December 2012 A Note from Marcy
It's beginning to feel a lot like Hanukkah (and Kwanza, Christmas, and name a winter fest) everywhere I go. Free Hanukkah Nutella Doughnuts to start your holidays on a sweet note. Photo by Ryan Szulc, Toronto, Canada.
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Dear Bakers and Friends,
Happy December! It’s that time of year when being a baker means you get a little more love.
Why more love? It’s a no brainer because we bakers are carriers of joy and sweetness. We bake up dreams, memories and nostalgic moods of holidays past and holidays that never were (except in our mind’s eye – such is nostalgia). Christmas and Hanukkah among other winter holidays are two of the few occasions where you can take out the butter and sugar and pristine (albeit unbleached) white flour and bake up a storm. It’s time for vanilla, cream, chocolate and baking spirits or liqueurs. Come December, people are keen to indulge; at other times of the year, people balk when they see me coming and say – stay away, I’m on a diet. But now? I am, as you all are, the queen (and kings) of the baking ball.
Without further ado I am delighted to share with you a BB Baker’s Dozen of Holiday Cookies that includes many of my own holiday cookie favorites. These are my choices when I bake gifts and you will note my taste is somewhat pure and simple. I love classics as well as a bit of an international spin. If cookies aren't your thing (is that possible?) the Complete BB Recipe Archives are chocka full of holiday things from rum cakes, to pannetonne, biscotti of all types, cheesecakes and more.
Before you start however, please, pleas, please give a thought to the spices you are using. I cannot emphasize this enough. Most recently, I went to a bulk food chain here in Canada. The cinnamon smelled like sawdust, the cloves were reminiscent of horses’ hooves and the allspice, nutmeg and pumpkin pie spice could have been onion powder. They were all that bad and that stale. Then The Spice House www.TheSpiceHouse.com rescued me (as well as King Arthur Flour and www.WorldSpice.com). First, Patty Erd, The Spice House owner and chief operator is available to personally answer email and steer you right. A few seconds online and I had ordered fresh (FRESH) ground cloves, allspice, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice and hot and sweet Chinese Cinnamon. How fresh is their cinnamon? They grind up over 100 pounds of cinnamon each week just to keep up with the orders. According to Patty, no man smells as sweet as the guy that grinds their cinnamon. I don’t doubt it. What a difference a spice makes – especially when it’s fresh. Online spice shopping is not as inexpensive (although The Spice House often offers Free Shipping) as going to your local supermarket but the difference is….Well, let me put it this way: one taste of one of my recipes made with fresh spices from a spice specialist and you begin to appreciate why Marco Pollo, Columbus et al set sail around the world to fine spices to begin with.
When you are shopping for spices (if you are buying from a bulk food store) smell them before you buy them. Sure, they might be bulk and seem cheap and fresh but they are just more often: just bulk. I do also recommend Costco’s amazing Cinnamon. It is $3 or so and comes in a large plastic spice container and is a lovely Vietnamese Cinnamon that will do you proud. You aren’t skimping on butter, sugar, eggs or vanilla at holiday time. So don’t treat the spices, which are part and parcel of great holiday baking, short shrift.
On this end, a lot is happening although it feels like the quiet before the storm. After 15 years, Betterbaking.com should be having a total overhaul and by the end of January (or so), look for a totally new look (and fully functional) BB website. My first cooking book, When Bakers Cook is scheduled for June 2013 and I’ll be telling you more about that as the launch draws near. This is a collection of my best cooking recipes and will be an edgy and simple, black and white book (and Ebook) – so stay tuned.
As 2012 draws to a close, I feel both nostalgic with memories past and buoyant with the things ahead. I feel somewhat like the U.S. economy: I can’t go back, I can’t stay still and wait (any longer) and I have to invest and go forward. Just when you thought you could meditate and watch Oprah re-runs, one has to re-invent and re-energize. Ditto for my tango life. I thought I was in a lull or almost done and then I bought new tango shoes (black suede with embroidered roses from Capezio) and the shoes brought back my tango spirit. Writing, baking, tango, and life – our passions are strange beasts. We can try quitting them but if we are lucky, they never quit us.
