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.


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 (1 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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Overnight Oats + A Promo Code For Stitch Linens

Overnight Oats | My Blue&White Kitchen

Are you familiar with Marta Greber and her blog What Should I Eat For Breakfast Today? Well, I have to blame her and her gorgeous blog for having been madly obsessed with overnight oats for the last couple of months. It all started with this post last August. See how pretty and tempting that breakfast bowl is? I wanted that deliciousness in my life, made my first batch of overnight oats, and so the love story of me and overnight oats began.

Porridge is an institution here in the north. I think most people start their day with a bowl of warm and comforting porridge. There are even food trucks that sell nothing but porridge (!!). But, you know, I've never been a morning porridge person myself. Yes, I enjoy a bowl of rice porridge in winter (although, not for breakfast, except on Christmas Eve when it's an obligatory part of our Nordic Christmas traditions) as well as farina porridge a couple of times a year, but I've never been attracted to the regular cereal porridges that are all too often rather tasteless and bland. Oh and the consistency can certainly be an issue as well. I haven't grown up eating porridge every single morning, so it's nothing I have an emotional connection with. It's nothing I crave. Well, not until I saw that post about overnight oats that is.

What I love about overnight oats is that it a) can be, as it name already says, prepared on the night before and b) is ridiculously versatile and can be adapted according to the season as well as to one's preferences & diet. My first overnight oats was a combination of oats + apple juice + grated apples + yogurt + nuts + berries. I immediately fell in love with this breakfast and have enjoyed it in the early (and late) morning hours several times a week for the last couple of months. It makes a great breakfast to-go when made in a mason jar or can be enjoyed as a healthy and filling midday snack.

The overnight oats ratio is easy to remember: 1 part of oats to 1 part of liquid. As liquid, you can use juice, such as pure orange or apple juice, milk, plant milk, or even water. Furthermore, you can add some spices to the mix, such as cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom, or ginger. Or what about grated apples, pears, or carrots?

There are, of course, endless topping possibilities that I like to change according to the seasons. Some of my favorites are:

  • nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, cashews, etc.)
  • fruit & berries (apples, pears, plums, figs, berries of all kind, etc.)
  • dried berries (cranberries, raisins, figs, cherries, berry powder, etc.)
  • sweeteners (agave nectar & honey)
  • plain yogurt, nut butter, jam, etc.
  • toasted coconut flakes, seeds, bee pollen, cacao nibs, candied ginger, puffed amaranth, etc.

This week, I've been having my oatmeal with pure orange juice, cinnamon, plain yogurt, gorgeous, local pears (seriously, these are the best pears I've ever had), pluots (bought them for the first time last week and am obsessed by their beauty and sweet flavor), toasted coconut flakes, wild hazelnuts that I brought with me from Germany (they look like acorns, though), almonds, pistachios, and bee pollen (a new ingredient in my kitchen). Because of the sweetness of the pears and pluots, I don't even feel the need to add any sweetener.

Are you in the overnight oats game already? What's your favorite combination? I would love to hear!

Overnight Oats

for 1 hungry soul

This dish is gluten-free as long as you make sure your oats aren't contaminated with gluten. Oats are gluten-free themselves but are often manufactured in factories that also handle other, non-gluten-free grains. Check that your package specifies that the oats are gluten-free. To make this dairy-free, simply use plant-based dairy.

1 ½ dl (⅔ cup) rolled oats
1 ½ dl (⅔ cup) pure orange juice
½ tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp yogurt + more to serve

toppings of your choice (here I used pears, pluots, coconut flakes, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, & bee pollen)

Mix together the rolled oats, orange juice, and cinnamon. Cover and place in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight.

If using coconut flakes, toast them in a dry pan on medium-high heat while stirring regularly until fragrant and light golden brown in color.

While I most often skip this step myself, note that soaking nuts increases their nutritional value and makes them easier to digest. Hazelnuts and Brazil nuts make an exception as they don't contain enzyme inhibitors and pistachios and macadamia nuts' taste may alter, so I don't soak them. To soak, simply place the nuts in a bowl, cover with twice as much water, and let soak for 6 to 12 hours or overnight. Rinse and use immediately or store in the fridge for up to a week.

In the morning, mix 1 tablespoon of yogurt with the soaked oats. Top with more yogurt, fruit, berries, nuts, or whatever your culinary heart longs for and enjoy!

See those gorgeous blue & white linens I've used in these pics? They're from STITCH and are handmade by Blair, a design student (how cool is that??) in a tiny apartment in NYC (even cooler, right?). I have a special place in my heart for small, brilliant companies and artisan products and immediately fell in love with the look and feel of her high quality linens. Aside from these blue & white linens, my favorites probably are the French Green Dinner Napkins. That color is amazing!

