cookie box 2021

cookie box 2021

I was hoping that this holiday would be a bit of a return-to-normal compared to last year, though it’s ended up being another quiet holiday season and only the most minimal of gathering. Nevertheless, there are still way too many cookies of course…

(Aside from the people, food is the second best part of the holidays.)

cookie box 2021
cookie box 2021

This year I’ve made a mostly nut-free cookie lineup (there is one glaring exception – the obviously very almondy bethmannchen) to accommodate for allergies at my lab, the main cookie recipients for this year. I started off with a batch of omnipresent speculoos – a buttery spiced cookie – the one cookie I am certain to make annually. The coffee cardamom stars, drizzled with dark chocolate, were inspired by a Dorie Greenspan recipe where she includes coffee grinds in the cookie; it gives them a slightly crunchy texture! I ended up using a mixture of both instant and ground coffee in these as I found it had better flavour than coffee grinds alone (I drink cheap pre-ground coffee so maybe that’s why…), and I love how strongly these cookies smell of both coffee and spice. The matcha wreath cookies were mostly included for cuteness and festive aesthetics – they are based on a recipe from Cho’s daily cook. The cookies are a bit of a pain to pipe, but they turn out wonderfully tender and not too sweet so that the white chocolate doesn’t overwhelm.

For a shortbread option, I made a basic shortbread with milk powder that I dry toasted in a pan – it’s an ingredient I had played with a bit previously, but here I let it star alone in a cookie where it tastes like a cross between milk powder and caramel. I also always like including a snowball cookie of some sort, so for a nut-free alternative, I went with a coconut and rooibos snowball. And as opposed to linzer cookies, which contain nuts, I made fennel seed and grapefruit marmalade thumbprints (they add some tart and bitterness to the box, which is refreshing amidst all the butter!). Last year I really enjoyed the orange cranberry rosemary slice cookies so this year I followed them up with a haw flake and orange slice. If you haven’t come across them, haw flakes are a pressed dry candy made of hawthorn; I used to eat them all the time as a kid. The cross-section of the cookies look a bit like giant sprinkles (or less appealingly, like pieces of ham?) and the haw flakes have a bit of tartness to them and take on a pleasant chew once baked.

After I had finished with my nut-free baking and those cookies had been given away, I did add one extremely nutty cookie to make up for the otherwise dearth of nuts: the dome-shaped bethmannchen which are essentially baked nuggets of marzipan. (Wonderful, in other words.) As a last addition, I made some ponche de creme sandwich cookies, based around the flavours of the Trinidadian eggnog: a cinnamon, nutmeg and lime cookie sandwiching a rum and angostura-spiked white chocolate ganache.

Happy holidays and stay safe.

cookie box 2021

recipes are below

speculooscoffee cardamom starsmatcha wreath cookiestoasted milk powder shortbreadcoconut rooibos snowballsfennel marmalade thumbprintshaw flake & orange slicesbethmannchenponche de creme sandwiches

cookie box 2021

speculoos

Recipe can be found in the 2019 holiday cookie box.

cookie box 2021

coffee cardamom stars

  • Servings: 20-25 6cm cookies
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These cookies are fragrant with coffee and spices. I like just a bit of chocolate on them to go with, but not cover up, the flavours. Inspired by Dorie Greenspan’s coffee cardamom cookies from Dorie’s Cookies. Base dough adapted from Alton Brown’s sugar cookie recipe.

  • 80g whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground coffee
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • scant 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 56g butter, softened
  • 37g brown sugar
  • 10g egg
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1/2 tsp boiling water
  • 25g dark chocolate, melted

Whisk together the flour, coffee grinds, spices, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

Cream the butter and brown sugar together until light. Mix in the egg until combined, followed by the dissolved instant coffee. Add the dry ingredients and mix together until a soft dough is formed. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until it is about 0.4cm thick. Slide onto a tray and chill completely in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Take the chilled dough out and use a 6cm star cutter (or other shape of choice) to cut shapes from the dough. You will get about 25 if you also re-roll the scraps. Transfer the cookies to the prepared tray and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until just lightly browned around the edges and bottom. You may need to bake the cookies in two batches if they don’t all fit on the tray – keep any remaining dough and cookies in the fridge until ready to bake.