I wish you all health, warm tidings of family and friends, and peace in your heart. May that peace radiate from the batter in your Kitchenaid mixing bowl and splatter (in the nicest of ways) all across the globe. When in doubt, count your blessings, breathe, and bake something and give it away. And never check what comes back to you - just bake it forward.
Warm wishes from my kitchen to yours always,
Master Baker, Author
The BB Baker's Dozen 2012 Holiday Cookie Collection
Hanukkah Nutella Doughnuts FREE!!
There's nothing like homemade jelly doughnuts especially when it comes to Hanukkah doughnuts aka soufganio. They are made with an easy yeast dough (a bread machine is perfect for this). For finer sugar to toss the warm doughnuts in grind the sugar in a food processor. Many more wonderful Hanukkah recipes are in my 10th Anniversary Edition of A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking (Marcy Goldman, Whitecap Books) 2009).
Layered Rugulah Squares
A lazy baker can have a brainstorm of an idea. Rugulah are amazing but rolling each wedge up individually can take time. Why not make a Rugulah Bar instead? This recipe is totally easy and just another route to rugulah that still spells success. Instead of rolling crescents, this special recipe creates a rugulah lasagna. Never mind, just try it! Perfect as a Hanukkah gift.
Decadent French Mint Cookies
There's something innately and enduringly appealing about the chocolate mint connection. It's a flavour combo that never fails to impress. These are decadent fudge cookies, with crackly tops and a texture midway between cookie and brownie (think crisp edges and fudgy insides - like a truffle cookie). Warm, out of the oven, they are anointed with a peppermint patty or After Eight mint.
Scandinavian Sour Cream Cardamom Rusks !!FREE!!!
Rusks are much like biscotti and mandelbrot - they are crisp, dry cookies that are perfect for munching or dipping in tea (Chai would be a good choice). These are gently spiced and fragrant in the way only something made with almonds, sour cream, butter and cardamom could be.
Alphahores or Famous Tango Cookies
From The New Best of BetterBaking.Com cookbook, Whitecap Books 2009 . Almond scented shortbread, filled with luscious dulce de leche caramel filling. One of a kind gift but save some for yourself! Make your own dulce de leche from the free recipe on this site or find ready-made (if you must). This is about the best cookie in the world and the ideal holiday gift. Make it once-it will become, as it is mine, your trademark. I learned about alphahore cookies in tango class. 13 years of tango later (which one needs to work off the alphahores calories), I am still making these amazing cookies. If you make only one cookie (after oatmeal and Tollhouse) this would be it.
Cream Cheese Holiday Sugar Cookies
These are simply beautiful cookies –they roll like a dream, they bake up tender/crisp and they are the perfect cookie to showcase Nielsen Massey’s new, pure extracts (check with www.nielsenmasseyvanillas.com for where and how to order). The bouquet of extracts, along with the pure butter taste, makes a slightly more upscale than average sugar cookies. Make these tiny, if you like, and dust with cinnamon or ground nuts. If you cannot find the Nielsen Massey extracts (which are incomparable), use regular pure extracts.
Moravian Gingersnap Cookies
Moravania is a Czech province that is associated with this spicy, snappy, amazing spice and ginger cookie. These are wafer thin like Pringles and just as addictive.
Kourabiedes or Greek Almond Cookies
Almonds and ouzo? Yup – a tender, delicate, nutty cookie that is the queen of the Greek Isles. Everyone has a version of this recipe; but this one hits all the rights notes of taste, texture and fragrance. Thick, dense, crumbly bundles of heaven. Perfect with Greek coffee or a pot of Darjeeling.
