It’s holiday time. Sweet!
Today is a happy day: my last day of work (in theory!) until 2011. And while that's reason to enough to celebrate, it also means that it's time for me to head back into my kitchen to begin my holiday baking.
Despite many lackluster results in the dessert department on Anna & Kristina’s Grocery Bag, baking is still my favourite form of cooking. I love the ingredients, the precision required, and of course,the results!
This year I’ve been delegated to make a dessert for Christmas Eve and another for Christmas Day. I’m going with cakes for those – a gingerbread cake recipe from the Williams-Sonoma Christmas Entertaining cookbook we tested (though the book didn’t get our seal of approval,this is one recipe that I did like) and the Chestnut and Chocolate Truffle Cake from Gordon Ramsay’s Family Fare (this episode premiered on W Network in Canada Jan. 5, 2011), a new go-to recipe on my repertoire.
But it isn’t Christmas unless I also whip up a few batches of cookies. The good news:most cookies are easy to make. The bad news: I eat too many of them.
As part of my pre-test of the upcoming cookbook, Canyon Ranch: Nourish, I’m going to make the coconut macaroons. From a spa book no less! At only 60 calories a cookie, I’m hoping this becomes a new holiday staple.
I’m also going to bake one of my biggest crowd-pleasers and an old standby: chocolate pepper cookies. After all my mishaps in the kitchen, I need something that will redeem me. It’s a recipe from an old friend (thanks Joceyln!) but one I’ve adopted as my own.I’m not sure where she got the recipe and I’ve seen a few similar ones –- rich dark chocolate with a hint of spiciness that comes from black pepper and cayenne.
And I’ve addeda little twist of my own: once the cookies are cooled, I spread a little raspberry jambetween two to form a chocolate raspberry sandwich, one of my favourite combinationsof all time!
CHOCOLATE PEPPER COOKIES
1 ½ cups unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups sifted flour
1 ½ cups cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
Sugar, additional flour and cocoa powder for rolling
Raspberry jam optional
1. Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer or with an electric mixer. Beat in the eggs until the mixture is fluffy.
2. Sift together the dry ingredients. Add them to the butter/sugar mixture, one cup at a time,beating each time until everything is well mixed.
3. Take the dough out of the bowl and shape it into a flattened round, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for a minimum of one hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.
5. On a sugared and floured board or countertop (you can also add some cocoa powder)roll out the dough with a rolling pin to 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. I use anything from holiday motifs to teddy bears to heart shape cook cutters.(The latter works well for the jam sandwich cookies.)
6. Place cookies on the prepared cookie sheets and bake fro 8 to 10 minutes. Do not allow them to brown, so keep a close eye on them. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.
7. If desired, spread a little bit of jam between two cookies to form a sandwich.
Enjoy! Happy holidays everyone!
And a big shout out to our production team for raising over $1000 for our local Meals on Wheels organization in lieu of office gifts this year. That’s about 9 months of meals for one recipient. Way to go, everyone!