Once cooled, if desired, drizzle with melted dark chocolate. Spread out the cookies on a piece of parchment. Transfer the melted chocolate to a piping bag fitted with a very small fine round tip and drizzle over the cookies. Let set completely before moving.

cookie box 2021

matcha wreath cookies

  • Servings: about 20 5cm cookies
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Based on Cho’s daily cook.

  • 120g butter, softened
  • 62g powdered sugar
  • 30g (1) egg white
  • 135g cake flour
  • 6g matcha
  • 60g melted white chocolate
  • chopped dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds (or pistachios)

Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and powdered sugar together. Add the egg white a bit at a time and beat in until smooth. Sift the cake flour and matcha together and add to the butter mixture, mixing until a soft dough is formed.

Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with a medium star tip (I used an unbranded one with a maximal opening diameter of 1.5cm). Pipe 5cm circles. Depending on the size of your tip, you should get about 20 cookies. Place the tray in the fridge to chill completely.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300F. Bake about 12 minutes or until firm. Let cool completely.

Melt the white chocolate and dip the “seam” of each cookie into the chocolate. Place on a parchment lined tray and sprinkle with chopped dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds or pistachios. Let set completely before moving.

cookie box 2021

toasted milk powder shortbread

  • Servings: 10-12 4cm cookies
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Shortbread based on the classic 1:2:3 ratio modified for the addition of milk powder.

  • 15g dry milk powder
  • 60g butter, softened
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp milk
  • 64g all-purpose flour

Begin by dry toasting the milk powder. Place the milk powder in a small pan and put over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a spatula, until the milk powder becomes golden. Once golden, immediately transfer to another bowl to prevent burning. If the milk powder ever starts browning too quickly, immediately lower the heat or lift the pan from the stovetop. Let the toasted milk powder cool.

Cream the butter, sugar and salt together until fluffy. Add the milk powder and cream until combined, then add the milk. Finally add the flour and mix until a dough is formed. Pat the dough into a log about 4cm (1 1/2″) in diameter. Place a bit of extra granulated sugar on a plate and roll the log in the sugar until coated. Wrap in plastic and chill completely in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a tray with parchment paper. Place the log on a cutting board and slice cookies 1cm thick using a sharp knife. Give the log a quarter turn between each slice to prevent one side of the log from becoming flattened.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until browned along the edges and bottom.

cookie box 2021

coconut rooibos snowballs

  • Servings: 10-12 cookies
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An amalgamation of the recipe from Emma Laperruque’s pecan cookies and An Italian in My Kitchen’s almond cookies.

  • 56g butter, softened
  • 25g icing sugar
  • contents of 1 rooibos tea bag (2g coarsely ground tea)
  • good pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 25g desiccated shredded coconut, coarsely ground
  • 62g all-purpose flour
  • icing sugar

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and 25g icing sugar together, then mix in the rooibos, salt, vanilla and coconut. Finally, add the flour and mix until just combined. If the dough is very soft you can chill it briefly – or go ahead and roll the cookies now.

Scoop tablespoons of the dough (about 15g each) and roll into balls. Arrange evenly on the prepared pan. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until firm to the touch and slightly browned on the bottom.

Roll in icing sugar while still warm, and then once more when they are cool.

cookie box 2021

fennel marmalade thumbprint cookies

  • Servings: 20-24 cookies
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Adapted from Live Well Bake Often.

  • 113g butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp fennel seeds, coarsely ground
  • 145g all-purpose flour
  • about 1/4 cup marmalade (I used some homemade cardamom grapefruit marmalade) – if your homemade marmalade is quite watery, drain briefly before using

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the orange zest, salt and ground fennel seeds. Add the flour and mix until a dough is formed. Scoop 1 tbsp (16g) portions of dough and roll between your palms into a smooth ball. Place on the prepared tray. Use your thumb or the back of a teaspoon to indent each cookie.

Place the cookies in fridge to chill for 20 minutes to slightly firm up. Dollop 1/2 tsp of marmalade in each indent.

Bake about 15-16 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom.

cookie box 2021

haw flake & orange slice

  • Servings: 8-9 5cm cookies
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Adapted from the do-almost-anything cookie dough from Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies.

