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!

Oreo Kugeln 1

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.

Knusperle 1

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

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Vanilla Crescents

Cookies, Recipes

Like the recipe for the „Linzer Augen“, this is my Grandma´s recipe. When I first was about to make Vanilla Crescents according to this recipe, I was wondering about the fact that there was no egg in the shortcrust pastry. I called my mom to ask if this could be right. It was. There is no egg in the shortcrust pastry, so the pastry is rather crumbly. Rolling it into crescents is therefore quite difficult. You rather have to press the pastry into crescent-shape. It´s worth the effort, though – the Vanilla Crescents are unbelievably delicious and crunchy and will melt in your mouth.

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The amount given is enough for 70-80 Vanilla Crescents. I used the double amount of ingredients – my family loves Vanilla Crescents so much that the “normal” amount will not be enough.

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Ingredients:
1 ¾ cup (200 g) flour
⅔ cup (140 g) butter
½ cup (100 g) fine sugar
1 cup (100 g) ground walnuts

2-3 cups (250 g – 350 g) powdered sugar for sprinkling
3-4 tbsp. high quality vanilla sugar (no vanillin!)

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Cut the butter into small cubes.

Sieve the powdered sugar into a big kitchen bowl. Mix in the vanilla sugar.

With your hands or a kitchen machine, knead flour, butter, sugar and ground walnuts until you get a smooth shortcrust pastry.

Form two „sausages“ of pasty, each with a diameter of slightly more than one inch. Put them on a plate and refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 355° F (180° C). Cover baking sheets with baking paper.

Cut off small slices of pastry and roll them in your hands until they are smooth. Form little crescents and put them on a baking sheet.

Bake for about 10 minutes. The crescents should still be very light.

Let the crescents cool on the baking sheet for about one minute, then transfer to a large plate. Liberally sprinkle with the vanilla-sugar-mixture while they are still hot.

You can also sprinkle them directly on the baking sheet, as I did here with the last two batches (I only have two baking sheets).

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If you want, you can sprinkle the vanilla-sugar-mixture onto the plate even before you transfer the crescents to that plate. This way also the bottom of the crescents will be covered with vanilla sugar – I love that!

Store in a cookie tin in a cool place.

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.