OK, this post is all about childhood memories. So I was born in Uruguay, in Latin America, right? Meaning that I also experienced Uruguayan Christmas. And one thing we always had for Christmas in Uruguay were these peanut butter truffles. There is a Brazilian brand named Garoto that sells these truffles. All old-fashioned, wrapped in yellow paper with a large red logo saying “Serenata de Amor”, I mean if this is not a poetic name for a truffle, I don’t know. Usually I hoped that my sister would be kind enough to give me some of her truffles since she is into savory stuff (yeah, I don’t get it either). Sometimes this plan worked out, sometimes it didn’t and so on December 26th I was often out of truffles. Rationing sweets has never been my thing, especially as a child.
Today I am introducing a fast espresso parfait, which is served with cranberry sauce. In case you are looking for a festive dessert you can prepare in advance for Christmas, this may be for you. Since it is frozen, it is up to you to decide when to make it. Also, you can make the cranberry sauce up to two days in advance. I think it is perfect for Christmas as you will have one less thing to worry about. The creamy espresso parfait is delicious on its own, however, if topped of with the tangy cranberry sauce, you have a winning team. Let’s get started!
Today I am introducing you to a German treat with a Latin American twist: tree cake with the caramel dulce de leche. You may wonder why it is called tree cake. All the layers are supposed to represent the rings you see when you cut through the stem of a tree. If you buy this cake at a fair, the layers are not shown horizontally, but vertically. This makes it look even more like the real tree rings and hence the name. However, since you need a special construction with the cake roating on it to bake layer after layer, I decided to go for a simple version you can prepare with your oven at home.
Have you ever heard of Pfeffernüsse aka German spice cookies? I live in the south of Germany in the city Munich. Once I asked in a bakery whether they sold any and they look at me as if as were from Mars. So I checked, since there are so many German dialects, maybe they use another word in Bavaria, but no, I quickly learned that they are also called Pfeffernüsse here. However, they seem to be more common in the north of Germany, the Dutch and Danish also have similar versions. The handwritten recipe book from my grandma contains about ten different recipes. Many of her recipes contain peppermint extract and this one is closer to gingerbread or German Lebkuchen. Pfeffernüsse literally translates as “pepper nuts”, probably they are called “nuts” because they are the size of walnuts. At least the ones I grew up with are rather small.
Guys, it was so, so much fun baking, decorating, assembling, and also filming this gingerbread house (video further down below). You can’t imagine how wonderful this was. Probably because this year is different and so I needed to relax even more than usual. I dare say that I have become a gingerbread expert over the years. You need to know that I always decorate our tree with gingerbread, I also make tiny gingerbread houses you can actually place on your mug every year. I have learned a lot making gingerbread over and over again. And today I am going to share with you how to make this gingerbread house from scratch. You will find a recipe for a sturdy house, lots of helpful hints and tips, a recipe for royal icing and a video showing the entire process. I have traditionally made a gingerbread house for the first of advent for several years. I just love when the entire apartment smells like cinnamon and other spices throughout December. So let’s get started!
Snickerdoodles are America’s answer to German cinnamon stars! I love snickerdoodles and I find it super exciting every time a German tries one and declares it the new favorite cookie. Snickerdoodles are easy to prepare and are similar to how sugar cookies are created. You will need cream of tartar for these beauties to stay soft and puffy. The recipe does not require any chilling.
These German vanilla crescents are prepared with real vanilla to give them maximum flavor. This is a classic Christmas cookie very popular in the German-speaking countries. So we are going to add vanilla not only in the dough, but also in the dusting. They are called vanilla crescents for a reason.
Cookie boxes are my thing! I love shipping cookies to friends and family during the season! I have been doing this for years. And since this year is so special and you may not be able to see everybody you hold dear, how about shipping a cookie box instead? This post will let you know which type and size of box to choose, which cookies are best to ship with lots of recipe suggestions, how you make your cookie box look nice and give it a personal touch and how your cookies make it safe and sound without breaking or going bad. Let’s have a look:
#1 Which box is best to ship cookies?
