holiday cookie box 2019

winter holiday cookie boxwinter holiday cookie boxwinter holiday cookie box

At home the winter holidays are persistently associated with cookies of some sort of another – or at the very least, lemon bars – and starting a couple years ago, a whole mass of cookies in the form of a cookie box.

It’s a lot of cookies of course – previously I brought the box to my old lab or to a party, but this year the box made an appearance at a family dinner after which I divvied up the remainder into ten ribbon-tied bags of cookies as Christmas gifts for friends. Looking at the empty cookie box afterwards, I had a swell of satisfaction like the sort after putting away tree ornaments and having them all fit together into the right number of boxes. I purposefully choose dry and crumbly cookies for the box, types which which travel well and keep for a few days. There’s more premeditated intention to share than my usual bake-first-figure-out-who-to-dump-this-on-later, and I have to say, it’s satisfying. (Perhaps there was also some relief at seeing a rather stressful quantity of cookies have clear purpose.)

These photos are hectic, because for me the holidays are hectic, and this cookie box is meant to be about the cookies and also that hectic time period of cooking and baking and gathering and making things for others. Or so I say. Maybe I was just too excited by the abundance of vaguely relevant props that come out of storage during the holidays.

winter holiday cookie box

Planning the box always results in a haphazard brainstorming list far too long to be practical. As I slowly pared it down to a more manageable list, I focused on trying to balance an assortment of shapes and colours – and I also seemed to have ended up with a variety of textures. Some cookies were baked until dry and biscotti-like (biscotti regina, of course, and the intorchiate). Some were soft and cakier (danish vienna fingers and chestnut snowballs). The leckerli were densely chewy while the basler brunsli had a strong snap. The remainder were varying degrees of classic butter cookie: tender-crumbed and crisp.

I’ve had the idea of a golden milk cookie floating around in my head for a while. They ended up being one of my favourites with a distinctive flavour. I pumped up a sugar cookie dough with toasted milk powder and mixed half the dough with warming spices. The two doughs were then kneaded together for a gentle marbled effect that reminds me of milk swirling into tea (it might be fun to try a marbled coffee cookie next!).

I’ve  finally included my favourite speculoos cookies in a blog post. They’re my go-to for gifts, a thin and crisp spiced shortbread made with whole wheat flour and just the right amount of salt. I often bake them a bit darker than I’ve done here for additional flavour. The other flat roll out cookie, the basler brunsli or Swiss chocolate gingerbread stars, are made with ground almonds and egg whites – it made them gluten free and gave them a snappy texture.

The biscotti regina are baked until airily puffed, dry and aromatic with a flavour primarily from the coating of toasted sesame seeds. The vanilla rooibos shortbread are simple, but does as shortbread does, as a buttery base for one of my favourite flavours – fruity rooibos, smoothed out with vanilla. The houjicha chocolate sandwich cookies came together earth toned and just as earthily and mellow-flavoured – made with buckwheat flour and filled with a mixture of chestnut cream and dark chocolate.

I have a soft spot for snowball cookies of all sorts – in particular it’s the way that the powdered sugar condenses into a coating. This year I made a chestnut rum variant and a matcha almond version. The chestnut rum cookies have a soft cakiness to them and mellow chestnut flavour; the matcha almond ones are more on the tender meltaway side. In both cases I love how, as the cookies sit, the colour of the dough gradually peeks through the sugar coating.

The Danish vienna fingers are a speedy alternative to other jam cookies such as thumbprints and linzers.  Rolled into a long log and then sliced on a bias, they were the quickest bake in the box (which I definitely appreciated at the time!). Texturally, I found them a bit soft and cakey – I prefer linzer cookies – but still enjoyed them. I read that they’re usually glazed, but I opted to leave it plain as the jam is sweet enough on its own.

I mention the intorchiate near the end as they were the cookie I struggled with the most – I found the dough rather tense and difficult to roll out. As a result, I recommend this recipe with reservations. They did come together eventually though – these ones are flavoured with rosemary and macadamia nuts, flavours which feel quite festive to me as my dad would always buy himself a jar for Christmas. Typically intorchiate have whole almonds pressed into them, and properly made, they’re so stunning!

