Christmas Baking Kickoff – Almond Cookies with Amaretto

Almond Cookies with Amaretto | My Blue&White Kitchen

Today, I'm going to be a real European and ignore Thanksgiving altogether. Let's move right to Christmas and Christmas cookies, shall we? Because the truth is that after you've stuffed your face with turkey and pumpkin pie, you'll need to focus on Christmas. Next Sunday is Advent Sunday so one is officially allowed to be crazy excited about Christmas. [Okay, some of you may have started a bit earlier. Yeah, including yours truly.] For me, getting into Christmas mood means to drink glögg, Scandinavian mulled wine, on a daily basis, write Christmas cards, and bake Christmas cookies. Lots of cookies that is.

For several weeks each year, my kitchen turns into a kingdom of flour, butter, sugar, and nuts. I have a pretty long list of cookies I have to bake every. single. year., including numerous from delicious:days as well as old family favorites. For a cookie recipe to be included into my yearly repertoire, it has to be outstanding. One that you just can't get enough of. One that people fight over to get the last one from the tin box. Folks, I just found a new one.

These almond cookies are to die for. Seriously. I gave a bunch of them to people to see if it was just me who couldn't get enough of these treats (okay, just wanted to share the love). It's probably needless to say that these cookies got rave reviews. My favorite was from my dad stating in a matter-of-fact voice "You're going to bake more of these for Christmas, right?". Right.

The recipe is from Steph's debut cookbook, Easy Gourmet. Most of you probably know her. She's the creative soul behind i am a food blog. The one who puts miso in her mashed potatoes and makes ridiculously cute Totoro grilled cheese (that your friend sends you images of via WhatsApp and you reply with a Totoro cake pic). She also happened to be Saveur Magazine's 2014 Editor's Choice for Best Cooking Blog AND Blog of the Year. Oh and did I already mention that she's one of the sweetest persons I've made friends with on the internet? Yeah, that's Steph.

Easy Gourmet is like i am a food blog but on paper. Steph made an incredible job with this book; she not only developed, cooked, and shot all the recipes but also did the layout as well! 100% her; 100% real. The book is full of tasty and approachable recipes. You can find classics, such as Paella, Porchetta, and Pavlova, but also recipes with a modern, Steph-ish twist, such as Bone Marrow Pasta, French Onion Grilled Cheese, and Lemon Meringue S'Mores. A book for kitchen witches and wizards as well as for those ones who want to become one.

These cookies are full of almondy goodness; crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. The original recipe calls for 1 tsp almond extract but because I didn't have any at hand and because booze in baked goods is always a good idea, I used amaretto instead. Also, I belong to the range of people who love their cookies topped with flaky sea salt, so I just couldn't resist sprinkling some on top of these ones as well. I also want to mention that if you are one of those people lucky enough to live in a region free of salmonella in eggs (me!) or just aren't afraid of salmonella, then be sure to grab a spoon and dig it deep into the dough before shaping any cookies. The dough tastes excellent (also an important criteria for any great cookie recipe). I may or may not have eaten a fair share of the dough before and during the process of shaping cookies. Call me cookie dough monster.

Enjoy.


Almond Cookies with Amaretto

slightly adapted from Easy Gourmet by Stephanie Le, p. 218
makes 18 cookies

140 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour 
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp fine sea salt
114 g (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
100 g (½ cup) granulated sugar
110 g (½ cup) light muscovado sugar
115 g (¾ cup) almond flour
1 egg (European size M; U.S. size L)
1 tbsp amaretto liqueur
100 g (1 cup) almonds, roughly chopped
50 g (½ cup) sliced almonds
flaky sea salt, to sprinkle

powdered sugar, to decorate


Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. With a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugars, and almond flour until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until incorporated. Stir in the amaretto liqueur. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Finally, add the chopped almonds. At this point, the dough will be quite soft but should be easy to work with.

Scoop up 2 tablespoons dough at a time, roll into balls, and flatten slightly. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and flaky sea salt. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. Chilling the cookies before baking will keep them from spreading too much during baking.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Bake on the middle rack for about 12 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown but the center still feels slightly soft to the touch. Cool on the sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. To finish, dust with powdered sugar.


