Gardening, Cooking and Decorating on the Prairie of Kansas

Welcome to Linderhof, our 1920's home on the prairie, where there's usually something in the oven, flowers in the garden for tabletops and herbs in the garden for cooking. Where, when company comes, the teapot is always on and there are cookies and cakes to share in the larder.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Cookies

Every year in December we bake cookies. Lots of cookies! We always bake some German cookies. Sometimes "S" cookies (daughter Sarah thought they were "S" because her name was "S"arah!), sometimes peppernusse but always springerle. These anise flavored cookies are so good with December coffee. I have a springerle rolling pin to make the imprint in the dough. One of those few kitchen implements that serves but one purpose once a year.

One of our other December loves is fruitcake and although I don't bake fruitcake anymore, fruitcake and eggnog is still a tradition after the Christmas Eve church service.

A new cookie this year is these dried fruit cookies from my favorite, Ina Garten. The recipe, first published in her Barefoot at Home cookbook called only for figs, raisins and cherries. Last weekend on her television show, she made them, cut the amount of cherries and added dried apricots.

I followed her recipe from the show. The fruit, marinated for 8 hours in sherry and honey, has a great fruitcake taste. The cookie is almost a shortbread. It takes a while to make because of the marinating fruit so it isn't something you can whip up at a moment's notice. But it does make two large logs of cookies. Rolled in parchment and kept in the fridge. Therefore, you can bake a few fresh cookies off as needed.

And another new cookie this year are these orange anise cookies from a Christmas gift cookbook -- A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent. From Italy, the book didn't designate them Christmas cookies but with the colored sprinkles on top, if you use green, they do look Christmasy.

These are definitely anise flavored and if you're not a fan of licorice you won't be a fan of these cookies. So many European sweets -- no matter what country -- are licorce flavored.

But we love licorice which is why there is always a bottle of Virginia Dare anise extract in the pantry.

We still have the Christmas tree cutout cookies to make -- Christmas Eve wouldn't be Christmas Eve without them. We'll do that this afternoon.

Don't forget, at Linderhof, Christmas is Cookies!

Italian Orange Anise Cookies

2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup whole milk
Finely grated zest of one orange
2T. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 t. pure anise extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt

Beat the eggs with an electric mixer for 1 minute until frothy. Gradually add sugar and beat until thick -- 2 to 3 minutes. While beating slowly add the olive oil. On low speed, beat in the milk zest, orange juice and extract. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture in two increments. The dough will be sticky, if it's too sticky, add 2 to 3 T. more flour a tablespoon at a time.

Cover the bowl loosely with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Put the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350. Line two baking sheets with silpats or parchment.

Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough between your palms into smooth balls measure a scant 1 inch in diameter. Set the balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared sheets.

Bake one sheet at a time until the botoms of the cookies are lightly browned and their tops have cracks and are barely colored, 10 to 12 minutes. They will almost doublein size during baking. Do not overake -- the cookies should be tender, not dry. Cool the cookies on the cookie sheets for 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.


1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 T. unsalted butter at room temp
2 t. fresh orange juice
5 to 6 t. whole milk
1/2 t. pure anise extract

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, butter, orange juice 4 t. milk and the extract and beat with an electric mixture until smooth and thick. Beat in 1 to 2 t. more milk until the icing is the consistency of heavy cream.

One at a time, dip the tops of 5 or 6 cookies in the icing, then set them on the cooling rack and dust them immediately with colored sprinkles (I chose green for Christmas.) Repeat with the remaining cookies. Although you can serve the cookies once the icing has set, they really are best if made a day ahead.

1 comment:

Mary Bergfeld said...

Merry Christmas, Martha. Thanks for opening the doors and sharing Linderhof with us. You're hospitality has made our holidays more pleasant.