Tiny French Butter Cookies (Punitions)
This are traditional to France and made famous by Poilane, of Paris. If you look on the Poilane site, you will see these cookies available as well as the bakery’s famed sourdough breads. These are tiny, crisp, and perfectly sandy; not quite a shortbread; not quite a butter cookie but pure heaven. These are great keepers too. A glass cookie jar filled with these, is irresisistible. They stay crisp, sweet, and crunchy. Because they are no bigger than a quarter or dollar piece (people still use that term?) you’ll want to snag a handful for a cup of tea or cold lemonade. There is another story about Punitions and you can read it at Madeleines, a Story of Cake and Love. These have a shortbread taste but adding vanilla gives them another dimension, as would orange oil or extract or almond extract. I like them in almost any flavor rendition.
$$$$ Millionaire Bars
A buttery shortbread base is the throne to a special caramel filling all topped off with a yet another unique chocolate triumphurate crown. No wonder these are Millionaire Bars –they are a treasure. Forget about the economy, breathe in and out, and munch on one of these. Makes 24 ‘shares’. If you like Twix bars but even better - this is just the ticket.
Welsh Tea Cakes
Lovely with tea - as the name suggests,. these are wee little butter cookies with a touch of spice, decked out with diced dried fruits, including cranberries, California dried apricots and sour cherries. But these cookies are so bittery and satisfying you could even leave out the fruit.
Butter and Cream Shortbread Biscotti
These are worth their weight in gold. A scone recipe (of all things) that went awry. No self-respecting baker throws out a pound of butter, a lump of brown sugar and heavy cream just because things "don't look right". I rarely omit vanilla in my cookie recipes but one this soars with unrivaled, pure flavor of the butter and brown sugar. This is essentially big sticks of biscotti with a shortbread pedigree.
Fleur de Sel Chocolate Shortbread
Nothing brings out the bittersweet lusciousness of a chocolate-butter bouquet than fleur de sel. This recipe uses a sweet chocolate shortbread base but adds a touch more, larger grain, fleur de sel on top for the zap of sweet/salty bouquet. Fleur de sel comes in fine flakes (for inside the cookie) and slightly coarser grain for the cookie tops.
Orange Vanilla Butter Nuggets With White Chocolate Glaze
These are thick, vanilla-laced, dense and sandy butter cookies. Divine on their own, an orange-and-vanilla scented, melted white chocolate coating makes them ambrosial. These would be equally divine with semi-sweet chocolate on top. Double strength vanilla would make these resound with pure vanilla flavor. Just make sure you use quality white chocolate to ensure even melting.Orange Oil, which appears in this recipe, comes from www.BoyajianInc.com and it is an essential part of the BetterBaking.Com Test Kitchen.
Previous Monthly Essays from A Note From Marcy:
Essays to tickle your funny bone, wake up your inner baker, twinge on your heartstrings, or make you smile and say, ‘I’ve know the feeling; I know the place”. If you missed an essay, or a season in baking or inner sensibility, we invite you to stroll through our archived Notes From Marcy.
- March 2017 A Note from Marcy - March 2017
- March 2017 A Note from Marcy - March 2017
- February A Note from Marcy - February 2017
- January 2017 A Note from Marcy - January 2017
- December 2016 A Note from Marcy - December 2016
- Winter 2016 BB Best Gifts Round-Up - December 2016
- November 2016 A Note from Marcy - November 2016
- October 2016 A Note from Marcy - October 2016
- September 2016 A Note from Marcy - September 2016
- August 2016 A Note from Marcy - August 2016
- July 2016 A Note from Marcy - June 2016
- June 2016 A Note from Marcy - June 2016
- MAY 2016 A Note from Marcy - May 2016
- April 2016 A Note from Marcy - April 2016
- March 2016 A Note from Marcy - March 2016
- February 2016 A Note from Marcy - February 2016
- January 2016 A Note from Marcy - January 2016
- December 2015 A Note from Marcy - December 2015
- November 2015 A Note from Marcy - November 2015
- September 2015 A Note from Marcy - September 2015
- August 2015 A Note from Marcy - August 2015
- July 2015 A Note from Marcy - July 2015
- June 2015 A Note from Marcy - June 2015
- May 2015 A Note from Marcy - May 2015
- April 2015 A Note from Marcy - April 2015
- March 2015 A Note from Marcy - March 2015
- February 2015 A Note from Marcy - February 2015
- January 2015 A Note from Marcy - January 2015