Finally, leckerli are the bar-like Swiss spice biscuits my sister contributed. They’re densely packed with almonds and candied peel, and held together by honey and sugar which gives them a strong chew. Think half fruitcake, half hard taffy. They were definitely one of the all-round favourites.

winter holiday cookie boxwinter holiday cookie boxwinter holiday cookie box

As much as I enjoy holiday excess, it can also come with an excess of waste. I describe using a considerable amount of parchment paper in these recipes – it’s essential for rolling out the dough while still soft and then transferring it to the fridge to cool, and also helps speed up clean up as well. However, unless it’s reused it can add up. Luckily, cookies usually come off the parchment paper cleanly so it’s pretty easy to reuse! (Of course if there are any allergy concerns, I would avoid reusing parchment paper between batches.)

When I use parchment for baking cookies, I begin by rolling out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and then place it the fridge to chill (or even better, outside, when it’s wintertime). Once it’s chilled, I peel off the top sheet of parchment paper and set it on a baking tray so when I cut out cookies, they can be placed on that sheet of paper. If I have scraps that I need to re-roll I fold the remaining parchment paper in half, sandwiching the scraps between the parchment layers and roll them out that way. Re-chill the scraps, cut out more cookies and repeat as many times as necessary. All these cookies come off the parchment paper quite cleanly, so after I’m done baking the cookies on the parchment, I brush any leftover crumbs into the sink and then we’re all ready to use the paper again for another batch. The exceptions would be the more colourful cookies such as the basler brunsli, turmeric and matcha cookies which can all leave a bit of residue so those may be best baked as later batches. With enough bakes the parchment paper can become brittle and not as good for rolling out cookies anymore, so each sheet only last for so many rounds – at that point, the parchment paper can be re-used for baking only or it can be composted.

Happy cookie baking!

winter holiday cookie box

marbled golden milk cookies – basler brunsli – houjicha sandwich cookies – matcha almond cookies – chestnut snowballs – biscotti reginaspeculoosintorchiate – vanilla rooibos shortbread – danish vienna fingers – leckerli

recipes are below

marbled golden milk cookies

marbled golden milk cookies

Makes 22 5-cm diametre cookies. Adapted from Alton Brown’s sugar cookies. These cookies are wonderfully spiced with enough sugar and caramel-tasting toasted milk powder to make them definitely dessert and not a cracker. The idea of toasting milk powder comes from Milk and Cardamom’s caramelized white chocolate cardamom cookies.

toasted milk powder

3 tbsp powdered milk

sugar cookie dough

90g flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp kosher salt

58g soft butter (half a stick)

30g granulated sugar

11g egg

5g (1 tsp) milk

spices

1 tsp ground turmeric

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground ginger

4 grinds of black pepper

Begin by toasting the milk powder. Spread out into a thin even layer on parchment and bake at 350F for about 5-10 minutes or until golden, stirring every few minutes. Let cool.

For the sugar cookie dough, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light with a wooden spoon. Add the egg, beat until combined. Mix in the toasted milk powder and milk. Lastly, add the flour and mix until just combined.

Split the dough in half. To one half add the spices (the turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper) and mix until combined. Then split each half of the dough into three pieces. Mash all the pieces together in a lump and then knead only three to five times so that the dough is a marbled mix of yellow and white, but not homogeneously mixed.

Roll out the dough to 1/8″ thick between two sheets of parchment paper. Chill completely until firm, about half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Cut out 5-cm circles using a cutter – I ended up with 22 after rerolling the scraps twice. Place on a parchment lined baking tray and bake around 15 minutes or until just firm enough for you to lift a cookie from the parchment to see that the bottom is dry.

 

basler brunsli

basler brunsli

Makes 45 4.5cm diametre stars. From Saveur, with a bit of reduction in the sugar. These cookies have sold me on the combination of spices and chocolate! When first baked these cookies have a bit of a chew which then transitions to a snap. 