It may sound counter-intuitive, but I do prefer rectangular boxes, even if round cookie boxes seem so much more common here in Germany. I find rectangular boxes so much better as you can easily create smaller compartments by cutting out some carton (yes, you can use an old cornflakes box) and by placing them inside your cookie box to create smaller compartments. So stacking the cookies becomes much easier as each has its small compartment and is protected even better. You probably could create something similar with a round cookie box, but I am very bad at this. This is not to say that you can’t use round boxes, but as stated, for shipping rectangular boxes are better.
A tin can will work best and can be found in German stores during this time of the year. Once I even bought a cookie box already filled with cookies in a grocery store and replaced those with my own homemade cookies. So you can go with tin, thick carton, or wood. Paper is not thick enough, you may only use it if you want to wrap single cookies in some extra containers.
The size is also tricky, they shouldn’t be too small as you won’t be able to put in any cookies (and they fill up much faster than you think), but also not too large. I would suggest about 17-20cm in diameter and 8-10cm in height for round cookie boxes, these are the ones I liked a lot. For a rectangular box again height should be between 8-10cm, the largest I shipped was 17cm in width and 20cm long.
Have you ever heard of quince paste? Here in Germany it is usually cut into diamond shapes and rolled in additional sugar. It is then served as a sweet during Christmas season, as another cool addition on the cookie plate. Quince paste, however, is not only famous in Germany, it is also served in Spain and Latin America as a dessert with some strong cheese such as cheddar or in some regions in Spain with goat cheese. Usually it is called “dulce de membrillo”, or in combiation with cheese in Uruguay it is also called “postre Martín Fierro”. The same quince paste is accompanied by some savory component: cheese.
Wow, you guys are crazy! And I am crazy! Because I will be flying to my in-laws tomorrow and I am writing this blog post even though I haven’t packed yet. I usually plan my posts long in advance. But not this time. That’s because soooo many of you requested the recipes of the below cookie box. When I showed the picture on Instagram and Facebook, many of you wanted to get ALL the recipes. Figure that. All of them. And since I am far away from being able to link on Instagram, I will link the recipes in this blog post. The below picture shows the cookies with numbers, so you should be able to match them. I tried to number them clockwise, so it is easy to see which one is which. The cookies are as follows:
- Brownie cookies
- German cinnamon stars (gluten free)
- Speculoos prezels (I made them to prezels and dunked them in chocolate)
- Ugly sweater gingerbread
- Baci di dama (hazelnut cookies)
- Nutella chocolate chip cookies
- Chocolate chip cookies with instant pudding
- Spice wreaths (I made mine with marzipan “cranberries), not on my blog
P.S.: If you are making all these cookies, you will probably have a lot of egg whites left over. What to do with leftover egg whites and how to freeze it, you will find here.
And in case you were wondering, I like to bake one cookie per day. I work full-time, so I always made one recipe after work. Once cooled, I immediately froze them and only took them out shortly before shipping. I am not the type who will make like five different cookies in one night. Too stressful, that’s not me. If it is a recipe that requires the dough to chill, I would prepare the dough in the morning, go to work, return, and then cut out the cookies, bake them, etc.
I have shipped a lot of cookies successfully, just be sure to make cookies you can stack and that are sturdy. I feel that the tin/can already protects them well, so what I did was to stack them and cover with some napkins or similar. The cookie box was protected with newspaper. So far the cookies I’ve shipped all made it safe and sound. I even did a cookie box giveaway for the international cookie day. If you have not shipped cookies, give it a try. First ship nationally and see how it goes. I am telling you, it is addictive!
The cookie box you can see is from the German publishing house Grätz (currently seems to only be available on Amazon). I will take this box to my in-laws in Spain. And since I still need to pack, I will leave you to it. As always feel free to ask me anything about baking or if you encounter problems. Alright, have wonderful holidays!