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!

Oreo Chocolates and Caramelized Nuts (“Knusperle”)

Cookies, Recipes

This December was a bit different from what I had expected. An injured daughter (nothing serious), a very ill cat, a minor car accident, some other “small” troubles, and a massive cold interrupted my plans very much. With all those things going on, I did not get around to baking as much as I would have liked to. At least I managed to make my favorite cookies:

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Walnut Cookies, Heart-shaped cookies with Rosehip-Jam, Wachauer Cookies (with chocolate shortcrust and vanilla-buttercream-filling), Marzipan Crescents, Ischler Cookies, Coconut Wedges.

I especiall like it when there is a big plate full of Christmass cookies. In my opinion, this just looks beautiful, very festive and Christmassy.

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I will give you two more recipes now, the rest will follow next year!

Oreo Chocolates

I came across the recipe for these Oreo Chocolates last week, at schaufenster.diepresse.com. They sounded so good that I had to try the recipe. Oero cookies are one of the few store-bought cookies which do not contain lactose, and I am always ready to experiment when I discover a recipe which uses Oreos. In this recipe, Oreos were combined with cream cheese, and the mixture was coated with chocolate – it HAD to taste great, I thought. Well, it does!

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In the original recipe, the balls were coated with white chocolate, then decorated with dark-chocolate-patterns and red and white sugar sprinkles. They looked very pretty.

Because of the lactose intolerance, I could not use white chocolate, so I dipped the Oreo Chocolates into dark chocolate. I did not have red and green sugar sprinkles at home, so I used chocolate sprinkles and decorating sugar instead. For decorating these balls, you can use anything you want – go play!

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Ingredients:
32 Oreo Cookies (in Austria: 2 packages of Oreo Cookies)
7 oz. (200 g) cream cheese, lactose-free

Chocolate glazing:
200 g dark chocolate, lactose-free (Lindt 70%, Merci 72%)
1-2 tbsp. butter

Slice the Oreo Cookies open. Scratch out the filling with a knife and put the filling into a mixing bowl.

Add the cream cheese to the Oreo-filling. With a hand mixer, combine well.

Put the rest of the Oreos into a plastic bag. With a rolling pin, smash them into very small crumbs. Alternatively you can grind them in a food processor. I prefer the rolling pin method as my food processer somehow cannot grind cookies well.

Add the crumbs to the cream cheese mixture and combine well.

Form balls of about 1 inch diameter. Cool for about one hour.

Cover a baking sheet with baking parchment.

For the chocolate glazing, cut the chocolate into small pieces. Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Add more butter if the glazing is too thick.

Place the balls onto a fork and dip them into the chocolate glazing; they should be completely coated with chocolate glazing. Put the balls onto the baking sheet and immediately decorate with sugar sprinkles, chocolate sprinkles, decorating sugar.

Depending on how big you make them, you will get about 25 Oreo Chocolates.

Store in the fridge.

Nuts in Caramel / “Knusperle”

This is another of my favorite cookies. The recipe is not as simple as it seems. I have made these cookies lots of times, but am always surprised by how much work they are. First of all, it takes a long time until all the nuts are roasted. Second, you might burn your fingers because the nuts and the caramel get unbelievably hot. And finally you will have to work really fast in order to separate the caramel-nuts-mixture into small cookie-sized portions. If you are too slow, you will get a huge caramel-nut-lump which you will never ever get apart again. Lots of work – but the result will be overwhelming, I promise!

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Knusperle 2

Ingredients:

1 ⅔ cup (375 g) sugar
⅔ sticks (80 g) butter
1 cup (125 g) whole hazelnuts
1 cup (125 g) peeled almond halves
1 cup (125 g) walnut halves

Chocolate glazing:
About 100 g dark chocolate, lactose-free (Lindt 70%, Merci 72%)
2 tbsp. butter

Heat the oven to 350° F (175°) C.

Spread the hazelnuts onto a baking sheet and roast for about 10-15 minutes. The skins should get dry and start to crack. Keep an eye on the hazelnuts: if they get too dark, they will taste burnt and bitter.

When the hazelnuts are roasted, pour them onto an (old) kitchen towel. Close the towel over the nuts and rub them against each other so that the skins will come off. Be careful – the nuts will be very hot! It might be a good idea to wear kitchen gloves while doing this. It is okay if you cannot get all the skins off; it will not matter.

Put the roasted and skinned hazelnuts into a heat resistant bowl.

Roast the almond halves until light brown, add them to the hazelnuts. Roast the walnuts until light brown, add to the other nuts.

Put all the nuts onto the baking sheet again; do not turn off the oven.

Generously butter a second baking sheet.

