I’m a little late to the party with this one, but it’s OK if you show up late and bring cookies. We talked about tea last week on CBC, and its flavouring potential, especially when baking with it. One of my favourite combinations is Earl Grey, butter and sugar in a sandy-sweet shortbread, but I don’t like the little hard bits you wind up with when you stir dry tea leaves into baked goods, especially something like shortbread that doesn’t contain any liquid to plump it up. I happened to have just made a batch of crème brûlée, steeping the cream first with Earl Grey, and decided to use the exhausted tea leaves in the shortbread. Opening them up first not only helps them release more flavour, but softens them, eliminating those nasty bits. You can then blitz the soft leaves with the butter and sugar in the food processor, obliterating them further. This is not only a great way to flavour cookies and cakesContinue reading

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I made this last year (as you’ll see by my old kitchen table) and then forgot to post it until it was well past mincemeat season. And although I only have one mediocre photo I didn’t want to lose it altogether – it’s so delicious, and different from any other cookie or bar I’ve made. It’s more bar than pie, despite its wedge shape, and the rubble of butter, sugar, flour and almonds that make up the base and topping is the perfect vehicle for all kinds of preserves, lemon curd, fig jam – you name it. But I particularly like it as a means of getting mincemeat to my mouth without having to bother with tarts. And I imagine it’s not just me left with half a jar of mincemeat in my fridge this week.

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This is my idea of cookie decorating right now. When Meyer lemons are in, I can’t resist buying a bag. They’re much milder than regular lemons; a hybrid between a lemon and a mandarin orange. Delicious, right? A plain lemon would be fine too. I used the zest and the juice in the biscotti, and more juice in the drizzle, but melted white chocolate would be divine instead – the combination of lemon and chocolate seems to be a thing right now. It’s not too late to make a batch of something delicious to leave on the doorstep of someone you like.

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I know I’ve already shared these – kind of – but I think they’re worth delving into a little deeper. Because when you think of it, they really are the most perfect Christmas cookie. And they require no icing or sprinkles – all the decorating is on the inside. My friend (ironically, a decorator) Karl came up with the idea to wrap shortbread dough around Turtles and bake them – it was his (unintentional) gift to me; a perfect Christmas package. I’ve since schemed what else could be wrapped in shortbread dough and baked – anything you might find in your stocking, really. But wrapping something else means you’re not wrapping Turtles, which would be a shame. They truly are little bundles of comfort and joy. And who doesn’t love a surprise inside?

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‘Tis the season for chewy, gingery molasses cookies – and although I’ve had my own formula I’ve made for years, I couldn’t resist trying Kamran‘s recipe from his gorgeous brand new book, Hand Made Baking. They’re big (he uses lots of dough) and sparkly (on account of the turbinado sugar) and flat and chewy, which is, unlike chocolate chip cookies, how I like them. Kam leaves his dough overnight to allow the flavours to develop – I generally don’t have the patience for this, but it works with soups and stews and such, so why not cookies? And it is somehow satisfying to have a bowl of cookie dough in the fridge, ready for baking.

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Tonight, I bring you a special PSA in the form of Nutella brownies. I’ll be brief; there’s no need for superfluous words and platitudes when they so clearly speak for themselves. Everyone’s busy. (Can you tell I was painting today?) But we still need to bake, right? It’s an hour until December… it’s officially baking season, whether I have a hood fan and backsplash or not. (Not.) When it’s thirty below outside, the best way to warm the house is by oven – I’ve discovered if you put it on your to-do list, it feels like you’re accomplishing something. I’ve seen these drifting around the internet: 3 ingredients = Nutella brownies. All good. They’re as easy as they say – under 10 minutes of actual stirring, and one bowl to wash, which is a good thing when you need something delicious but don’t have a day to dedicate to baking.

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Apologies again for the sudden leap into the realm of Christmas cookies – but you’ll understand my premature sharing of gingerbread cutouts when I tell you I spent the afternoon decorating a hundred or so of them with Elizabeth Baird. (They were all baked from scratch this afternoon to decorate a tree that’s being auctioned off for the Stollery Children’s Hospital.) The pastry team at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge made an enormous bowl of royal icing, which we scooped into small parchment decorating bags to pipe onto cookies shaped like mittens. But my favourites were the ones we spread with icing on the cuff, then immediately sprinkled with coarse coloured sugar, making it look like a band of sweet faux fur.

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I promise not to make a habit of quick posts relying on subpar iPhone photos, but I’m up in Jasper at Christmas in November for 10 days, which is always a whirlwind of food/friends/hiking trails/sessions, and if I don’t share little bits here and there it might wind up being a long radio silence. It’s like Christmas camp in a time warp. I know it still sounds too early to start talking Christmas cookies, but it’s not too early to plant ideas… and these aren’t really Christmas cookies per se, although they are the perfect sort of cookie to become holiday tradition. It’s the kind of cookie I associate with the Canadian Living magazines of my childhood, and especially the special holiday cookie issue. And so I was suitably giddy to be able to join Elizabeth Baird and Emily Richards in a little early holiday cookie baking this afternoon.

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