Easter Bunnies and Ducks – Almond Shortbread for Easter

Cookies, Recipes

Yeah, Easter is coming up! It´s time to get the bunnies- and ducks-cutters out of the drawer and start a serious cookie-baking-session.

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The recipe for the shortbread is from my grandma in Tirol. Whenever we grandkids visited her, she spoiled us with great food, a choice of delicious cakes, and cookies.

My grandma made the cookies herself, even when she was over 90 years old. She cut out cute flowers and little pigs and lovingly decorated the cookies with jam and chocolate glazing. The cookies all looked different. She painted happy faces on the pigs, and delicate petals on the flowers. Happy cookies! I like thinking back to those days.

I´ve had grandma´s recipe for a long time, but have only now tried it for these bunnies and ducks. I can really recommend it. The shortbread is delicious, thanks to the almonds and the demerara sugar; it is not too sweet, but just right. It has to be cold when you roll it out. If it is too warm, it will be too soft for rolling and cutting.

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If you want smoother shortbread, take 2 ½ cups (300 g flour) instead of 1 ¾ cup (200 g) flour and 1 cup (100 g) almonds.

I used a toothpick dipped into chocolate glazing for decorating the cookies; I did not have a brush. The bunnies are therefore not anywhere near perfect. Well, never mind. I had fun decorating the cookies! And as I said, they taste delicious.

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Ingredients:
1 ¾ cup (200 g) flour
1 cup (100 g) ground almonds
⅔ cup (150 g) butter, cold (lactose-free, if you are very sensitive)
½ cup (100 g) demerara sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
Possibly 1 tbsp. milk or cream, lactose-free

Filling (optional):
Apricot jam

Chocolate glazing:
3.5 oz. (100 g) dark chocolate, lactose-free (e.g. Lindt 70%; Merci 72%)
1 tbsp. butter (lactose-free, if you are very sensitive)
This amount of chocolate glazing will probably be more than you will need for the cookies. I had some glazing left when I was done decorating.

Sugar icing:
4-5 heaped tablespoons confectioner´s sugar, sieved
Water
Red food coloring

Prepare the shortbread dough. I prefer using my kitchen machine for this; it is really fast and easy:
Put flour, ground almonds and sugar into a big mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour. Add egg and yolk. With the dough hook, knead at low speed until the ingredients combine. Keep kneading until you get a smooth dough. If the dough is too dry and does not combine well, add 1 tbsp. of milk or cream. If the batter is sticky, add a bit of flour. Cool for about an hour (fridge).

You can make the shortbread by hand instead: Put flour, almonds and sugar onto the working surface. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour. Dig a little hole into the middle of the flour and add the egg and the yolk. Quickly knead to a smooth dough with your hands. If the dough is too dry and does not combine well, add 1 tbsp. of milk or cream. If the batter is sticky, add a bit more flour. Cool for about an hour (fridge).

Preheat the oven to 350° F (175° C) (convection oven). Cover two baking sheets with baking parchment.

Lightly dust the work surface with flour. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough until about one tenth of an inch thick. With cookie cutters, cut out any shapes you like. Put the cookies onto the baking sheets and bake for about 8 minutes. They should be light, only a little golden at the edge.

Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for a bit. They will be very soft when they are hot and will crumble easily! After a couple of minutes, transfer to a cooling rack and let the cookies cool completely.

Decorating:
Chocolate glazing: Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Melt chocolate and butter in a small pot in a double boiler or at low heat on the oven. Stir well until the glazing is smooth.

For the white sugar icing, put the confectioner´s sugar into a small bowl. Carefully add water until the icing is rather thick. If should not run off the cookies when you brush them with the icing.

For the pink sugar icing, put some spoons from the white icing into another small bowl and add some drops of red food coloring. Start with only few drops; keep adding color until the icing is the pink (or red) you want.

Fill the cooled cookies with apricot jam, or leave them as they are. Decorate with chocolate glazing, sugar icing, sugar pearls, sugar writing,…, whatever you want. Go play and have fun!

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By the way, I used grated almonds for the bunnies´ „fur“.

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Depending on the size of the cookies, you will get about 50 cookies – single ones, not filled ones!

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Bread with Walnuts and Carrots

Bread, Recipes

Last weekend was weird. I had had enough cakes, cookies and jelly donuts for a while, so I did not feel like baking anything sweet. I still wanted to bake, but did not know what.

One reason for my frustration with sweets was that my last attempts at baking did not work out. Friday I wanted to bake Chocolate-Peanutbutter-Whoopies. Instead of pretty round whoopies, I created rock-like lumps. They got bigger in your mouth if you tried to eat them – not good. I must admit that I cannot blame the recipe, but only myself. I had been distracted when making the batter and had made a mistake – oops, my own fault.

The next day, Saturday, I made marble cake. I thought I could fight the Whoopies-frustration this way, and I also needed something to post on my blog. Well, the cake turned out great, but the frosting did not really go with it. No blog post. Frustrating again.

