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Christmas baking

Christmas granola — the perfect homemade gift

Five good reasons to switch up your traditional homemade holiday gifts from cookies to granola.

  1. It couldn’t be simpler to make and your kitchen will smell like orange, cinnamon and toasted nuts and coconut for days.
  2. It’s the perfect gift to go low- to no-waste by buying ingredients in bulk with your own containers, sourcing local like my neighbour’s walnuts, and packaging in use-again Mason jars labelled with easily washed off http://www.wineglasswriter.com Wine Glass Writers.
  3. Granola has a longer shelf-life than cookies and it’s filled with healthy ingredients like nuts, seeds, grains and dried fruit.
  4. It’s amazing as a breakfast cereal or sprinkled on yoghurt.
  5. Invite over a group of friends and make a really really large batch (like 64 quart jars), put on some Christmas tunes and drink a little wine or cider.

Christmas Granola recipe

Ingredients for six cups of granola (just multiply everything for bigger batches)

  • Four cups quick or old-fashioned, uncooked oats
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts or a combination of all three
  • 1 tablespoon wheat bran
  • 1 tablespoon wheat germ
  • 1/4 raw unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup of local honey
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups dried cranberries
Ingredients for many batches of this recipe and some of the jar decorating supplies.

Easy baking directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. (We also used our wood fired oven. If you are lucky enough to have one… fire it up to pizza-baking temperature or very hot, burn down the coals and then remove and cool to about 180 C… basically the temperature you would use to make bread.)

Use your oven or if you have one, granola bakes well in a wood-fired oven.

Mix all the ingredients together except the dried cranberries, (which are added after the granola is toasted) in a large bowl. Spread the granola onto cookie sheets or other suitable baking pans.

Bake for 40 minutes stirring the granola every 10 minutes so it toasts evenly. The granola should be a nice even toasted brown colour when its done.

Cool and then add the dried cranberries and mix.

Decorate your jars

Cut squares of a Christmas fabric to cover your jar lids, tie on some greenery or berries with raffia and label the jars with handy dandy Wine Glass Writers. Christmas scents will hit you as soon as you open the beautiful re-useable containers.

French buttery, hazelnutty, chocolatey Christmas cookies – Flours de Lin

IMG_3917.jpgThere is no better combination in French baking than a tender butter cookie made with ground almonds, sandwiched with hazelnut spread and dipped in dark chocolate. These Flours de Lin are relatively easy to make and have become a staple in my Christmas baking.  Even if your piping skills aren’t up to scratch they are so tasty it won’t matter.

IMG_3840.jpgCookie Ingredients (makes apex. 20 cookies)

  • Cake flour – 125 grams (1 cup plus 4 teaspoons)
  • Room temperature butter – 150 grams (5 1/4 ounces)
  • Sea salt – 1/8 teaspoon
  • Granulated sugar – 80 grams (1/3 cup)
  • Ground almonds – 60 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tbs)
  • Egg whites – 30 grams (1 extra-large white less 1 to 2 teaspoons)
  • Vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste – 5 grams (1 teaspoon)

Directions

Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Sift the flour into a bowl and set aside. Place the soft butter with the sea salt and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer and mix with the paddle attachment for 1 minute on medium speed. (Note…if your butter isn’t soft these cookies will require Popeye muscles to pipe) Add the almond flour, egg whites and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add the sifted flour and mix for 30 seconds only on low speed. Do not over-mix as it will spoil the delicacy of the cookies.

Scrape the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8 inch star tip. Pipe 1 1/2-inch-long flat teardrop cookies onto the parchment-paper-lined sheet plans, leaving 1/2 space in between them and staggering the rows.

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Hold the pastry bag with the tip at a 45-degree angle, close to the sheet pan. Continue to press on the bag and swing the tip toward you while you progressively stop pressing, so that the teardrop ends in a tail.

Let the cookies rest at room temperature for 1 hour. Thirty minutes before baking preheat the oven to 375 F.

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Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely.

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Filling and dipping ingredients

  • Hazelnut paste (such as Nutella) – 200 grams (2/3 cup)
  • Good quality dark chocolate – 200 grams (7 ounces)

Assembly directions

Once cool, flip half of the cookies over and pipe a small amount of the hazelnut paste. Top with another cookie and press down lightly to sandwich.

IMG_3878.jpgSlowly melt the dark chocolate over a double boiler. Dip the tail of each cookie into the chocolate and place the cooke on parchment paper. Let the chocolate harden and then store the cookies in an airtight container. Do not refrigerate.

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(You can substitute the hazelnut paste with a chocolate ganache or raspberry jam if you like.)

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Mandelhornchen – Amazingly easy delicious German holiday cookies

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These German delicacies contain a hat trick of almonds – marzipan, ground almonds and sliced almonds and the horseshoe is then dipped in dark chocolate. Also call almond horseshoes or almond horns they are very easy to make. The key is to buy good quality marzipan. I bought mine at La Cucina European Market. Another tip is to work clean, as my pastry chef instructor drilled into us. By this I mean, make sure to clean out your bowl and beaters well using every scrap of your expensive ingredients in your cookies.

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Ingredients

  • 10 ounces good quality marzipan (almond paste), broken into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 ounces finely ground almonds
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

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Directions

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix marzipan, almonds and sugar on low speed until well combined (mixture may appear a bit dry at this point). Mix in egg white and almond extract until combined.

Toast sliced almonds in your preheated oven for 5 to 10 minutes until lightly browned. Divide dough into 12 equal portions (about 1 rounded tablespoon each). Working one at time, roll each ball into almonds as you shape it into 4 1/2-inch ropes with blunt ends. Shape rope into U shape and place on prepared baking sheet. Continue with remaining balls of dough, evenly spacing apart from each other.

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Bake cookies until just beginning to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool on pan 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes.

 

In a medium bowl over pan of barely simmering water, melt half of chocolate, stirring gently, then add remaining chocolate and stir to melt. Dip ends of almond horns in chocolate and place back on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Chill cookies in fridge until set. Serve cookies at room temperature.

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