December 11, 2018

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Peanut Butter Blossoms are a Christmas cookie platter classic!  Peanut butter and chocolate is one of my favorite combinations, and I always enjoyed making these growing up.  (I feel these are a childhood baking staple for many people!) They don’t require much in terms of decoration, but they turn out looking great—and most importantly, they taste divine.

The Hershey kiss on top of the peanut butter cookie reminds me of a Christmas tree.  I roll the peanut butter cookie dough in sugar before baking because it gives an extra shimmer to the cookie.

I’ve tinkered around with a peanut butter blossom recipe for the last few years. I found that some recipes had too much flour, and others didn’t have enough peanut butter flavor for me.  In this version, I reduced the flour and added in some almond flour.  I find that using almond flour helps lighten pastry texture.  The almond flour helped boost the nut flavor, too.  The dark brown sugar adds a little more molasses taste, which goes well win the peanut butter.  This cookie had that nostalgic peanut butter cookie flavor that I was looking for.

I froze the Hershey Kisses before sticking them on the cookies.  After I removed the cookies from the oven, I placed them back into the oven for about a minute or two. By sticking the cookies briefly back into the oven after placing the Hershey Kiss on the cookies, the Hershey Kiss gets cemented onto the cookie.  You don’t need the Hershey Kisses falling off the cookies!

Do not use natural peanut butters for these cookies.  It has too much oil and will make the dough too runny.  I like Jif for baking cookies.

This dough also makes a ton of cookies, making it a perfect choice for a cookie exchange.

Peanut Butter Blossoms 
Yields 6 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups or 300 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup or 120 grams almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 bags Hershey Kisses, unwrapped
1/2 cup granulated sugar, for rolling the dough

Directions:
In a large bowl, add both flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter, vanilla, and both sugars (2 cups total).  With the paddle attachment, mix until combined and creamy for about five minutes.  Next, add the peanut butter.  Then, add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated.

Add half of the flour mixture, and mix until incorporated. Then, add the remaining half of  flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liner. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll the dough all in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until the outsides are set and the edges begin to crack. Remove from oven. Working quickly, press one Hershey Kiss into the center of each cookie. Return to oven and bake for another 2 minutes, until the cookies are lightly golden.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.  Repeat with remaining dough and Hershey Kisses.

Source: Adapted from Land of Lakes, Betty Crocker, and Hershey’s

December 10, 2018

Feuerzangenbowle


Feuerzangenbowle and Glühwein are German traditions that long have been a part of my family’s Christmas celebrations.  Glühwein is warmed mulled wine. Feuerzangbowle is an amped up version of glühwein, where a rum-soaked sugar cone is set on fire and dips into mulled wine.  
People are always drawn to sit around the Feuerzangenbowle because it is spectacular.  It brings people together to talk, laugh, and enjoy one another’s company.  That’s what this season is all about!
Feuerzangenbowle is prepared in a bowl suspended over a small burner.  The bowl is filled with dry red wine, mulling spices, orange quarters, and juice from a lemon.  A metal grate sits on top of the bowl to hold the sugar cone.  The sugar come is soaked with rum and then lit, which results in melting and caramelizing.  The burner keeps the wine warm.
The rum needs to be at least 151 proof to burn properly.  Make sure to use a dry red wine.  You can sometimes find Glühwein at wine stores during the Christmas season; the bottled Glühwein makes a great base for this, but I still like to add the other spices and ingredients to boost the flavor.   (Try to find the Nuremburg bottled one; there are many with German labels made in Italy, which are not as good.)
Nothing can compare to the mulling spices from Williams-Sonoma. They have such a wonderful aroma.  (For a non-alcholic drink, add a jug of apple cider to your crock pot with these mulled spices, and your home will smell like a cozy Christmas heaven!  Add mulling spices to a sachet or mulling space ball so that you do not need to use a strainer.)
I found the Feurzangenbowle online through a specialty German seller on Amazon.  It is made of a special glass.  If you don’t have the Feurzangenbowle bowl and heater, you could also use a big pot over the stove.  If you can’t find a grate and sugar cone, you will still have a delicious mulled wine without it.
I am happy that Feuezangenbowle is now part of my annual Christmas party.  I look forward to enjoying the festive magic of this special tradition.  Get [the sugar cone] lit, and get merry!
Feuerzangenbowle
Yields 8-10 servings

Ingredients:
2 bottles (750 ml) dry red wine
One large orange, quartered with peel 
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup dried mulled spices 
500 ml rum, at least 151 proof 
1 sugar cone  

Directions:
Pour the wine into the bowl. Add the orange peel, lemon juice, and the mulled spices.  Light the burner and place the bowl over the burner. Allow the mixture to heat up but do not bring to a boil.

