Anise and Fennelseed Cookies

These anise and fennel cookies aren't the most traditional christmas cookies I have baked so far, but they are one of the tastiest cookies I have baked so far. Delicate and crumbly, they are both sweet and salty. They are made with almond and spelt flour and packed with roasted fennel, anise seeds and some added sesame seeds that give an extra crunchy textures. 

Even though they aren't the most traditional christmas cookies they do make for a great last minute christmas gift or an after-dinner treat. Now it's one week to christmas, tomorrow is the 4th of advent. Tomorow I will bake some of my other favourite cookies, Speculoos, Lebkuchen and Cinnamon Stars, which I shared with you last year. 

 


Ingredients

  • 300g white spelt flour
  • 120g sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1tsp corse sea salt
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp anise seeds
  • 200g cold butter
  • 2 large egg yolks

 


Recipe

1. Mix together the flour, sugar, almonds and sea salt. 

2. In a small pan without any oil, toast the sesame, fennel and anise seeds for 2min. until you can smell the aroma. Be careful not to burn them. 

3. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub them into the flour-mix just until crumbly. Add the toasted fennel, anise and sesame.

4. Add the egg yolks to the dough and knead in until the dough just comes together and you have a smooth dough- do not overwork though. Wrap in foil and refrigerate for 20-30min. 

5. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C and get your cookies cutters ready. Unwrap the dough and on a floured surface roll out 5-8mm thin. 

6. Cut out the cookies, using your favourite cookie cutter. Roll out leftover dough and repeat until all the dough is used up. You can also use cookies stamps to make them look extra christmas-y :-)

7. Place the cookies on a tray lined with foil, cover with foil and put them in the freezer for 10min.

8.Place them on a tray lined with baking paper, sprinkle on some sugar, and bake for 18-20min. until golden. Let them cool for a couple of minutes before moving them onto a cooling rack. Keep them in a cookie jar or eat them right away :) 


Mulled Wine Chocolate Cake

Only four days until christmas eve. And as every year, I'm knee-deep in end-of-year errands and work, so I haven't done as much baking and christmas preparation as I hoped. However, when I get the time, like today, I'm really trying to make it count. So bam! Mulled wine, chocolate cake, and christmas music all loaded in one day. 

Usually I make this cake with just red wine, and the idea to use mulled wine just recently occurred to me while I was at the chistmas market, warming my hands to a cup of sweet sweet 'Glühwein' as you call it here. 

This year we will spend christmas at our place in the Oderbruch. Last weekend we tiled the bathroom and installed the bathtub. Kitchen is ready too. And to be honest, a little quiet, a warm bath, a crackling fireplace and the fresh air outside is really all I need for christmas this year. Well and of course delicious food :-) And as a little christmas special, I will post some pictures from our renovated space soon. So stay tuned. 

Ingredients

  • 150g spelt flour
  • 100g ground hazelnuts
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 2tbsp cacao powder
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 2tsp mulled wine spice* 
  • 200g muscovado sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 250g (vegan) butter
  • 4 organic eggs (or 4 flax/chia eggs for a vegan version)
  • 150ml + 50ml mulled wine** 
  • 75g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
  • 70g hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1 orange
  • 150-250g icing sugar

* This can be easily made by mixing: 1bsp ground cinnamon, 1tsp ground cloves, 1/2tsp ground cardamom, 1/2tsp ground ginger, 1/2tsp ground star anise

** For 250ml red wine I use 2 tsp of mulled wine spice plus 1 extra cinnamon stick.

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Beat the butter with the sugar until creamy. Gradually add an egg at a time. 

2. Mix together the flour, baking powder, ground hazelnuts, salt, vanilla, mulled wine spice and cacao. 

3. Gradually add the dry ingredients and the 150ml mulled wine to the batter until everything is fully incorporated and there are no lumps left. 

4. Grate the zest off the orange. Chop the chocolate into small bits. Now add the orange zest, chocolate and chopped hazelnuts to the batter.

5. Pour the batter into a buttered cake tin and bake for 45-50min. until a skewer comes out clean. 

6. In the meantime, prepare the mulled wine icing. Squeeze the juice from half an orange and mix with the mulled wine. Sift the icing sugar. Gradually add the icing sugar to the liquid until you get a somewhat gooey, semi-fluid icing. 

7. Let the cake cool down a little before taking it out of the tin. Let it cool down completely before spreading on the icing. 

Speculatius Cookies

Christmas is approaching closer. This year the 2nd Sunday of Advent and St. Nicholas Day fell on the same day which called for appropriate celebrations. As a kid we would put out our shoes on the eve of the 5th and go to bed with anticipation and excitement hitting the ceiling. The next morning we would find them brimful with cookies and sweets and tangerines. And they always contained speculatius cookies. 

Growing up in Belgium, Speculaas was part of my Christmas season palate. I remember that during christmas season, you would even get a speculaas with every purchase at the supermarket. 