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The Best Hearty Soup/Stew/Whatever – Moose Goulash

Moose Goulash | My Blue&White Kitchen

I returned from Spain last Wednesday and was welcomed by chilly weather. My first stop: Starbucks at the airport and "one Pumpkin Spice Latte, please" to prepare myself for the cold air on the other side of the window. Spain was fantastic. How could one not have a great time in bright sunshine amidst dear friends and good food? We cherished the abundance of fresh seafood (pulpo! king prawns! fish! paella!), ordered una botella de vino tinto de la casa almost every night, had tapas and probably the best cocktails in town (I really need to recreate that mint julep). We laughed; we laughed so much and hard that I got a hiccup because of it almost every day (there's a point when it turns from funny to annoying). We worked out on the beach, did yoga on Friday night (followed by a great sourdough pizza so that may just have ruined our karma), tried to learn how to whistle, witnessed the birth of a baby goat (the mama goat's yelling will probably haunt me till the end of my days), danced our way through the days, and sang on the plane. What a great week indeed.

But as I already mentioned, I'm back in the cold, dark north. I need something to warm me up from the inside, and I'm probably not the only one. Guys, may I present to you the most delicious, comforting soup ever made in my kitchen: Moose Goulash! As I was soaking up the sun in Spain last week, my mom bought a piece of moose meat for me to prepare once I returned home. Moose meat is available in fall, during the hunt season that runs from late September through the last day of December. The meat is excellent and doesn't have a strong "gamey" flavor which many people dislike. I remembered spotting a moose goulash from restaurant Tintå (based on the southwest coast, in the city of Turku) in the latest Finnish Glorian Ruoka & Viini magazine and decided to make a goulash inspired by that column.

I was slightly nervous of making and shooting this recipe for the blog because of 1) the lack of light during this season (the goulash needs to simmer for two hours and it's basically impossible to shoot after 3pm = I need to improve on my time management) and 2) my anxiety of shooting rustic food and soups/stews in particular. Despite my worries, I decided to at least try cause I was kind of fascinated by the idea of providing you a moose recipe.

And "ta-da!", here we are! I managed to both get the goulash ready in time (finished shooting at 2.30pm) AND did actually succeed in capturing the dish in all its beauty. I'm not saying that I don't see things to improve in these shots (oh I do!) but they're definitely good enough. This was the first time trying to photograph a dish like this but I guess this is where practice shows its magic; it doesn't really matter what kind of food you shoot, as long as you practice, practice, practice your food photography will improve altogether. I could continue with this talk about how much practice matters when it comes to photography but maybe I'll just leave that for another post. I'm sure you're already eager to see the recipe, right? (Make it, make it, make it! Don't have moose? Use beef!)

Hello moose! Hello juniper berries! Hello comfort!


Moose Goulash

adapted from Glorian Ruoka & Viini 07/2014 by Marko Jaakkola from restaurant Tintå
serves 6–8

This is the perfect soup for chilly days. If you're not able to find moose, use other game or beef instead. Choose a cut of meat that is suitable for stews. I used bottom round but other cuts such as brisket or chuck are great as well. Should you not be able to find juniper berries, leave them out. They're commonly used in game dishes throughout Scandinavia and I strongly recommend you to discover it not only as an ingredient to flavor gin but also as a spice. Although you can buy juniper berries in grocery stores, I prefer to forage them myself in early summer. Pick the dark blue berries (juniper berries get ripe on the third summer; the green ones are still unripe) and dry them before storing.

3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
3 garlic gloves, minced
800 g (1.75 pounds) moose (I used bottom round but other cuts such as brisket or chuck are great as well), trimmed and cut into 2 cm / ¾" cubes
2 tbsp light muscovado sugar

½ tsp red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves

2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
2 tbsp thyme leaves
3 red bell peppers, cut into strips
1 large onion, cut into strips
600 g (1.3 lb) piece of celeriac, cut into strips
680 g (1.5 lb) passata
1 liter (4 cups) beef stock
1 tbsp whole black pepper
½ tbsp juniper berries
1 ½ tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
4 potatoes, peeled & cubed

crème fraîche & flat leaf parsley, to serve


In a large dutch oven or pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sweet paprika, garlic, and meat cubes and sear, tossing the cubes regularly. Lower the heat and add the sugar and red pepper flakes. Cook for around 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves and half of the rosemary and thyme. Cook for a couple of minutes more. Add the vegetables and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the passata, beef stock, as well as the remaining herbs and spices.

Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Stir occasionally. Add more water during cooking if necessary.

Add potatoes and cook for further 10 minutes or until cooked.

Serve with crème fraîche and flat leaf parsley. Note: You're not supposed to eat the black pepper and juniper berries (well, you can eat them but the taste won't be that nice as everyone who has bitten on a peppercorn knows). Here in Scandinavia, typically each eater picks out the spices him or herself. However, if you want to be extra nice to your dinner guests, discard the spices before serving.

Needless to say, this soup keeps for days and only gets better and better and better.