112g almond meal

80g granulated sugar

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

84g finely chopped very dark chocolate

1 egg white

Grind almonds, sugar and spices together briefly in a food processor, then add the chocolate and pulse until finely ground. Add the egg white and process until a dough is formed.

Sprinkle a sheet of parchment paper with a bit of sugar, then scrape the dough out onto the parchment. Top with a second sheet of parchment paper and roll the dough out to 1/8”. Cut out shapes with a star cutter and transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment paper – the dough is soft and sticky which makes this a bit challenging. I found it easiest to do by dislodging the bottom of the dough with a small offset spatula and using that to lift the cookies onto the parchment-lined tray. If dough starts to build up on the spatula, the cookies will stick and los their form, so I found it helpful to clean the spatula a couple times throughout the process.

Sprinkle the cookies with granulated sugar. Let the cookies dry for 3 hours before baking.

Bake at 300F for 12-15 min or until lightly puffed, dry, and they lift away from the parchment paper below.

 

houjicha sandwich cookies

houjicha chocolate chestnut sandwich cookies

Makes about 19 1″ diametre sandwiches. Cookie dough adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Do Anything Cookie dough from Dorie’s Cookies. It’s a bit hard to describe how these cookies taste, but they remind me a bit of these black sesame kinako cookies in how all the flavours together produce a deep earthiness, with even the chocolate not taking over.

houjicha buckwheat cookies

57g soft butter (half a stick)

15g sugar

1/8 tsp kosher salt

8g egg

50g all purpose flour

17g buckwheat flour

2 tsp finely ground houjicha

garnish

dark chocolate, melted

filling

40g creme de marron

5g heavy cream

20g dark chocolate, finely chopped

Cream butter with sugar and salt, followed by the egg and then the flours and houjicha. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until 1/8” thick. Chill completely.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut 1” circles from the dough (I used the base of piping tip), reroll the scraps and cut out more.

Bake for 10 min or until set and barely beginning to brown around edges. Let cool completely.

Place half of the cookies right side up (these will be the top half of the sandwich), and the other half upside down (these will be the bottom half of the sandwich). For garnish, transfer the melted dark chocolate into a small paper cone with a very small opening and drizzle the right-side up cookies with melted dark chocolate. Let set.

To make the filling, whisk the cream with the creme de marron and heat the mixture in the microwave until warm, removing and stirring occasionally. In another small heatproof dish, melted the 20g finely chopped dark chocolate. Add a spoonful of the creme de marron mixture to the chocolate and whisk in. Add another good dollop of the creme de marron mixture and repeat a few times until all the filling ingredients are incorporated together. The chocolate may begin to seize, but everything will be smoothed out at the end. Let the mixture cool a bit until it is closer to room temperature.

Transfer the filling mixture to a piping bag fitted with a round tip and pipe dollops of filling on upside down cookies. Top each upside down cookie with one of the chocolate-drizzled right side up cookies to complete the sandwiches. Store these cookies chilled.

 

matcha almond cookies

matcha almond cookies

Makes 24 3.5cm diameter cookies. You can snowball them or not depending on your preference (i.e. roll them in icing sugar or not). Adapted from the almond crescent cookies from An Italian in my Kitchen. They have a strong matcha taste and a tender crumb.

56g soft butter (half a stick)

25g granulated sugar

24g (1/4 cup) ground almonds

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp matcha

75g all-purpose flour

for snowball cookies

icing sugar

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the almonds, salt and matcha. Lastly add the flour.

Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper to 1/4″ thick. Chill completely.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut out 3.5cm rounds (I used the base of a large piping tip) and place on a parchment lined tray.

Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes or until just beginning to turn golden around the edges. For snowball cookies, roll the cookies in icing sugar as soon as they’ve cooled just enough that you can touch them. Set on a wire rack to finish cooling and roll in a second coating of icing sugar once the cookies have completely cooled. Alternatively, they do look quite stunning on their own.

 

chestnut snowball cookies

chestnut rum snowball cookies

Makes 20 small cookies. Adapted from Food52 pecan snowballs. Beware that these cookies have the shortest life – as they dry out, the coarsely ground chestnut chunks harden. Store on their own in an airtight container and eat within a few days of making. I haven’t tried this, but if you’d like them to last longer, you could also try substituting all chestnut flour.

