Cinnamon is a common theme among these Christmas cookies. And just as well as its probably our favourite spice. Hell, is there anyone who doesn’t like cinnamon? But these next cookies don’t just have cinnamon, they are all about the cinnamon.
Zimtsterne are a German cookie and very popular around Christmas time. Traditionally served by German Jews at the meal after Yom Kippur, the star shape of the cookies represent the nightfall that signifies the end of the fast. It can vary in ingredients but these are cinnamon stars at their most basic. 4 ingredients, minimal prep and did I mention you don’t even have to decorate them? Yeah, that icing goes on before the biscuits even bake.
Today’s festive cookie is one that has more memories associated with my fiance than me. He has a great number of memories from the Dutch side of his family, particularly his grandparents, feeding him all sorts of treats. Of all the ones he’s asked me to make, speculaas are certainly one of the most requested. And what better excuse to make them than for Christmas.
Traditionally these cookies are baked for St Nicholas Day or for Christmas. As such they are also traditionally stamped with an image depicting St. Nicholas and the stories around him. I didn’t have any springerle moulds so I settled with a simple Christmas star instead.
Perhaps I’m stretching the biscuit theme a little here, but when making Klejne I couldn’t help but be reminded of another treat which is similar in method, similar in flour profile, but quite different in result. Koeksisters are a South African treat which is essentially a friend, plaited dough drenched in syrup. Another treat enjoyed year-round particularly in their native home, but often reserved for important celebrations.
Once you make them you might realise why. This is not a treat that favours the waistline. The luxuriously soft donutty dough is lathered generously in a thick, sugary syrup; and its not exactly easy to stop and just one!
Growing up around the northern suburbs of Melbourne meant growing up in a very multicultural area. Almost none of my friends were from white Aussie backgrounds and this meant I was incredibly lucky to grow up surrounded by a rich array of different cultures. One of the ways many of those cultures expressed themselves was through food. Every visit to friends’ houses after school introduced me to a world very unlike my own, and this was especially so at Christmas time. I remember so often being presented with platters full of Christmas cookies to take home of varying shapes and flavours I’d never seen before. Christmas at my house meant roast meats and salads and barbecues and pavlova and chocolate ripple cakes. But baking cookies was never one of our traditions.
This year I wanted to spend some time visiting those memories and cuisines from around the world. This year I want to send people home with giant platters of traditional Christmas cookies.
Back from a small accidental hiatus. Anyone who cosplays will know full well the drama that is cosplay crunch as the convention approaches. And they’ll know just as well the con plague that hits you after. Between being busy and sick there’s been no time to bake. But now its time. My favourite time of the year is approaching. Its almost Christmas, which means it is the perfect excuse to bake and bake and bake.
This week I eased into the festive season by baking a creme brulee with a twist. I had a lot of cream to use up and I wanted to try a Christmas-inspired creme brulee that wasn’t minty. Then the inspiration hit like it was always meant to be.
There’s a number of challenges I’ve fallen off the bandwagon with lately. My favourite of which is the Daring Bakers Challenge. Last month I was absolutely determined that I’d jump back in. Well, I did the challenge. But I didn’t get around to getting the blog done in time. ‘Better late than never’ has been my motto lately, so I figured I’d pop these recipes up belatedly. Cinnamon is certainly one of my favourite things on this planet, so skipping it felt like a crime.
The challenge was of course cinnamon rolls. Shelley from C Mom Cook dared us to create our own dough and fill it with any filling we wanted to craft tasty rolled treats, cinnamon not required! They are one of my favourite things on the planet. There are so many varieties it was so hard to choose any given one. So in the end I went with one very traditional, and the other not so traditional.
Winter is coming. And with it comfort food. Lots and lots of comfort food. Cooking during winter is just so much better for so many reasons, but the best one of all being how wonderful it can make you feel on a cold night. One thing that features a lot in my household is vegetable soups. They’re so quick and easy to prepare, and are something we all enjoy. Even my vegetable-hating sister will sit down to a veggie soup.
Something else that features in my kitchen a lot is coriander, or cilantro as some of my international readers will know it as. My local fruit shop typically sells massive bunches of them as a three for $2.50 deal. It’s so extremely cheap in comparison to any supermarket that I can’t help but bring the trio home with me every time I go shopping. It can make it difficult to use it all before it spoils, so this recipe is one of a few I turn to when I have a lot to use. It has all the ease of a standard vegetable soup made special with the addition of fresh coriander and a handful of Moroccan spices.
I hope you all had a wonderful Easter holiday. I spent mine with my partner and his family, eating way too much food and trying not to eat all the chocolate too. His brother and sister-in-law hosted us all on Good Friday, and on Easter Sunday his parents did. Both his mother and sister-in-law put on an amazing spread of food that we all ate too much of, and that was before we even thought about dessert.
I bought along a couple of baked goods for the occasion, baking most of it vegan so everyone could eat some. I made a batch of hot cross buns to bring because they’re lots of fun to make, but also because it’s next to impossible to find any here that don’t contain palm oil, especially not vegan ones. And then there was this Easter-themed cake.
Making chocolate cake vegan is so easy. There’s so many recipes that are already incidentally vegan or an easy substitute away from it. This time I decided to spice things up a little with a Mexican chocolate cake.
Earlier this month it was my boyfriend’s 31st birthday. As the recipient of practically all the goodies I bake, it can be hard to come up with something special for his birthday dinner and dessert and/or cake. This is exacerbated by the fact that his idea of special and mine exist on opposite sides of the planet. I like busy and complex multi-layered cakes of ridiculousness with fancy decorations, he likes chessecake. I started quizzing him on things he’d like me to make for him and got nothing except requests to make cakes I’d made for previous birthdays. Unsatisfied with that answer I sent him to rummage through my recipe books for ideas.
He returned with an A4 list of cakes. He’s about as decisive as I am.
They were almost all cheesecakes and tea cakes, save for the bread and butter pudding he’d very subtly circled. I resigned to banishing any idea of spectacular gateaux from my mind and baking him a cheesecake instead (whose birthday is it anyway, right?).
I took a basic baked cheesecake recipe and decided to load it with a few of his favourite things.
It’s hard to pick a favourite cuisine. There’s so much amazing food offered from all corners of the globe. But Indian food is definitely one of them. Growing up, my family was very anti-Indian food. They were really anti-anything that wasn’t pasta, schnitzel or cooked on a BBQ. It wasn’t until I was out with Cam’s family celebrating a birthday that I tried it for the first time, and it was love at first bite. These days I cook a lot of it at home. I love learning about the different dishes from different regions and trying to recreate them. [And I’ll totally take up any suggestions you guys have for favourite Indian dishes to try at any time!]
Cam and I also often go out to Indian restaurants, looking for the most authentic-tasting food we can find. We have a few favourite places we find ourselves at. We’re never good at just ordering one curry, so we usually pick the banquet option and have a couple between us.
The dessert options at every place appear to be the same two options: gulab jamun or one of a variety of kulfis. By the time we’ve made it through the curries (during which I’ve usually made Cam finish off my plate too) the thought of squeezing in anything that requires chewing feels completely beyond me. I always go for the kulfi. Cam, on the other hand, simply engages what he calls his ‘dessert’ stomach and goes for the gulab jamun.
Invariably, they always serve one. Invariably, he is always disappointed by this. And invariably, I’m always left wondering how he could stomach more than one.
Since he loves them so much and always wants more, it was more than enough of an excuse to try making them at home. I was also keen to find out what all the fuss was about myself.