Moose Goulash | My Blue&White Kitchen

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This Season's Last Wild Mushrooms – Funnel Chanterelle Tartlets with Herbed Crust

Funnel Chanterelle Tartlets | My Blue&White Kitchen

Guys, this is probably going to be this season's last mushroom post and recipe. At least when it comes to fresh wild mushrooms... To be honest, I'm already planning to make a risotto with the funnel chanterelles I dehydrated, so I'm not ready to give up on mushrooms for good. I hope you're okay with that.

Last week, I spent a couple of days at out summer cottage enjoying the silence, fresh air, and woods. I knitted (currently working on this project using this wonderful yarn), read (finally finished the heart-breaking The Fault in Our Stars), and sat by the fireplace; watching the burning logs and listening to the crackling fire. The weather was rather nasty: rainy, cold, and windy. Typical fall days one might say. Even stormy. On the first night I actually was terrified of trees falling down on our house which, of course, didn't happen. 

Thursday turned out to be a great day; the rain had stopped and the wind wasn't that fierce anymore. Perfect weather to go mushroom foraging. Most often, I do have a certain mushroom variety in my mind when I head into the woods. This is mostly because different varieties grow in different environments and during different times of the year. To know where and when to look, you have to know what you're looking for. Pretty logic, right?

Funnel chanterelles (Craterellus tubaeformis / yellowfoot) can be found in great numbers here in the Nordic woods until late fall; basically until they get buried under snow so that you're unable to spot them. It's one of my most favorite mushrooms to forage as one often gets rewarded with a phenomenal catch – we came home with around 15 liters / 4 US gallons. Did we spent much time in the woods you might ask. No, a bit more than two hours. That's it. 15 liters of mushrooms for 2 hours wandering in a forest isn't that bad a reward, don't you agree?

It's quite obvious that there's no way I could consume such an amount within a few days. Luckily, funnel chanterelles are perfect for dehydrating so that's what I've done with most of them. They'll keep well for years when fully dried and are wonderful in risottos and in soups. Actually, I prefer a mushroom risotto made with dried mushrooms as the mushroom aroma is more intense. That's also why I've decided to share a mushroom risotto recipe at another time.

But of course I also use some of them fresh, such as in these lovely tartlets. I made them not only once but twice, both on Saturday and Sunday; they make a great lunch when served with a simple, fresh green salad. Truth to be told, I already tried to photograph these tartlets on Saturday without much success. I'm still trying to get used to these short days. I stood there,  watched the sun beginning to set, my tartlets still in the oven...at 3pm! Yes, these are the downsides of living here in the north. On Sunday, I was better prepared, and caught the perfect light. It was a gray, rainy day, and the light was lovely and soft. Hope you like these pics as much as I do. It's like I got rewarded for all the frustration I experienced the day before.

A few notes on blind baking:

  • Blind baking is the process of pre-baking a crust without the filling. It prevents the crust from becoming soggy due to the (usually wet) filling. A recipe usually clearly states should a crust be blind baked. Don't skip this step! It's not as intimidating as it may sound but actually quite quick and easy to follow.
  • Always use pie-weights, such as ceramic baking beans, when blind baking your pie or pastry to prevent it from losing its shape. If you don't have ceramic baking beans in your pantry, you can use dried lentils, peas, beans, or rice instead. 
  • Refrigerating the lined molds will keep the crust from shrinking during the blind baking. Therefore, lined molds should be refrigerated for at least half an hour before you blind bake them. [Give these pics a close look and you'll notice that I didn't have the patience to chill the crusts for long enough – the sides have shrunk a little.]
  • Remember to prick the base of the crust with a fork before baking! It will prevent the crust from bubbling up and the slides to slouch.

A few notes on storing & preparing mushrooms:

  • Wild mushrooms should be cleaned directly in the woods as it's much more difficult to remove the dirt afterwards.
  • Foraged mushrooms will keep well in the fridge for 2 to 7 days, depending on the variety. Don't cover the mushrooms and avoid storing them in plastic as they need to breath. I usually store them in the refrigerator's veggie compartment that I line with newspaper. If the mushrooms are really moist, I make sure to change the newspaper every few days. A paper bag would be perfect as well!
  • Never ever wash your mushrooms! I see this all the time, but it's really the worst idea one can have. Mushrooms are like sponges, soaking up all the water. It's bad both for texture and taste. Don't spoil your gorgeous mushrooms!
  • Instead, simply brush the mushrooms or wipe with a damp cloth. That's really all you need to do.

