Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Christmas in July

I love how my house smells today.  It's because my younger two boys like to bake. 

Lego Boy wanted Pfeffernusse and Hot Dog wanted Pizzelles.   These are traditional Christmas cookies around here, but I think our recent trip made them crave comfort food.  I had chemo yesterday so I said they could have them if they made them themselves.  Hot Dog needed a little support ("I'm best at taste testing and timing, Mom") but he managed to do everything himself except putting the batter on the iron.

So, for your own Christmas in July, here are two of our favorite Christmas Cookies.

(Little Pepper Nuts)

Pfeffernusse is a traditional Danish cookie, something my grandmother would make every year using her own mother's recipe.  It's a spicy crunchy little cookie.   Born in Denmark, Great Grandma's recipe began with "Use plenty big kettle".  This recipe is modified from the Betty Crocker Cookie Book, and doesn't require boiling molasses syrup.  It also doesn't risk breaking your teeth, like my old family recipe.  ;-)

1/2 cup shorting (butter, margarine, or oil)
1 1/2 cup molasses  OR 1 cup molasses + 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3 drops anise oil + 1 Tbls hot water
3 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour or all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp allspice OR ginger

Mix shortening, sugar, egg, molasses (and sugar if using it) and anise.
Mix in dry ingredients.

Make into bite size pieces and bake on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for about 12 minutes at 350 degrees F.  If using a convection oven bake at 325.  Remove while still hot.  They will get crunchy as they cool.

Notes and modifications:

If dough is to soft to handle, chill it for a bit.

You can vary the ratio of spices if you like.  Personally I prefer a little more pepper and a little less clove, so feel free to play with it.

These cookies may be made in to small bite size balls by hand, rolled out thick and cut with a pastry cutter, or if you're feeling up to it you can roll it and use tiny cookie cutters to make pretty bite size cookies.  Did you catch that they must be small and bite size?  They're very crunchy and you want to get it all in one bite.

These are a sturdy little cookie and store well in any container.

Some heathens dip these in powdered sugar when they're done.  I don't get it, but you can if you want.

From "The New Book of Waffles and Pizzelles"

3 eggs
1/2 cup butter (or 1/4 cup butter  1/4 cup oil)
2 Tbls anise extract
1 Tbls ground anise seed
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose flour)

Beat butter (and oil, if using) with sugar, extract and anise seeds.   Beat in eggs.  Add baking powder and flour.

Bake according to your pizzelle maker's manufacturer's instructions.

Notes and modifications:

This is the traditional Italian version that I love.  If anise isn't your thing (you weirdo, you) there are many other variations.  The most basic of which is to just substitute vanilla for the anise.  Oooh, but using orange extract is really nice too.

These are very delicate cookies.  If you use half oil, they are a little sturdier.

To store I like the round cookie tins you can find at the thrift stores.  That protects them a bit more than a cookie jar.

If you make the vanilla ones you can also roll them around a form while they're still hot to make homemade ice cream cones, or around a rod for a cannoli shell.

If you want to be really fancy you can drizzle some dark chocolate on the pizzell.  They're yummy and pretty that way, but harder to store.