So Sunday I was running back and forth between my kitchen and my baking books. I wanted to bake, but what?

The solution was baking bread. I would be able to roam about the kitchen, and the result would not be sweet (we still had to eat the marble cake, which was more than enough sweet stuff for the weekend). Also, not much could go wrong. Fresh bread smells and tastes incredible, especially if it still slightly warm. Each bite is pure pleasure.

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There are so many recipes in this book that I always find something I am curious to try – this time light yeast bread with walnuts and carrots. As with carrot cake, the carrots make the bread moist, but do not make the bread taste like carrots.

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The bread saved my baking-weekend and (partially) brought back my belief in my baking skills. I had already started to doubt those.

Ingredients:
1 ¾ cups (200 g) flour
¾ cup (100 g) spelt flour, light
1 ¾ cups (200 g) whole wheat flour
1 package (7 g) active dry yeast
1 egg, room temperature
½ cup (⅛ l) milk, lactose-free, lukewarm
½ cup (⅛ l) water, lukewarm
1 teaspoon salt
50 g walnuts, coarsely chopped
100 g carrots, finely grated

Preparation:
In a big mixing bowl, combine flour, spelt flour and whole wheat flour, salt and dry yeast. Add lukewarm milk, water and eggs. Knead to a smooth dough with the kitchen machine, using the dough hook. Add the carrots and the walnuts and knead for about five minutes. Cover with a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This will take about an hour.

Cover a baking sheet with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 355° F (180° C) (conventional oven).

Thoroughly knead the dough once more. Separate into two equal halves. Form each half into a longish bread. Place the two loaves onto the baking sheet, cover with a kitchen towel and let them rise for about 30 minutes.

Brot mit Walnüssen und Karotten 1Having risen for the second time: off to the oven!

Sprinkle the bread with water, or slightly brush it with water. Bake for about 30 minutes. The bread will be done if a knock against the bottom sounds hollow.

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From: Ager, B. (2010). Lass dich verführen 3. Hall in Tirol, Wien: Berenkamp.

Pecan Cookies with Chocolate

Cookies, Recipes

I am still in search of the perfect cookie… Last week I attended a five-days long advanced training at university. Because of my lactose-intolerance and fructose-intolerance, I sometimes have a hard time finding agreeable food at the cafeteria or in restaurants. So I decided to take some home-made cookies with me, just in case – I do not like being hungry!

Here they are, the Pecan Cookies with Dark Chocolate (lactose-free):

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 and the Pecan Cookies with White Chocolate (not lactose-free):

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I was right with my skepticism concerning cafeteria food. As suspected, the food was not ideal for me. I wasn´t starving, though, rather the opposite – I felt stuffed by all those grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato-mozzarella-wraps! Not even the lactase pills helped. I think next time I´ll bring home-made granola with me instead of cookies, and buy lactose-free joghurt at the supermarket!

Of course I still ate the cookies, despite feeling stuffed. The cookies had that irresistible “have-one-more” taste…

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The cookies also passed the quality-test at home: My teenager-son emptied the cookie tin in no time. He then called me while I was in that advanced training and told me he wanted more cookies. So. It seems that with this recipe, I might be one step closer to the perfect cookie!

To my surprise, all my test-eaters preferred the lactose-free variety with the dark chocolate to the original white-chocolate-variety.

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Ingredients:
1⅛ cup (250 g) soft butter (lactose-free, if you are very sensitive to lactose)
½ cup (100 g) sugar
1⅛ cup (200 g) brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla sugar
4 cups (400 g) flour
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
¾ cup (100 g) pecans, chopped

For lactose-free cookies:
7.2 oz. (200 g) dark chocolate, lactose-free, coarsely chopped (e.g. Lindt 70%, Merci 72%)

For cookies with lactose:
7.2 oz. (200 g white) chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preparation:
In a small bowl, combine flour,, salt and baking powder.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla sugar with a hand mixer or the kitchen machine until fluffy. Add one egg and beat it in for at least one minute, then add the second egg and beat in for another minute.

Add the flour mixture and beat until you get a smooth batter. Do not overbeat.

With a wooden spoon, fold in the chopped nuts and the chopped chocolate.

Separate the batter into two portions and press each portion into a log of about 6-7 inches (15-18 cm). The diameter should be 2-3 inches, depending on how big you want your cookies. I prefer large cookies!

Wrap the logs into cling foil and store in the fridge for about two hours or more. The cold logs will be firm.

Now it´s time for baking the cookies: Cover baking sheets with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 340° F (170° C).

Remove the cling foil. Cut the logs into slices of about an inch. If necessary, press the slices into a round shape. I did not manage to make my logs as round as planned, so I had to shape the cookies by hand. This was quick and easy and no problem at all.

Put the cookies onto the baking sheets. Make sure you leave enough space between them; they will rise and spread. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until they are quite flat and golden brown at the edge.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a short time, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes about 24 large cookies.

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Adapted from:

Tarek Malouf (2013), Kuchenglück. Ostfildern: Jan Thorbecke Verlag.