Funnel Chanterelle Tartlets with Herbed Crust

makes eight 10 cm (4") tarts OR one 22 cm (9") tart

for the crust
300 g (5 ½ dl; 2 ⅓ cups) all-purpose flour
155 g (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 ½ tsp finely chopped rosemary
1 ½ tsp thyme leaves
½ tsp fine sea salt
4 – 6 tbsp ice cold water

for the filling
2 tbsp olive oil
15 cm piece of leek (white and light green parts only), finely sliced (you should end up with about 3 dl / 1 ⅓ cups sliced leek)
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
225 g funnel chanterelles or other (preferably wild) mushrooms
1 ½ tsp finely chopped rosemary
1 ½ tsp thyme leaves
¾ tsp fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
60 ml (¼ cup) dry white wine
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

150 ml (⅔ cup) single cream
3 eggs (M)
40 g grated Västerbotten cheese or other flavorful, firm cheese, such as Comté or Gruyère


To make the crust
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, butter, herbs, and salt. With your fingers, quickly rub the butter into the dry ingredients until well incorporated and crumbly. The dough should now resemble coarse bread crumbs with plenty of pea-sized pieces of butter remaining. Add water gradually just until the dough holds together when pinched. Try to work as fast as possible to avoid over-working the dough. Alternatively, you can use a pastry cutting tool or a food processor to make the dough. 

Form the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for half an hour or until ready to roll.

Grease the molds. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour. Alternatively, you can roll out the dough between a piece of parchment paper. Roll out the dough into eight 3 mm (1/8") thick circles. Line the molds with the dough. Refrigerate for half an our.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

Prick the crust bases with a fork. Place a piece of parchment paper into each mold and fill with ceramic baking beans (or alternative baking weights). Prebake for 15 minutes, remove the baking beans and parchment paper and bake for further 5–10 minutes, or until the crust is light brown in color. Reduce the temperature to 180°C (355°F).
 

To make the filling
While prebaking the crust, prepare the filling. In a medium-sized pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook for about 3 minutes, or until soft but not brown. Add the garlic, mushrooms, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, or until tender. Add the white wine and let cook for about 1 minute. Add the parsley. Set aside and let cool slightly.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the single cream, eggs, and cheese until smooth. Set aside.
 

To arrange and bake the tartlets
Fill the prebaked tart shells with the mushroom filling. Pour the egg mixture over the filling making sure to spread it evenly. Bake the tartlets for 20–25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the tartlets cool for around 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!


Note: If you decide to make one 22 cm (9") tart, you need to adapt the recipe a little: Roll the dough to 4 mm (1/6") thickness. Blind bake the crust for 15 minutes, remove the baking beans, and bake for further 10–15 minutes, or until light brown. Bake the tart with the filling for 25–30 minutes, or until golden brown.


Funnel Chanterelle Tartlets | My Blue&White Kitchen

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October Love&Inspiration

My Blue&White Kitchen

Another month has come to an end and soon it's socially acceptable to bake Christmas cookies, make holiday plans, and decorate ones home with lights. It still feels like fall (probably cause it still is fall), so I'm probably waiting until the fields are covered with snow and I can smoke my breath before getting excited about the holiday season. To be honest, that could be any day now.

In the meantime, I'm going to take a break from the daily grind, jump on a plane to visit a dear friend, say "Buenas tardes!", and have a good time. Should you have any recommendations for places to visit or eat (mostly eat) in and around the Costa del Sol as well as helpful phrases in Spanish, feel free to leave a comment below or send me a note. Also, I still haven't figured out my holiday read... Any favorites?

Wishing you all a spooky Halloween!!


» This duck is what my dreams are made of.

» I want to have these for lunch! I'm so happy I stumbled upon The Clever Carrot! Such a nice space.

» A cocktail with a grilled cheese garnish? Bloody genius!

» Ridiculously excited about veggies + goji ginger tahini cream

» I mean... *speechless*

» What a beautiful scenery to enjoy a lazy Sunday breakfast with dear friends. Can't wait to get cooking from the Sunday Suppers cookbook!

» Boozy (Bourbon!) Cocoa Dumplings

» Made this, a recipe from David Lebovitz's phenomenal book My Paris Kitchen. Served it with braised lamb shanks and used orzo instead of Israeli couscous as it's immensely difficult to get here. Totally delicious!

» She sure knows how to write... 

» Can you spell galaktoboureko? No? Well, you can still eat it.

» Speaking of Greek cuisine, I also want to make these. Okay, and drink that Japanese beer.

» She has a lovely new space and is working on her first cookbook! Got to love Yossy Arefi.

» This zucchini bread 

» Have you already seen Joy the Baker's newly designed site? Love it! All those watercolors! BOOM!

