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Thursday, December 9, 2010


I have never been much of a baker.  Especially when it comes to cakes.  Fortunately, my friend V has gave me a cake book few years ago as a gift, which improved my baking skills very much.  I still fail to bake a nice looking cake sometimes, although according to my husband they all taste good.  I have been baking some Christmas cookies around this time last few years.  There is no risk of messing them up too bad so I love baking them.  While looking for the recipes of my favorite cookies, and believe me there are quite a few, I decided to write this one.  It absolutely tastes the best with the butter and the jam.  It's really a shame to bake them only at this time of the year but given the amount of butter in them, maybe that's a good cycle. 

(Makes about 40-50 pieces with 4-5 cm diameter cookie cutters)

250 g Butter (about 1 1/4 cups) - softened
125 g powder sugar (about 1/2 cup)
pinch of salt
1/2 tablespoon of vanille sugar
1 egg white (lightly beaten)
350 g white flour (a little less than 3 cups)

For filling:
3-4 tablespoons of quince jelly or any other jam, jelly or marmalade you prefer.

To sprinkle:
2 tablespoons of powdered sugar

Here are the steps:
1.  Start with mixing the softened butter and sugar in a bowl. 
2.  Stir vanille sugar, a pinch of salt and the egg white into the mix.
3. Mix in the flour to the dough. 
4. When the dough is formed, wrap it up with a folio and put it into the fridge to chill for 1 hour. 
5. Take the dough out of the fridge 30 minutes before you start rolling it out.
6. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
7. Roll out the dough to 2mm (a bit less than 0.1 inch) and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. 
8. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters.  Make sure you have 2 of each shape. 
9. By using a miniature cookie cutter make a shape in the middle of the cookies you'll put on top. 
10. Place the cookies on a baking sheets and bake in the middle rack for about 6-8 minutes.  
11. After they are done, leave them on the baking sheets for about 1-2 minutes to cool down and then transfer them on a wire rack to cool completely.  I normally leave them to cool over the night. 
12. To assemble the cookies, put some some jelly on the bottom half with the help of a teaspoon, then place the top part over.  Try not to put too much jelly, otherwise it will look a little messy.  You can also melt the jelly in a pan before you do this.  I normally just do it without but a lot of recipes call for melting the jelly before making the little sandwich.
13. Sprinkle some powder sugar over the cookies.  

These cookies can be stored in an airtight cookie tin or a jar and they are best when eaten fresh. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fresh Basil and Parsley Pesto

Before the snow came and it all got freezing cold, I had a look at my herb garden and thought I should not waste all that fresh stuff and make something out of them. I dried the peppermints and dried some of the sage to make some tea later on in the winter.  Then took out all of the parsley, rosemary and thyme. Basil has been inside the house in a pot for a while as it does not like the cold at all.  At least that is what I have learned after throwing away 4-5 pots of dried, dead basil in the past years.  Now the problem was what to do with all this. I always wanted to try making fresh pesto but I didn't have enough basil so this is what I've done.  A combination of parsley and basil. The pesto was delicious and we ended up eating it all within a couple of weeks.

(Makes about 200-250gr)
1 cup of fresh basil
1 cup of fresh parsley
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
3 garlic cloves - peeled
salt and freshly milled pepper to taste

First, put the pine nuts in a food processor and run it for a few seconds until they are all crushed.  Next, add in the rest of the ingredients but leave out olive oil.  Pulse it a few times and then add the olive oil.  Pulse it couple of times more.  You may need to scrape down the sides with a spatula in between. 
Finally add some salt and pepper to taste. 
Best way to store pesto is in a closed jar.  If you need, add some more olive oil on top after you fill the jar with pesto. This helps to keep the pesto longer in the fridge. 

Pesto can be used in a lot of pasta dishes, as well as pizza and lasagne.  I definitely recommend to spread it on fresh bread and try it first. It's yummy.