This is it.
The final post of my epic holiday baking season. I made almost everything I wanted to. Almost.
There always seems to be one or two things I don’t get to. This year it was Kentucky bourbon fruit cake. I made stollen instead.
But I did get in quite a few cookies. Like these. I never know quite what to call them. Growing up they were Mexican Wedding Cakes. Then I learned they are also called Russian Tea Cakes. Also, Snowballs.
I’m a believer that booze make desserts better. Whether it’s beer, wine, or spirits, there is just something about the richness and flavor they add to things like cookies and cakes.
Around the holidays, my go-tos are bourbon and rum. For these cookies, I went with rum. Gold rum. Jamaican gold rum, to be exact.
I had orange jam leftover and I thought the best way to put it to use would be pairing it up with some cookies.
Today I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes from my cookbook, Food on Tap: Cooking with Craft Beer! I’ve lost count of how many batches of these I have made. Flavored with holiday ale, they have spiced, citrus notes that I can’t get enough of. They make the perfect cut out cookies any time of year!
Over a month has passed since my cookbook published. It’s been a whirlwind of questions, answers, outreach, event organizing, and even a podcast interview (link coming soon)! It has all been amazing.
At the same time, it left me with two overwhelming feelings.
Gratitude and mental exhaustion.
I was not prepared to feel either of these to the extent that I have over these past few weeks.
Let me explain.
This year’s holiday baking list is long with a capital L.
The past few Decembers I’ve penciled in things I want to make only to have that task followed by the days disappearing and me running out of steam. So I put them off until the next year.
Well, this is the year that I’m making it ALL.
Now, most of these things are traditional recipes and the recipes of others. I checked off rugelach (a lovely apricot pistachio version from Martha Stewart Living) this past weekend. I still have stollen, lebkuchen, Danish butter cookies and panettone to get to.
Since I share mostly original recipes here, that leaves me little to post, besides a few photos. So I still feel like I should come up with at least one new holiday baking recipe to share with you.
This is that recipe. My 2016 holiday cookie.
Any time I get a new ingredient for the kitchen, I always seem to make cookies. Most often chocolate chip cookies.
I think it’s because I want to see how something unfamiliar behaves in something I know well.
Although, saying that cassava flour is unfamiliar isn’t exactly accurate. I became familiar with it when we lived in Brazil. Cassava = mandioca = tapioca.
There we ate farofa, pão de queijo and tapioca com goiabada. All are made with some version of the flour – fine ground, coarse ground, sweet, fermented or sour.
These fig and lavender cookies have a sweet slice of tiger fig tucked inside!
On our road trip in May we stopped by a lavender farm and I brought back a few things to use in the kitchen. Those things included lavender sugar and some culinary lavender.
It only took me a day or so to realize I could have just made my own lavender sugar with the culinary lavender, but that’s okay. I can be a little slow on seeing the obvious.
So a little while back when I had all those figs that the CA Fig Board sent to me, I decided to test out some cookies. Just before I started to make the recipe, I remembered the lavender sugar.
These salted chocolate chip cookies came about for three very different reasons.
The first is that I’m finally back in a kitchen I can call my own. With a nice stove, I might add. For the first time in my adult life, I’m cooking and baking with gas. So I’ve felt a strong need to create in the kitchen, especially to bake, which is something I haven’t been focused on in the recent past.
Next, do you remember that bourbon smoked sea salt I mentioned in my Four Favorites post from April? Well, I had yet to use the salt in a dessert. That is the perfect kind of excuse for baking a batch of cookies in my book.
The third reason is palm shortening. When I started reducing processed foods way back in 2008, I pretty much swore off vegetable shortening. But there were a couple things I missed, and one was the chocolate chip cookies a friend’s mom used to make every Christmas. The secret ingredient was butter flavored vegetable shortening. Now, I didn’t miss those enough to go back to shortening, even during the holidays. I was hardcore on my decision, but I missed them nonetheless.
It’s taken me a while to determine why I enjoy holiday baked goods so much more than those made any other time of year. I can whip out a batch of cookies in March, but they don’t seem as special to me as those I make in December.
You’ll be happy to know that I’ve discovered the secrets. There are two.
Spices and booze.
I’m a fan of seasonal eating. I like asparagus in the spring, berries in the summer and apples in fall. You get the idea.
I always associate seasonal with fresh foods until the holidays come along. When we start creeping up to Thanksgiving and especially when December hits, it’s 100 percent cookie season! Sure I’ll throw some kale and sweet potatoes into my meals for good measure, but cookies and baking take center stage.
Every year it’s a battle between making old favorites or experimenting with new recipes. When you throw an outstanding new cookbook into the mix, the old favorites start to take the back seat.
There are times when nothing will do, but a cookie. No slice of cake or pie, no brownie square or fruit tart; only a cookie.
I appreciate that my sweet tooth is selective, but its picky nature sometimes sends me into the kitchen for some baking when I hadn’t really planned on it. That happened this past week.