» Eat (lentils) as the Romans do – Be sure to watch the video and stay tuned for more.

» I think everyone needs these Crispy Eggplant Polenta Bites in their lives.

» I finally got my hands on Kimberley Hasselbrink's Vibrant Food. This book is a gem! I've already made multiple recipes, such as the candied ginger granola. According to my mom, this is the best granola I've made in all these years. And believe me, I've made many.

» This fall harvest gathering. Make also sure to check out her delicious rabbit recipe.

» Shakshuka+Hummus

» I want to marry this soup. And this one. And this.

» Yesterday, after a day of mushroom foraging, I came home to read this fabulous guide to mushroom foraging by the ever so inspiring Aran from Cannelle et Vanille. (those pics!!)

» Mimi Thorisson's Médoc

» BATMAN PUMPKIN!!! + Apple Cider Crème Fraîche Caramels  

» Can't work in total silence? Feel like you're most productive when working from a café? Coffitivity may be the answer.

» The cutest cookies ever: Chocolate Sugar Cookies with Pink Condensed Milk Frosting

» I've had the honor to test some brand new GIR products, such as their silicone lids. Hear me, these lids are phenomenal! This is your chance to get your hands on these great products before the holidays.


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Glorious Green Couscous Salad

Green Couscous Salad | My Blue&White Kitchen

A few weeks ago I was at the grocery store wondering what to make for dinner. I stood in the middle of the vegetable section seeking inspiration. What should I make? My mind was blank. And then I knew it: couscous salad. I took my phone, typed "couscous Ottolenghi", and hit the search button. Scrolling. Finally my eyes locked on the title that said "Green couscous". There it was: my dinner inspiration. Thank heaven!

Why Ottolenghi, you may ask. Well, there are certain guys whose taste buds I truly trust and Yotam Ottolenghi surely is one of them. His recipes never fail to amaze me, and his take on food, especially vegetables, is quite unique. If you haven't made his recipes yet, I encourage you to dive into his culinary world, and if you don't have his books yet, I encourage you to run to the next bookstore. Like right now even if the temperatures are below zero (greetings from the north, everyone!).

The original recipe calls for parsley but I used kale instead. Actually, this was a result of a misunderstanding. You see, I thought I had a bunch of parsley in my fridge, but as I realized once I got home, I didn't. What I had, however, was kale. Thankfully, it turned out that kale worked great in this recipe! I, furthermore, omitted the green chili and added some tanginess with freshly squeezed lime juice. Inspired by the Israeli Couscous Salad from David Lebovitz, I added some dried fruit when I made it for the second time yesterday. I think the dried fruit made this salad even better and more interesting than it already was.

This salad is one of the best things I've eaten in a while. Packed with herbs and flavor, it makes a great side or main dish. The first time, I had it with grilled salmon and plain yogurt. Yesterday, I first had a serving for lunch and served it as a side with veal roast for dinner. I can also imagine that it would be lovely served with braised lamb or basically any kind of grilled fish. To make a vegetarian-friendly meal, top it with grilled halloumi or feta and pomegranate seeds.

It's a great dish to serve for brunch or a get-together. It's pretty to look at, relatively quick to make (ready in 15 minutes), and can easily be made ahead; it will keep in the fridge for up to two days. Awesome work lunch, anyone? Double or triple the recipe as needed and be ready to respond to numerous recipe enquiries.


Green Couscous Salad

adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, p. 255
serves 4


2 ½ dl (1 cup) whole-wheat couscous
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp ground cumin

for the herb paste
packed 1 heaping dl (packed ½ cup) roughly chopped kale
2 ½ dl (1 cup) chopped cilantro
2 tbsp chopped tarragon
2 tbsp chopped dill
2 tbsp chopped mint
6 tbsp olive oil

1 heaping dl (½ cup) unsalted & shelled pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 large handfuls of arugula, chopped
lime juice, to taste
1 heaping dl (½ cup) diced dried fruit, such as apricots, cherries, cranberries, or sultanas

optional: plain yogurt, to serve


In a small pot, bring 160 ml (¾ cup) water to a boil. Take off the heat, add couscous, cover, and leave for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, fry the onion on medium-high heat until soft and golden. Add salt and cumin. Mix and let cool slightly.

To make the herb paste, place all ingredients in a food processor and mix until smooth. Set aside.

Combine the couscous and herb paste in a large bowl. Use a fork to fluff up the couscous. Add the onions, pistachios, and arugula. Add lime juice to taste. Finally, top with the dried fruit. Serve lukewarm.



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