Here's some awesome news: you get 15% off from all STITCH products from today until January 31th with the promo code LOVEBLUE&WHITE. They'll launch some brand-new fall & holiday colors in the coming days so stay tuned! This may be the perfect little something to get to your loved ones for Christmas. I mean, they even offer custom made linens soon.

Hop on over to stock up your collection of linens! Cause let's be honest: one can never own too many. Am I right or am I right?


Disclaimer: Linens provided by STITCH.

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Welcoming Fall – Warm Chèvre Salad with Grapes, Heirloom Apples, & Walnuts

It can't be denied anymore; fall came here to stay. Fallen leaves mark my way home from farmers' markets where apples appear in all kinds of colors and shapes. Apples truly are the heroes of fall: local, tasty, and immensely versatile. 

Pink Lady, Golden Delicious, Gala – do yourself a favor and leave those ones at the store. There are so many local heirloom apples to discover! They burst with flavor and are often fierier than their highly commercial counterparts that often are downright boring. My granny used to have apple trees growing in her backyard. I loved to harvest the different varieties and discover their unique flavors; my favorite always was a variety called cinnamon apple which had not only a perfect balance of sweet and sour but, as its name says, a delicate cinnamon flavor. Nowadays I either head to a friend's backyard (like last Sunday and again today) or buy apples at one of those farmers' market stalls that sell apples till it gets too cold to stand outside all day long.

Apple pie may be the first thing that pops into your mind when spotting an apple tree heavy with fruit but they're also lovely in savory dishes, such as with pork. Salads are ridiculously easy to adapt according to the season. Therefore, I often start the shift in seasons on my plate with a seasonal salad. Here I combined crisp apples with the earthy flavors of walnuts, sweet red grapes, and creamy goat cheese and finished it with a walnut vinaigrette. This salad stays interesting till the very last bite.

The perfect way to welcome fall.

P.S. As the vibrant fall colors and apple galore always reminds me of Canada, its lovely people, and all the delicious food I've enjoyed there, I have to mention you the new Canadian group baking blog BAKED. The forces working behind this space are some of the most creative and inspiring ones that the food blogging world has to offer: Laura, Kelly, Gabriel, Kris, and Ashley. Yay!

Warm Chèvre Salad with Grapes, Heirloom Apples, and Walnuts

serves 2

4 handfuls of mixed green salads (I used bloody dock & arugula), washed & dried
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
2 handfuls of walnuts
2 handfuls of red grapes (preferably seedless), halved
2 small apples, thinly sliced and seeds removed (I usually don't core small heirloom apples)
5 cm / 2" log of goat cheese, cut into two disks
olive oil, for frying

for the vinaigrette
3 tbsp walnut oil
1 tbsp dark balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
a drizzle of agave nectar or honey
fine sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

optional: bread, to serve

Toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat stirring regularly until the nuts start to get fragrant. Be careful not to burn them as this can happen quite quickly. Set aside.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and agave nectar. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a non-stick frying pan, fry the goat cheese disks for about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown in color. While the cheese is frying, assemble the salad on plates and drizzle with some vinaigrette. Top with the warm goat cheese and serve immediately.

Warm Chèvre Salad with Grapes, Heirloom Apples, & Walnuts | My Blue&White Kitchen

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A Quarter of a Century – Mini Almond Pavlovas with Forest Berries

Almond Pavlova with Forest Berries | my blue&white kitchen

In elementary school, we had to write an essay about how we pictured our lives as twentysomethings. I've tried to find that essay without any success but I'm pretty sure I know what that piece of paper contains. I probably dreamed of a life in a red cottage (so Scandinavian!) with a gorgeous husband and lovely children (so cliché!), as well as a cat, dog, and horse (cause I wasn't able to decide which one was cuter). Little did that brown eyed, open-minded, stubborn, and self-confident girl, who was born 200 years after 'Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité ou la Mort!' echoed inside the Bastille, know about where life would take her to in the coming years; that life doesn't always look like the ones in Astrid Lindgren's stories. But does it make it disappointing? Not at all. I've traveled the world and realized both how wonderful and cruel it is at the same time. I may have missed opportunities but I've also said 'yes' and 'no' at just the right moments. I am loved. I'm able to create a career path of my dreams. I can be creative and share it with others; with you. My life may not be perfect but it's good. It's more than good. And that I'm tremendously grateful for.