And you know how formative these early childhood years are - so you can imagine my excitement when I came across an old wooden speculatius mould on the flea market. Before thinking about how to even use this kind of mould I had already bought it and started collecting speculatius recipes off the web. After a couple of attempts I finally composed a recipe which dignifies my childhood memories and yet doesn't contain massive amounts of sugar. 

Ingredients

  • 90g coconut oil
  • 80g coconut blossom sugar
  • 2 tsp speculatius spice*
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 150g spelt flour
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • 2 pinch of salt
  • 4 tbsp oat milk 

* You can easily make this yourself: mix together 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp orange peel, 1/2 tsp allspice, 1/4 tsp anise seeds, 1/8 tsp mace and 1/4 tsp cardamom (you don't need to be too accurate about the amounts, my spice mix always turns out a little different every year. Just adjust to your own taste and liking)

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Melt the coconut oil and mix with the sugar and spices. 

2. In a big bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. 

3. With your hands, work together the coconut oil-sugar mix with the dry ingredients. The texture will be a little bit crumbly at this point. 

4. In order to make a soft dough, add the oat milk, 1 tbsp at a time. The dough shouldn't get sticky (if it does just add a little bit of flour again). 

5. Wrap the dough in cling foil and rest in the fridge for about 1 hour. Cause of the coconut oil the dough will be quite firm. Take out and wait 15 minutes before proceeding.

6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough (5mm thin) and cut out your cookies. For this you can use cookie cutters or even simply a knife or if you by any chance get a hold of an old speculatius mould, use that! I have worked out a system by which I roll the dough onto the mould, peel it off and cut off any surplus dough. But to be honest I don't know whether that's the most effective way of doing it. 

7. Place the cookies on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 10 minutes. Let them rest on a cooling rack for 1-2 hours and store in an airtight container. 

These cookies make a wonderful gift to your friends and loved ones for christmas - if you can refrain from eating them all up yourself. 


Lebkuchen & Cinnamon Hearts

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. My favourite time of the year starts now. The smell of cinnamon, star anis, cloves and oranges. Having an excuse to bake tons of cookies. And also having an excuse to eat tons of cookies I guess. I don't need to say more.

For starters I wanna share with you two of my favourite, and very classic christmas cookie recipes: Lebkuchen and Cinnamon Stars which in my case turned out be hearts, as I don't have any star-shaped cutters (note to self: Perfect excuse to go shopping for new cutters). 

Lebkuchen

makes 50
prep time: 90min.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp salts of hartshorn (ammonium carbonate)*
  • 400 g coconut blossom or muscovado sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 egg whites
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 125 g honey
  • 100 g candied lemon peel
  • 100 g candied orange peel
  • 350 g white spelt flour 
  • 200 g ground hazelnuts
  • 250 ground almonds
  • 2 tsp Lebkuchen spice**
  • 50 baking wafers (70mm) 

    for the glaze
  • 150g dark chocolate for coating 
  • 150g icing sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon

* If you can't get a bold of this, you can also use baking powder
** contains cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pepper, anis, allspice, coriander, ginger, cardamom

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Mix the salts of hartshorn with 1 tbsp lukewarm water and set aside. Mix the sugar with the eggs, egg whites and using an electric mixer whisk until the mixture is fluffy and creamy. 

2. Add the lemon zest, honey, candied lemon and orange peel and hartshorn salt and fold everything into the mixture.

3. In another bowl mix together the flour, hazelnuts, almonds and lebkuchen spice. Now gradually add the dry ingredients to the batter, making sure everything is well incorporated. 

4. Using two spoons scoop 1 tbsp if batter each on a wafer and place on a lined baking tray. 

5. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool down to room temperature. 

6. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie. Mix together the icing sugar with the juice of the lemon (should be quite a thick paste, if need be, add more icing sugar). Coat half the lebkuchen with chocolate and the other half with the lemon glaze. Let the glaze solidify. If you can refrain from eating them all right up, they should keep up to two weeks in an airtight container. 


Cinnamon Hearts (gluten-free)

makes 50
prep time: 50min. (+ 2 hours resting)

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites
  • 250 g icing sugar
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 0.5 tsp ground coffee
  • 390 g ground almonds

Instructions

1. Beat the egg whites until you get stiff peaks. Sieve the icing sugar and add gradually to the egg whites. Reserve 3 tbsp egg whites for later. 

2. Mix the ground almonds with the vanilla, cinnamon and ground coffee. Now add the dry ingredients to the egg whites. Fold together until the dough doesn't stick to your hands. If it's too sticky add more icing sugar (or a little bit of oat or rice flour). 

3. Roll out the dough between to pieces of cling foil (roughly 1 cm thick). Place the dough in the fridge for 2 hours. 

4. Preheat the oven to 100°C. Using (heart-, or star-, or whatever shape you like-) cookie cutters, cut out your cookies, place them on a lined baking tray and brush on some of the remaining egg whites. 

5. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes. Let them cool down completely before removing from the baking sheets.