60g foil-packed cooked chestnuts

56g soft butter (half a stick)

20g chestnut flour

20g brown sugar

1 tbsp dark rum

¼ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp ground cardamom

1/8 tsp grated nutmeg

62g whole wheat flour

Place the chestnuts in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground.

In a bowl, cream the butter with the chestnut flour and sugar. Beat in the rum, salt and spices. Add the ground chestnuts and lastly mix in the flour. Chill the dough.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Roll the dough into small balls about 10-12g each. Bake at 350F for around 12-15 min or until firm and lightly browned on the bottom.

Roll the cookies in icing sugar as soon as they’ve cooled just enough that you can touch them. Set on a wire rack to finish cooling and roll in a second coating of icing sugar once the cookies have completely cooled.

 

biscotti regina

biscotti regina

Makes 30 small cookies. Adapted from PBS and Marisa’s Italian Kitchen. Add more sugar if desired – I made mine barely sweetened, which I find appealing in a nutty way. The toasted sesame seeds on the outside are the highlight.

135g flour

2 tbsp sugar

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp kosher salt

grated zest of 1 mandarin orange

56g (half a stick) cold butter cut into small chunks

1 egg

½ tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp fior di Sicilia

to garnish

half an egg, beaten

untoasted white sesame seeds (have a cup or so on hand just in case)

Preheat the oven to 325F.

In the bowl of a food processor combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks powdery. Add the egg, vanilla extract and fior di Sicilia, pulsing until a ball of dough is formed.

Divide dough into thirds. Roll each piece into a log 15” long and cut into ten 1.5” lengths.

Place the beaten egg in a shallow dish. Place some sesame seeds in another shallow dish. Take a cookie and roll in the egg wash, using a fork to turn the cookie over. Scoop up the cookie with the eggwash fork and transfer it, being sure to drain any extra eggwash off first to the dish of sesame seeds. Use a second fork to turn the cookie over in the sesame seeds and then transfer the cookie to a parchment-lined baking tray. Repeat until all cookies are coated.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the sesame seeds are toasted and the cookies are turning golden.

 

speculoos cookies

my favourite speculoos

Makes up to 30 6-cm diametre cookies if you re-roll your scraps multiple times. Adapted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel. Their recipe uses only a bit of cinnamon – over the years I’ve added more spices, used all whole wheat flour, slightly adjusted the butter/flour ratio, and reduced the sugar. These are not only my favourite speculoos, but one of my favourite cookies in general – I’m always struck by how these have just the right amount of salt.

158g whole wheat flour

scant 1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1/4 tsp ground ginger

pinch ground cloves

115g soft butter (half a stick)

46g brown sugar

10g granulated sugar

6g honey

Whisk together flour, spices, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, cream the butter with the sugars and honey. Add the dry ingredients in two addition, mixing in each until just combined. Light knead dough a couple times to bring it together, then roll out between two sheets of parchment paper until a bit under 1/8″ thick. Chill completely.

Preheat oven to 325F.

Cut out desired shapes (I used a 6-cm fluted tart tin). Bake 13-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

 

intorchiate

rosemary and macadamia intorchiate

Makes 7 large cookies. Adapted from Ciao Chow Linda – I recommend with reservations as I had difficulty working with the dough, and I wonder whether I had the desired consistency. They bake up dry and crispy like biscotti 

167g flour, half whole-wheat flour and half all purpose

30g granulated sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 packed tsp finely minced rosemary

19g soft butter

20g olive oil

3 tbsp marsala wine

2-4 tbsp water, as needed

garnish

granulated sugar

macadamia nut halves

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, rosemary and salt in food processor. Add the butter, oil, marsala and water and process until it forms a dough that holds together when you pinch it between your fingers. Chill.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Divide dough into about seven 40g pieces. Roll each into a 10” long rope about ½” thick. I had trouble getting the dough to roll out evenly into ropes – some things that helped me a bit was giving the dough a bit of a knead and then a rest before rolling it out and also rolling out the dough with lightly dampened hands.