- December 2014 A Note from Marcy - December 2014
- November 2014 A Note From Marcy - November 2014
- October A Note from Marcy - October 2014
- September 2014 A Note from Marcy - September 2014
- August 2014 A Note from Marcy - August 2014
- July 2014 A Note from Marcy - July 2014
- June 2014 A Note from Marcy - June 2014
- May 2014 A Note from Marcy - May 2014
- April 2014 A Note from Marcy - April 2014
- March 2014 A Note from Marcy - March 2014
- February 2014 A Note from Marcy - February 2014
- January 2014 A Note from Marcy - January 2014
- December 2013 A Note from Marcy - December 2013
- November 2013 A Note from Marcy - November 2013
- October 2013 A Note from Marcy - October 2013
- September 2013 A Note from Marcy - September 2013
- August 2013 A Note from Marcy - August 2013
- July 2013 A Note from Marcy - July 2013
- June 2013 A Note from Marcy, Baker's Stash - June 2013
- May 2013 A Note from Marcy - May 2013
- April 2013 A Note from Marcy Baker's Stash - April 2013
- March 2013 A Note from Marcy - March 2013
- February 2013 A Note from Marcy - February 2013
- January 2013 A Note from Marcy - January 2013
- November 2012 A Note from Marcy - November 2012
- October 2012 A Note from Marcy - October 2012
- September 2012 A Note from Marcy - September 2012
- August 2012 A Note from Marcy Baker's Stash - August 2012
- July 2012 A Note from Marcy Baker's Stash - July 2012
- May 2012 A Note from Marcy - May 2012
- April 2012 Note from Marcy, Baker's Stash - April 2012
- March 2012 A Note From Marcy - March 2012
- February 2012 A Note from Marcy - February 2012
- January 2012 A Note from Marcy - January 2012
- December 2011 A Note from Marcy, Baker's Stash - December 2011
- November 2011 Note from Marcy Bakers Stash - November 2011
- October 2011 Note From Marcy Baker's Stash - October 2011
- September 2011 A Note from Marcy - September 2011
- August 2011 (1) Note From Marcy - August 2011
- June 2011 Note from Marcy - June 2011
- May 2011 A Note from Marcy, Baker's Stash - May 2011
- March 2011 A Note From Marcy - March 2011
- February 2011 A Note From Marcy, Baker's Stash - February 2011
- January 2011 A Note from Marcy - January 2011
- December 2010 Baker's Stash - December 2010
- November 2010 Baker's Stash - November 2010
- October 2010 Note from Marcy & Baker's Stash - October 2010
- September 2010 Note from Marcy & Baker's Stash - September 2010
- August 2010 Baker's Stash - August 2010
- July 2010 Baker's Stash, A Note from Marcy - July 2010
- June 2010 Baker's Stash - June 2010
- April 2010 BAKER'S STASH - April 2010
- March 2010 Baker's Stash, A Note From Marcy - March 2010
- 2003-2007 PAST ISSUES Note from Marcy & Recipes - February 2010
- January 2010 Baker's Stash - January 2010
- December 2009 Baker's Stash - December 2009
- September 2009 Baker's Stash - September 2009
- April 2009 Bakers Stash - April 2009
- March 2009 Baker's Stash Baking With Mom, Feminist in the Kitchen and some Retro - March 2009
- February 2009 Baker's Recipe Stash - February 2009
- January 2009 Baker's Stash - January 2009
- December 2008 Baker's Stash - December 2008
- November 2008 A Note From Marcy - November 2008
- September 2008 Baker's Stash - September 2008
- A note from Marcy - December 2007
- A Note from Marcy - February 2007 - An Oreo Love Affair
- A Note from Marcy - January 2007 - When Bakers Cook, Recipes deChef
- A Note from Marcy - December 2006 - Shortbread and Other Favorite Things
- A Note from Marcy - November 2006 - Thank Goodness for Pie
- A Note from Marcy - October 2006 - A Salute to Chocolate Chip Cookies
- A Note from Marcy - September 2006 - The Back to School Carrot Cake Issue
- A Note From Marcy - August 2006 - The Sourdough Magic Issue
- A Note from Marcy - July 2006 - The Annual BB Picnic Issue
- A Note from Marcy - June 2006 - The Bountiful Berry Issue
- A Note from Marcy - May 2006 - Pride and Pastry or Tea With Jane
- A Note from Marcy - April 2006 - The Breakfast Baking Issue and Fresh Starts
- A Note from Marcy March 2006 Passion - Gettin' Some - March 2006 - Havana A Heat Wave, Baking with A Latin Beat and The Passion Play
- A Note from Marcy - February 2006 - Memoirs of A Geisha Baking, Valentineâ€™s Sweets
- A Note from Marcy - January 2006 - The You're Toast, A Salute To Slicing Loaves and More
- A Note from Marcy - December 2005 - Bake It Forward, Gift Baking Issue
- A Note from Marcy - November 2005 - Open Hearth Hosting or Guess Who's Coming For Dinner
- A Note from Marcy - October 2005 - It All Happens for a Reason or Sometimes Bread Just Doesn't Rise.....
