Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Baking - Dec 23, 2011

Cardamom Crescents

Merry Christmas Dinner Clubbers! It seems we all have cookies on our minds around here!  I, too, have been doing a spot of baking in preparation for the Christmas holiday. I usually make traditional German Christmas cookies, but this year I decided to try something different. I've already made two batches of the delicious cardamom crescents. The first had me follow the recipe almost exactly, but for a small mistake I made by pulsing the pecans with granulated sugar in the food processor, rather than the powdered sugar called for in the recipe. They actually turned out so well that I repeated that 'mistake' in my second batch. The second batch also saw me adjust the cinnamon to cardamom ratio, since in the first batch the cinnamon seemed to overpower the more delicate cardamom flavor. I love cardamom, so in order for it to shine as the premier flavor, I replaced the cinnamon with more cardamom and simply added a dash of Penzey's Vietnamese Extra Fancy Cinnamon so as not to omit it completely. Both batches are delicious, but I'm a bit more partial to the second.

Rosemary-Lemon Shortbread

Next, I made some rosemary-lemon shortbread. Rosemary and lemon are two of my favorite winter flavors. They remind me of time spent in Northern California visiting Nick's brother and sister-in-law when they lived there. One Christmas, Greg and JJ were living in a house with a giant Meyer Lemon tree in the backyard and they sent a big bag of the happy, yellow fruit home to Minnesota with us. It was my first introduction to this delicious citrus fruit and I've been hooked ever since. They taste like sunshine on a snowy winter day. This recipe is one I've adapted from a Rosemary-Lemon Sandwich Cookie recipe in the February 2008 issue of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. It's a basic shortbread recipe flavored with lemon zest and chopped fresh rosemary leaves. To really bring out the lemon flavor, I've replaced the vanilla with fresh squeezed lemon juice. It works fine to use regular lemons for this, but Meyer lemons give it an extra special flavor. These little guys are so good on their own that I've never felt the need to make the mascarpone cheese filling.

I am also going to make a batch of the Butterfinger truffles from December 2011's Bon Appetit, since Nick is a huge fan of that particular candy bar. Chocolate seems like just the right thing to complete this year's cookie offerings, don't you think?

A very Happy Christmas to you and yours! I hope your holidays are delicious.
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