  • 15g granulated sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 mandarin orange or 1/2 a navel orange
  • 56g butter, softened
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 8g egg white
  • 68g all-purpose flour
  • 15g haw flakes, separated and broken into small pieces

Rub the sugar and orange zest together until fragrant. Add the butter and cream until light. Next, mix in the salt and egg white. Tip in the flour and mix until a dough is formed. Lastly, add the haw flake pieces and mix until distributed into the dough.

Pat the dough into a log about 5cm (2″) in diameter. Roll so that the outsides are smooth and then wrap in parchment paper, twisting the ends closed. Place in the fridge and chill overnight or at least a few hours. It’s important that the dough is fully chilled and sufficiently firm so that the haw flake pieces stay in place while the cookies are being sliced.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Take out the log of cookie dough from the fridge. Using a thin serrated knife, slice cookies about 0.7cm thick (a bit of a sawing motion can help cut through the haw flakes). Turn the cookie log a quarter turn between each slice to prevent one side from being flattened.

Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom and edges.

cookie box 2021

bethmannchen

  • Servings: about 14 cookies
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Adapted from Anja Dunk’s Advent.

  • 100g almond flour
  • 8g cornstarch
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 25g marzipan, grated
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
  • 15g egg white
  • about 42 blanched almonds
  • 1 egg yolk for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Place the almond flour, cornstarch, icing sugar, salt and grated marzipan in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the almond extract and orange blossom water and pulse a few more times to mix. Add the egg white and process until mixed and the dough comes together.

Scoop 14g portions of dough (about the size of a cherry tomato). Roll each one between your palms into a smooth ball and place on the prepared tray. Press three blanched almonds into the sides, with their pointy ends angling up to the centre of the cookie. Brush the cookies with beaten egg yolk. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until browned but still soft.

cookie box 2021

ponche de creme sandwich cookies

  • Servings: about 15 5cm cookies
  • Print

Dough adapted from the do-almost-anything cookie dough from Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies, as is the ganache.

cookie

  • 136g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 30g granulated sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 medium lime
  • 113g (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 15g egg white
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

filling

  • 94g white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 45g heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp rum
  • 1/2 tsp angostura bitters
  • pinch salt
  • 7g butter
  • 1/4 tsp finely grated lime zest

cookie

Stir together the flour and spices.

Rub the sugar and lime zest together until fragrant. Add the butter and cream until light, then beat in the salt, egg white, and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until a dough is formed.

Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until about 0.5cm thick. Chill completely.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a couple baking trays with parchment paper.

Use a 5cm (2″) round cutter to cut rounds from the dough. Reroll the scraps (chilling again as needed) and cut more cookies from there as well. Bake the cookies about 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges and bottom. You may need to bake in a couple of batches so keep any unbaked cookies in the fridge until ready to bake.

filling

Place the chopped chocolate in microwave safe bowl. In a small dish in the microwave or over the stovetop, heat cream until boiling. Stir in rum, bitters and salt and pour over chocolate. Let sit a minute, then stir until melted – if it doesn’t melt on its own, microwave for short intervals, stirring in between. Lastly add the butter and stir until mixed, and then mix in the lime zest.

Place ganache in fridge and stir every couple of minutes until it has cooled and is thick enough to hold its shape, but still soft.

Meanwhile, pair up the cookies by similar size and shape. Place one cookie from each pair upside down on a tray.

Transfer to piping bag fitted with round tip (0.7cm diameter, Wilton 12) and pipe filling on one cookie from each pair – make so that it is set about 0.5cm in from edge of cookie. Top with other cookie and press lightly until filling is close to the edges. These are best stored in the fridge for long-term storage.

orange, fennel & almond biscotti

almond fennel orange biscotti
almond fennel orange biscotti
almond fennel orange biscotti

I used to make these biscotti for my roommate and I to snack on – they’re the hard type perfect for dipping (or ferociously crunching!), and about one third solid almond. (They are also not too sweet and half whole-wheat, further cementing their value as a study snack/occasional meal replacement.) While I played with a few different flavour combinations, orange, almond and fennel seed was always our favourite.