- A Note from Marcy - September 2005 - Baking By the Code
- A Note from Marcy - August 2005 - The Tao of Pie
- A Note from Marcy - July 2005 - The Journey of the Journal plus Twix Bars!
- A Note from Marcy - June 2005 - A Pastry Chefs Trial by Cheesecakes
- A Note from Marcy - May 2005 - The Frontier Baking Issue/Living Big in a Small Venue
- A Note from Marcy - April 2005 - When Harry Met Salad
- A Note from Marcy - March 2005 - Baking with an Irish Broque; A Romance in the Dairy Queen One Fine March
- A Note from Marcy - February 2005 - She Just Doesnâ€™t Get Him, Valentineâ€™s Day Rebuttal and Cupcakes Galore
- A Note from Marcy - January 2005 - The Art of Changing and Making Space in a New Year
- A Note from Marcy - December 2004 - The Shall We Dance or Shall We Bake, Holiday Baking Issue and an Ode to Dance
- A Note from Marcy - November 2004 - The Bread and Soup Issue and How A Canadian Became Americanized (sort of)
- A Note from Marcy - October 2004 - The Field of Dreams Issue, Baseball and the Baker
- A Note from Marcy - September 2004 - The Catcher of the Rye Issue, What Falls Away, the Sweet Taste of Forgiveness and Letting Go
- A Note from Marcy - August 2004 - Itâ€™s All Greek To Me Issue and The Evils of Multi-Tasking
- A Note from Marcy - July 2004 - The Gone Fishinâ€™ Issue/Summer in the River City, A Bakerâ€™s Musical
- A Note from Marcy - June 2004 - The All That Jazz Issue, How To Scat and Improvise in Wheat
- A Note from Marcy - May 2004 - The Bread and Roses Issue, Goddess, Feminist or Feminineâ€¦and Fudge
- A Note from Marcy - April 2004 - Waiting for Happy, or If I Won the Lotto
- A Note from Marcy - March 2004 - Meet You in the Bookstore, My Love Affair with Books
- A Note from Marcy - February 2004 - Sweets for the Sweet, a Valentine From the Baker
- A Note from Marcy - January 2004 - How To Eat Right or Resolution 2004 â€“ How Not To Diet
- A Note From Marcy - December 2003 - The Sugar and Spice Issue
- A Note from Marcy - November 2003 - How To Weather the Weather, or Keeping Cozy in Late Fall
- A Note from Marcy - October 2003 (Part 2) - They Laughed When I Got Up To Bake, Hotel School Trials
- A Note from Marcy - October 2003 (Part 1) - How I Got Into Baking, A Bakerâ€™s Beginnings Part 1
- A Note from Marcy - September 2003 - Welcome To Wheatland, a bakerâ€™s fantasy or Camelot in Flour
- A Note from Marcy - August 2003 - Notes on Homemade Krispie Kreme Doughnuts
- A Note From Marcy - July 2003 - Memories of Summer Music Camp or Baking to Birdland
- A Note From Marcy - June 2003 - How to Play Hooky in Summer, An Urban Adventure
- April 2011 A Note from Marcy, Baker's Stash
- October 2008 Baker's Stash
- May 2010 Baker's Stash
- February 2009 Issue Baking by Heart Copy
- March 2009 Baker's Recipe Stash
- April 2009 Baker's Stash
- February 2009 Baker's Stash