Once the wine is warm, add the grate over the bowl and place the sugar cone on top.  Pour rum over the sugar cone and light it.  The melting sugar is dropped directly into the bowl.  Pour enough rum over the sugar cone so that it is all melted while burning, repeat if necessary.  As soon as the sugar is melted and burned, the Feurzangenbowle is ready to serve.

Source: Family Tradition!

December 9, 2018

Cinnamon Chocolate Fudge


Fudge is a Christmas season must!  If you are not a baker, give fudge making a try. It is easy and always a hit.  You could make up a variety of different fudges and put together tins for gift giving.  Check out my recipes for Grammy’s Christmas Fudge (my favorite) and peanut butter fudge.

This creamy fudge only has 7 ingredients, which are likely in your pantry.  The addition of cinnamon gives a nice spicy contrast to the richness of the chocolate. Eating cinnamon is supposed to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and dark chocolate had anti-oxidants, so this is basically health food.

Cinnamon Chocolate Fudge
Yields about 40 pieces (depending on size)

Ingredients:
1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1 lb. bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cacao)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 tbs. butter
1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:
Line a 8 x 8” baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium glass bowl or stainless steel bowl, add all ingredients.  Place the bowl over a pot of simmering hot water.  Mix until the ingredients all melt.

Pour the melted mixture into the lined pan and refrigerate overnight. Cut into pieces the next day.

Source: Giada Di Laurentiis

December 8, 2018

Stollenkonfekt (Bite Size Stollen)


Stollenkonfekt is the cookie version of stollen, and I think it is even more delicious than stollen!  

Stollen is a fruit bread with almonds, dried fruit, and often marzipan, though I think the marzipan makes it too sweet. The outside of the bread is coated in confectioner’s sugar.  These cookies bring in those same ingredients (minus the marzipan). Blanched chopped almonds, dried fruit, and classic stollen spices are mixed into a butter cookie dough. After baking, the stollen cookies are dipped in butter and then coated in confectioner’s sugar.

The spices make the cookies’ flavor more bold the next day.  This is a great cookie to go with afternoon tea. It will also be easier to plate on a cookie platter compared to a loaf of stollen.

To blanch whole almonds, place them in a small pot of boiling water.  Let them sit for about five minutes, and then remove them from the water.  The almond skin will be very loose and can be pushed off easily by your fingers.

I will have a recipe for stollen coming soon!

Stollenkonfekt (Bite Size Stollen)
Yields 36 cookies

Ingredients:
7 tablespoons/100g butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon/80g granulated sugar
1 cup/250g quark or Greek yogurt
Grated peel of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum
2 1/3 cups, scooped and leveled, plus 1 tablespoon/ 300g all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup/75g blanched whole almonds, chopped
1 cup/150g dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, etc.)

For the topping:
7 tablespoons/100g unsalted butter
13 tablespoons/100g confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons vanilla sugar

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and baking powder.  Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and cream together until fluffy. Add the quark, grated lemon peel, vanilla extract, and rum; beat until well combined.

Add to the quark mixture and beat together until just combined. Stir in the almonds and raisins.
    
Form the dough into 2-inch balls.  Place them on the prepared baking sheets, leaving 1 inch between them.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until the stollen bites are a pale golden brown.
   
While the stolen bites bakes, make the topping. Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Place the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla sugar in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

Let the finished bites cool about three minutes, so they aren’t too hot to touch.  Dip each bite into the melted butter, and then toss in the confectioners’ sugar mixture and place back on the baking sheet to set.  

They are best if allowed to rest for 3 to 4 days before serving. Just before serving, dust the bites again with a fresh layer of sifted confectioners’ sugar. 

Source: Luisa Weiss’ Classic German Baking
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