In a big pan, melt a small amount of the sugar at medium heatd. Gradually add the rest of the sugar and melt until golden brown or light brown.

Now you will have to work fast: Put the baking sheet with the nuts into the oven to warm the nut mixture.

Also put the buttered baking sheet into the oven.

Add the butter to the melted sugar and stir in well.

Remove the buttered baking sheet from the oven and place it onto a heat-resistant coaster.

Remove the baking sheet with the nut mixture from the oven and stir the hot nuts into the caramel until they are thoroughly coated with caramel.

Pour the mixture onto the warm, buttered baking sheet. Make sure you spread the mixture over the entire baking sheet. This will make it easier to form cookie-sized portions as some of the nuts will have separated already.

With two wet teaspoons, immediately separate the caramel-nut-mixture into small, cookies sized heaps. The mixture will firm up fast, so you will have to hurry! Let the mixture cool.

Chocolate glazing:
Cut the chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter.

Coat the bottoms of the Caramelized Nuts with chocolate glazing.

Depending on the size, you will get about 70 cookies.

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From: Neef, K. (1995). Nürnberger Weihnachtsbackbuch. München: Walter Hädecke Verlag.

Nut Wedges

Cookies, Recipes

Last weekend I realized that it was only just about four more weeks until Christmas! It is not even really December yet and does not feel like pre-Christmas-time at all! Never mind. Pre-Christmas time means baking, so off to the kitchen I headed.

Each year I start my Christmas-baking with Nut Wedges. This has become something of a tradition. Nut Wedges are ideal, as with one baking session I will get a big tin of cookies. This immediately gives me the feeling of having achieved something, and also of having a bit of a stock of cookies. Nut Wedges are also my son´s favorites – another reason to start my baking with them!

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The list of cookies I want to bake this year is a long one! “Linzer Augen“, „Linzer Stangen“, Vanilla Crescents, Heart-Shaped Cookies with Rose Hip Jam, Star-Shaped Cinnamon Cookies, Caramelized Nuts in Chocolate, Coconut Wedges, Nut Cookies with Marzipan, and more… Let´s see how far I´ll get!

The recipe for these Nut Wedges is ancient – it is from a TV magazine from the late 80s or early 90s, I do not really remember. Nut Wedges were among the first Christmas cookies I ever made. As back then I was just getting started with baking, I found the recipe challenging, especially as there was a mistake with the measurements. Meanwhile I know how to make these cookies fast and without problems, and I have corrected the measurement-mistake long ago.

I always bake Nut Wedges according to this recipe, as I know it will work!

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Ingredients:

Short pastry / Dough:
2 cups (250 g) flour or whole wheat flour
⅓ cup (70 g) brown sugar
1 stick (125 g) butter
1 egg
1 pinch of salt
½ jar of apricot jam (or another jam you like, e.g. strawberry)

Topping:
3 cups (300 g) ground hazelnuts
1 stick (125 g) butter
½ cup (100 g) brown sugar
3 tbsp. water

Chocolate glazing:
8.8 oz. (250 g) dark chocolate, lactose-free
⅓-½ cup (80 g-100 g) butter

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Preparation:
Short pastry / dough:

Cover a baking sheet with baking paper.

Preheat the oven to 400 ° F (200° C).

Put flour, sugar and salt onto the work surface. Cut the cold butter into small cubes. Add egg and butter to the flour mixture. With your hands, quickly knead to a dough. If possible, let the dough rest in the fridge/a cool place for half an hour.

Alternatively use a kitchen machine:
Knead the ingredients with a dough hook until you get a firm dough. I mostly use this method when making short pastry. It is fast and works well. It also keeps my hands clean!

Roll the dough into a rectangle of about 8×12 inches (20×30 cm). You can do so either directly on the baking sheet (covered with baking paper), or on a sheet of baking paper which you then transfer to the baking sheet together with the dough. Put a baking frame around the dough so you can spread the topping right to the edge.

Evenly spread the apricot jam on the dough.

For the topping, cut the butter into small pieces. Put butter, sugar and water into a small pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the oven and stir in the ground hazelnuts. Allow the mixture to cool.

Evenly spoon the hazelnut mixture over the jam. Spread with a knife or a pastry spatula and press down a little (using your hands helps!).

Bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Cut into small triangles while still warm. You do not have to separate the triangles yet.

Let the triangles cool on the sheet.

For the chocolate glazing, cut (or break) chocolate and butter into small pieces. Put chocolate and butter in a small pot and melt in a double boiler, or at low heat on the oven. Stir well. If the glazing is runny, add more chocolate. If it is not runny enough, add more butter.

Dip the Nut Wedges into the chocolate glazing and let them cool on a cooling rack.

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Keep in an airtight cookie tin.