Pudding Mix
  • 1 Large Vanilla Pudding Mix
  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Chopped Pecans (or any other nut) (optional)

Tools

  • Mixing Bowl
  • Sauce Pan
  • Bundt or Tube Pan (non stick is always good)
  1. Butter the pan.
  2. Mix all of the dry ingredients together.
  3. Place the nuts evenly on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Cover with 1/2 cup of the sugar mixture.
  5. Melt the butter.
  6. Dip each roll in the butter then roll them in the remaining sugar mixture.
  7. Arrange in the pan to complete a circle.
  8. Pour any remaining sugar mixture into pan.
  9. Cover with dish towel and let rise to double.
  10. Pre heat oven to 350.
  11. When doubled, but not overflowing bake for 25-30 minutes until browned.
  12. Flip over onto plate and serve warm.

My Mom’s Ginger Cookies

My brother and sister did a really amazingly sweet thing for me. I called both of them last week and asked if they knew the recipe for our mom’s ginger cookies. I had tried to reconstruct them and even with the help of the internet I was at a loss. Neither knew the answer but my brother said that he would have a look through my mom’s stuff.

Today, a very heavy box arrived at my door. I thought my brother had sent their annual Christmas box of goodies, although it was quite weighty for a tin of peanut brittle and a gift or two. When I opened it there was a card on top, another mystery. It turns out that my brother and sister boxed up all of my mother’s cookbooks and hand written recipes and sent them to me. I was floored and quite touched. I sat all afternoon and went through all of the books since each contained several clippings and hand written recipes. On one of the last pages of the last book, appropriately titled “The Family Tree Cookbook” I hit pay dirt. The evasive Ginger Cookies recipe in all of it’s glory and in my mother’s practically illegible scrawl. Fortunately, I speak scrawl. Here it is. The white icing recipe is still missing, but there are plenty to choose from on the internet. Anything with butter, powdered sugar and a dash of milk will do.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 Cup Shortening (crisco of course)
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Small Egg
  • 1/2 Cup Molasses
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Cup Hot Water
  • 2 Cups Flour, sifted
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cloves
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon

Tools

  • 2 Mixing Bowls
  • Spoon
  • Baking Sheet
  • Plastic Wrap
  1. Pre heat oven to 375.
  2. Sift together flour and spices in one bowl and stir together.
  3. Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water.
  4. Combine the egg, shortening, molasses and baking soda mixture.
  5. Stir in flour mixture until smooth.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  7. Butter a cookie sheet.
  8. Drip teaspoon size dollops evenly spaced on the sheet.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes until set. Do not burn.
  10. Repeat until done.
  11. Ice.

Makes about 2 dozen.

Nancy’s Granola

Our good friend Nancy has been telling me about this recipe all year so finally here it is in all of it’s healthy glory. I thought the cranberries added a little Christmas color to a yummy bowl of breakfast goodness.

Ingredients

  • 5 Cups Rolled Oats
  • 1/2 Cup Canola Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Unsweetened Coconut
  • 1/2 Cup Maple Agave Syrup
  • 2 Teaspoons Pura Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cardamon
  • 1 Cup Slivered Almonds
  • 1 Cup Chopped Walnuts
  • 1 Cup Dried Cranberries (or raisins or other dried fruit of your choosing)

Tools

  • Large Ovenproof Dish
  • Mixing Bowl
  1. Pre heat oven to 300.
  2. Mix together the oats, nuts, coconut, salt and spices.
  3. Add the syrup, oil and vanilla. Combine well. You can use straight maple syrup or a combo of syrup and brown sugar. The agave is very sweet and a lot less expensive than this year’s maple syrup which has shot up in price.
  4. Spread the mixture into a large, ovenproof container or a couple of cookie sheets.
  5. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
  6. Remove and let cool.
  7. Stir in dried fruit.

Store in an air tight container and enjoy with milk or yogurt or just by the handful like I do. Make sure that you don’t leave a trail around your house as you scoop up handfuls. That job is reserved for trail mix.

Chocolate Pepper Christmas Cookies

Tis the season. Here is the first of the cookies and other Christmas goodies.

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups Flour
  • 1 1/2 Cups Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Coarse Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Pepper
  • 2 Tablespoon plus 2 Teaspoons Instant Espresso Coffee
  • 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 Cup Butter, softened
  • 2 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Large Egg
  • 3 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Teaspoon Cardamon
  • 1/2 Ground Cloves

Tools

  • Rolling Pin
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Stand Mixer
  • Christmas Cookie Cutters
  1. Stir together flour, cocoa, salt, pepper, cinnamon, cardamon, cloves and espresso into a bowl.
  2. Mix together the butter and sugar on medium in the mixer until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Turn to low and add the eggs and vanilla.
  4. Add the dry mixture and mix until throughly combined.
  5. Remove dough and form into three equal balls.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  7. Remove one of the balls from the refrigerator.
  8. Pre heat the oven to 350.
  9. Flour a smooth surface and roll out the ball with a floured rolling pin to about 1/4 inch thick.
  10. Cut into cookie patterns and place on a buttered cookie sheet.
  11. Cook for about 8 or 9 minutes.
  12. Remove the next ball and repeat until all of the cookies are cooked.

If you would like, you can decorate the cookies with piped icing or powdered sugar. We like them just the way they are.

Pecan Pie

I realize that I may be doing the Thanksgiving meal backwards. I get the concept naturally. My mother always said that she would prefer to start with dessert. So this is for you mom.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Basic Pie Crust (See Earlier Recipe)
  • 1 1/2-2 Cups Whole Pecans
  • 1 Stick Butter (8 Tablespoons), melted
  • 4 Eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cut Brown Sugar
  • 4 Teaspoons Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • 2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder

Tools

  • 2 Mixing Bowls
  • 1 9″ Pie Pan
  • 1 Cookie Sheet
  1. Make the crust and either make two pies, reserve the other 1/2 for later or cut the recipe in half. This pie only needs a bottom.
  2. Roll out the dough and line the bottom of a buttered pie pan.
  3. Pre heat oven to 325.
  4. Mix the wet ingredients together in one bowl, including a little less than 1/2 of the butter.
  5. Mix the dry ingredients together.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Do not overmix.
  7. Pour mixture into pie shell.
  8. Arrange pecans on top. If you can be bothered, it’s nice to arrange in a fan pattern. My kids eat this before noticing so I usually don’t bother.
  9. Pour the remaining melted butter evenly over the pecans.
  10. Place the pan on a cookie sheet in the middle of the oven.
  11. Cook for 60 minutes or so and then check on it. If the crust is starting to get overly brown, cover it with a few strips of aluminum foil. This will depend on the consistency of your oven. It doesn’t always happen.
  12. Cook for at least another ten minutes. You do not want to overcook your pie. It wants to still be a little jiggly when you move it, the consistency of jello.
  13. Remove and let cool.

Serve with Grand Marnier infused whipped cream from yesterday.