The end of exam season is approaching, and what better way to celebrate than with festive food and drink?
At this time of year, one of the most important things for us is reinforcing the connection to family, be it blood family or chosen family. On that note, the Martlet decided to share some of our holiday baking (and sipping) traditions in the hope that they’ll inspire you to try them out or find your own, while making time for the people you love.
Pfeffernüsse (silent p) are traditional German cookies covered in confectioners’ sugar. My dad always bought some come Christmas, and they’d be gone the next day. It always felt like a special treat just for the holidays (though my sister and I wished we could have some more often). Last year, we made some instead of buying them.
- ½ cup molasses
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup shortening
- ¼ cup margarine
- 2 eggs
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup white sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons anise extract
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Stir together the molasses, honey, shortening, and margarine in a saucepan over medium heat; cook and stir until creamy. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the eggs. Combine the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, spices, baking soda, pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Add the molasses mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate for at least two hours. Preheat oven to 325ºF (165ºC). Roll the dough into balls. Arrange on baking sheets at least one inch apart. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies are cooked through. Move to a rack to cool. Once cool, dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar. Enjoy!
Mom’s apple pie with brown sugar pie crust
When I was a child, my mom found this brown sugar pie crust recipe. Once she’d made it, we never wanted any other dessert. There is nothing better than a brown sugar crust on your apple pie — the texture and flavour can’t be beat — and my family won’t eat any pies my mom didn’t make with this recipe. I think you’ll find this addictive pie will become your winter favourite too.
- Pie Crust:
- 2 ¼ cups flour
- ⅔ cup brown sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- ¼ pound butter
- 1 egg, chilled
- ¼ cup cold water
Whisk together flour, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl, then cut the butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Beat the egg and cold water together. Pour the wet ingredients into your dry ingredients. Mix gently with a fork. Transfer to a flat surface and gently knead into a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least an hour, or even overnight. Makes enough crust for a nine-inch pie.
- 4 medium-sized apples (Granny Smith works well)
- 5 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Preheat oven to 425°F. Peel, core, and slice apples. Melt butter and spices over medium heat. Stir in apples, sugar, and three tablespoons of water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally for four to six minutes or until slightly softened. In a small dish, combine cornstarch and the remaining two tablespoons of water. Add to pan while stirring and continue to cook until apples are soft (not mushy) and filling is thickened. Let bubble for one minute. Cool.
Roll your pie crust as thick as you like, up to one quarter inch, and fit in pie tin. Fill with both well-cooked and slightly firmer apples. Before adding the top layer of crust, dust the side that will touch the apples with a mixture of flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Place the top layer of crust on the pie, and brush it with a mixture of lightly beaten raw eggs and one to two teaspoons of water.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until apple filling is bubbling and the crust is golden-brown.
Makroud el Louse (Soft almond cookies)
These cookies come from Algeria, where my grandfather was born before moving to Marseille as a young boy. They have become part of our celebration of the Provençal Christmas tradition of 13 desserts — one for Jesus and each of his disciples. Traditionally, an extra place is set at the table as a gesture of old-world hospitality to travellers or “to invite angels unaware,” an important mentality to have in these difficult times.
To make about six dozen cookies:
- 2 ½ pounds blanched whole almonds, finely pulverized in a nut grinder, food processor, or with a mortar and pestle
- 2 ½ cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups cold water
- 1 tablespoon orange-blossom water
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a deep bowl, stir the almonds, two cups of the sugar, and the lemon zest together until they are well-blended. Make a well in the centre, drop in the eggs, and slowly stir together the ingredients with a wooden spoon, continuing until the mixture is smooth.
Divide the mixture into quarters. On a heavily floured surface, roll each quarter with the palms of your hands into a cylinder about 18 inches long and 1.5 inches in diameter. Flour your hands constantly as you roll the dough to prevent it from sticking to your fingers.
Flatten each cylinder into an oblong about two inches wide. Holding a sharp knife at a 45-degree angle, cut each cylinder into 1.5 inch-thick slices. Dust the slices with flour, place them about one inch apart on ungreased baking sheets, and bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cookies just begin to colour. Dust off any excess flour with a pastry brush and transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.
Meanwhile, prepare the syrup in the following fashion: Combine the remaining half cup of sugar and the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves. Cook briskly, uncovered and undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Pour the syrup into a shallow bowl; when it has cooled to room temperature, stir in the orange-blossom water.
Spread the confectioners’ sugar in a large shallow pan or on paper towels. Dip the cookies one at a time into the syrup; when they are coated on both sides, roll them in the confectioners’ sugar. Set the cookies aside on paper towels to dry. In tightly covered jars or tins, the cookies can be kept for several months.
The seasons and holidays may change, but no matter if it’s Christmas Eve or Thanksgiving, this creamy dessert is a staple in the Kozelj family. It’s a dish that can be enjoyed hot or cold, with or without additional ingredients like raisins or apples, and (supposedly, according to my mom) one that is easy to make. Try out this recipe this holiday season!
- ½ cup white rice
- 1 litre (4 cups) milk
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅔ cup raisins (a controversial ingredient in my family, but if you’re like me and enjoy raisins, include them!)
Wash rice well in strainer under cold running water, and drain well. Bring water in pan to boil and add rice. Reduce the heat to as low as possible, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and let simmer for about 20 minutes. The rice must be cooked gently, just barely simmering, or it will burn on the base of the pan. In a separate, clean saucepan, combine the cooked rice, milk, salt, sugar, and vanilla. Stir in the raisins, should you choose to include them, and cook on low heat for around two to five minutes. Remove from heat and enjoy!
Christmas breakfast mimosas (or Boxing Day mimosas, or New Year’s Day mimosas, you get the idea…)
Christmas is my season. I decorate, I bake, and I make my family dress up for dinner. Last year, I made everyone festive mimosas in the morning, and they are now a Christmas brunch tradition! Technically speaking, they don’t have to be made in champagne flutes, but they really should be.
- 2 oz ginger ale
- 2 oz cranberry juice
- Champagne or prosecco to fill
- Champagne flutes
Combine all ingredients in the champagne flutes. It looks prettiest if you add the bubbly last! If you’re feeling fancy, garnish with …
The obvious garnish for cranberry ginger mimosas, and really tasty on their own.
The amount of sugar and water you use depends on how many cranberries you want to prepare, but the ratio should always be one to one. Heat the sugar and water on high heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the cranberries. Let sit for 10 minutes. Remove the cranberries from the water using a slotted spoon or a strainer. Spread them out on a baking sheet or plate covered with wax paper and let them dry for 30 minutes. Pour more sugar over them until they are coated, and let them dry for another hour. Then, skewer them with toothpicks to lay on top of your glass!
This recipe came out of a children’s picture book about two little boys who rescue a cat at Christmas time, and it makes absolutely the best gingerbread! These cookies have been a staple of my holiday baking for nearly a decade. This is proper, soft gingerbread, not gingersnaps, and depending on the molasses you use, you can choose either a stronger or lighter flavour.
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1.5 cups molasses
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 1.5 tablespoons ground ginger
- 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine the dry ingredients, no need to sift. In a separate bowl, cream the butter then add sugar, eggs, and molasses. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour, then roll the dough out on a flat surface and cut into whatever shapes you would like. Bake in a 350ºF oven for 10 minutes, and let the cookies cool completely before decorating with the frosting of your choosing.
Much love and happy holidays from our Martlet family to yours.