Fold the ropes of dough in half and twist the ends twice and press the ends together. Roll the twist in sugar, then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Press half a macadamia nut into each space.

Bake for around 30min or until light golden.

 

vanilla rooibus cookies

vanilla rooibos shortbread

Makes 20 small triangular cookies. I followed the classic ratio of 3 flour to 2 butter to 1 sugar for these. I love the combination of vanilla and rooibos, and shortbread is a convenient palate for these flavours. 

56g soft butter

20g granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp finely ground rooibos tea

1/8 tsp kosher salt

84g whole wheat flour

Cream the butter with the sugar, vanilla, salt and rooibos. Add the flour and mix until a cohesive dough is formed. Scrape out onto a sheet of parchment paper, place another sheet on top, and roll out into a rectangle around 1/4″ thick. Chill completely.

Preheat oven to 325F.

Trim the edges of the dough to form a sharp rectangle. Slice into smaller rectangles and then cut each rectangle in half on the diagonal to form triangles – or whatever other shape you prefer. Spread apart on the parchment, slide onto a baking tray and bake for around 15 minutes or until firm and barely beginning to turn golden on the edges.

 

ligonberry cookies

cloudberry weinerstanger (danish vienna finger/jam slice)

Makes around 24 cookies. Adapted from Beatrice Ojakangas’s The Great Scandinavian Baking Book. These are the fastest bake! Texturally, they are a bit soft and cakey as far as cookies go – if you’d like a bit more work and a less cakey cookie, try these linzers

76g soft butter

25g granulated sugar

1/8 tsp kosher salt

25g egg

zest of half a lemon

1/2 tsp baking powder

20g dark rye flour

73g all purpose flour

3 tbsp cloudberry jam (I strained mine to remove the seeds)

Cream the butter with the sugar, lemon zest and salt. For one bowl-baking ease, mix in the baking powder, then add the flours and mix until fully combined. Chill the dough for half an hour or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough in half. Roll each half out into a 12″ log and lay on a parchment-lined baking tray. Use the ulnar aspect of your hand and press your pinky into the middle of the log to create a deep groove down the centre of the log. The cookies will rise in the oven, so it should be fairly deep.

Bake the logs for 10 minutes, then take out from the oven and fill the groove with cloudberry jam. If the groove has disappeared because the cookies rose, use a chopstick or other long utensil to recreate the groove.

Bake for another ten minutes or until golden. Let cool, the slice on a bias into cookies about 1″ wide.

 

leckerli

leckerli

My sister’s contribution to the box – this one is a tough dough to work with, but it bakes up delightfully chewy. It’s quite moist so don’t store it alongside the other cookies, but store it separately in an airtight container. Makes many. From Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan.

160mL honey

100g sugar

120g candied orange peel

zest of 1 lemon

287g all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

100g sliced almonds

2 tbsp kirsch

glaze

60g icing sugar

1 1/2 tbsp water

1 tbsp kirsch

Cook honey and sugar together in a saucepan until it comes to the boil and the sugar just dissolves. Then remove from the heat, transfer to a large bowl and stir in the peel and zest. Allow the mixture to cool until lukewarm (around half an hour).

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in the almonds and kirsch, then gradually mix in the dry ingredients.

Dust a sheet of parchment paper with flour and turn out the dough onto the sheet. Dust with more flour and cover with a second sheet of parchment paper. Roll out into a rectangle until the dough is less than 1/2″ thick. Slide onto a baking tray and allow the dough to rest – either one day on the counter or two days in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Peel the top sheet of parchment from the dough and bake for 13-15 minutes or until golden. Let cool.

Make the glaze by whisking together the icing sugar, water and kirsch. Brush over the top of the leckerli. Slice into small pieces.

winter holiday cookie box

4 thoughts on “holiday cookie box 2019

    1. Aww thank you Mollie! Once all the cookies are made it is quite fun to find a way to fit them all together. I brought some for gifts back on the plane with me and they survived quite well with kleenex packed around the edges 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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