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cookie box 2020

cookie box 2020
cookie box 2020

This year I won’t be seeing the extended family members I usually gather with during the holidays. While my favourite thing about the holidays is not quite to be, my second favourite thing, the food, can still happen. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been thinking so much about holiday baking this year – given my rabid love for butter, it is somewhat a consolation that while many things are different, at least there is still plenty to eat!

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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.

This year was a lot of cookies – 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. Once they were all put away and the box was empty, I was definitely relieved! 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.

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candied lemon, pistachio & rosemary biscotti

candied lemon, pistachio and rosemary biscotti – bright, herbaceous and good with black tea. plus how i seem to have lost the art of listening to entire albums, but Elisapie Isaac’s Ballad of the Runaway Girl reminded me to give it a try again (and I gush plenty because I adore the album)

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I genuinely used to buy CDs. I would try to listen to as many songs as I could online first to make sure I was ready to lay down twenty dollars, but once you have a CD, you have all of it – every song. And so you listen to them all.

It’s gotten rarer for me to listen to a whole album now. Often I will like a couple of songs from an album, but only have the vaguest impression of the rest, if any at all. It’s probably in part a sign of the times, along with a whole other slate of changes that streaming has elicited in the music industry. As songs become more standalone, albums have reportedly become long compilations of singles as opposed to a unit meant to be listened to all at once. Or maybe it’s more so my reduced attention span which demands immediate catchiness! that is keeping me from lasting through an album (music has been changing to suit this as well!).

It takes a bit of patience for a whole album listen. Not on shuffle, not mixed into playlists with other songs – often best while going on a walk. When you listen to a whole album, you’re also giving yourself time to get to know it. I find it’s a particular few songs that stick out at first, but on subsequent listens, the quieter, less immediately catchy ones stand out, and later still, the wallflowers.

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golden raisin & walnut tahini oatmeal cookies

a chewy tahini take on oatmeal cookies with golden raisins and walnuts

tahini oatmeal cookiestahini oatmeal cookies

Tahini chocolate chip cookies are quite the thing right now. I love the sound of them and can’t wait to give it a try, but what I’m more apt to make and consume are oatmeal cookies – and I thought tahini would go nicely in those as well.

Tahini does – they’re nutty and perfumed, and I chose to pack them with walnuts and golden raisins, but of course choose the fruit and nut that fits your fancy (pistachio/apricot would be stunning I think).

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vanilla rooibos cookies with cashews & caramelized white chocolate

SAM_0793SAM_0754I am currently recovering from the deluge of silence that has fallen upon the household. The bathroom – once a bustling hub of activity – is now desolate: the ants that have made it their home have gone.

Obviously they never cared to venture further than the washroom – the kitchen was just far too passé for these ants.

I suppose this is what it is like to become an empty nester — and it is delightful!

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cookie box 2017

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There’s usually been some sort of cookie effort each winter holiday, overambitious at the outset, quite modest by the end, and nothing like the fabled concerted undertaking of my grandmother. As my dad describes, the holidays always necessitated the tart-shaped sandkaker, rolled ginger cookies and the small buttery mounds filled with a dollop of jam.

On the other hand, my mum’s only requirement for the holiday cookie spread was tart lemon bars, while my sister would take the lead on any supplementary baking. My sole contribution began in elementary school when, pouring over the enticing glossy photo spreads from a Company’s Coming cookie book, I became enamoured with the swirled icebox cookies–the perfect slices reminded me of the hidden designs in Pillsbury slice and bake cookies. More recently, Bouchon Bakery‘s speculoos have become the lemon bars’ (the one constant) companion.

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oatmeal cookies, for reading

oatmeal cookies with dried fruit (for reading)
oatmeal cookies with dried fruit (for reading)
oatmeal cookies with dried fruit (for reading)

Oatmeal cookies, in all their lumpy nooks-and-cragginess make me think of old libraries and crowded bookshelves (I have some screencaps of my favourite book-ish scenes for you below). It’s an odd association, but they seem to be the right cookie for reading dusty hardcovers or thick block-ish softcovers.

As I’ve rambled about before, I hardly read anymore. So while I think these cookies are best with a novel, odds are that I’ll usually settle for a textbook. This summer I’m hoping to do some reading and overall it hasn’t been a bad year.

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