My life is a bit like these mini pavlovas  maybe not as perfect looking as a layer cake with buttercream frosting but definitely enjoyable and lovable. Pavlova is probably my favorite summer cake and that's why I make it (almost) every year for my birthday. Of course, you can top a pavlova with any fruit of your choice but those winter pavlovas with kiwis and citrus fruit have never really grown on me. I like mine topped with lots of seasonal berries, such as blueberries, bilberries, strawberries, and raspberries. If you're living outside Europe, you may wonder about bilberries. Are they the same as blueberries? Well, not quite but they're closely related. They’re the European wild growing counterpart (and to make it a bit more confusing, we call them 'blueberries' as well). Bilberries are smaller and darker than blueberries but have a fuller, more flavorful taste which is why I most of the time prefer bilberries over blueberries. They’re also a bit messier as their skin and flesh stain everything blue from your fingers and lips to your tongue. As our summer cottage is surrounded by bilberry bushes (I literally have to walk two meters to pick a berry), they’re a heavily consumed summertime favorite. For these pavlovas I used bilberries and wild strawberries which I foraged earlier that day. However, feel free to use whatever berries you have around. I also won't judge you should you prefer to use kiwis and mandarines.

A few notes on meringue. There basically are three different types of meringue which all have distinct characteristics: French, Swiss, and Italian meringue. French meringue is the simplest one and especially popular among home cooks. Egg whites are whipped until stiff peaks start to form, sugar is gradually added, and the mixture is whipped until glossy. Quick and easy, right? Swiss meringue is made by warming egg whites and sugar over a water bath until sugar crystals dissolve completely. The mixture is then whisked until it has cooled to room temperature. Swiss meringue is more stable than French meringue and is ideal if you want meringue that’s crisp on the outside and marshmallow-like on the inside. Personally, I prefer Swiss meringue when making pavlovas because I want to achieve that chewy inside. Furthermore, the heating process makes the egg whites edible without having to bake them. Salmonella isn’t a problem here in Finland (it basically is non-existent), but Swiss meringue may be your top choice especially if living in a country where you have to be careful when consuming raw eggs. The third meringue type is Italian meringue that is made with boiling sugar syrup. It’s the most stable of these three and is, like Swiss meringue, safe to consume without baking. Of course, there are other techniques as well, such as Ottolenghi’s method that I can’t wait to try, but these are the three classic ones.

Now that we’ve covered the three different types, let’s talk about what ensures a perfect meringue. There are a few simple yet important things to keep in mind when making meringue:

  • Make sure that your equipment is absolutely dry, clean, and grease-free. Any small amount of fat will keep your egg whites from getting fluffy. Egg yolks are fat as well so be careful when separating the eggs! Furthermore, it may be a good idea to rub your bowl with half a lemon before starting to make meringue to eliminate any grease.
  • Prefer stainless-steel, glass, or copper bowls when making meringue as plastic bowls can hold onto grease.
  • While eggs are easier to separate when cold, make sure your egg whites are at room temperature when you start making your meringue. However, this isn’t crucial if making Swiss meringue as the egg whites are warmed anyway.
  • Think twice before making meringue on a very humid day. The sugar will absorb moisture from the air keeping your meringue from getting stiff.
  • You often see vinegar or cream of tartar as well as cornstarch added to meringue. Vinegar and cream of tartar mainly stabilize while cornstarch helps to achieve a crisp outside and a chewy inside. These are optional, not necessary to make a successful meringue. In this recipe, I use lemon juice instead of vinegar or cream of tartar and omit cornstarch completely.
  • My meringue formula is really simple and easy to remember: 1 part egg whites to 2 parts sugar (by weight). In addition, lemon juice, vinegar, cream of tartar, or cornstarch as well as any kind of flavoring may be added.
  • Meringue is versatile! You can mix in cocoa powder, berry sauce, different extracts, etc.

Mini Almond Pavlovas with Forest Berries

makes 6 small or 1 big (about 23 cm / 9")

For the meringue
4 egg whites (M)
290 g (3 dl + 2 tbsp; 1 cups + 1 tbsp) granulated sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
about 30 g (½ heaping dl; ¼ cup) sliced almonds

For the topping
200 g (2 dl; 1 scanted cup) heavy cream
200 g (2 dl; 1 scanted cup) Greek or Turkish yogurt
2 tbsp powdered sugar

about 500 g (1 l; 4 cups) berries

To make the meringue
Preheat oven to 125°C (260°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the egg whites, sugar, and lemon juice in an absolutely dry, clean, and grease-free medium-sized bowl, pot, or bain-marie. Place over a water bath. While constantly whipping, heat until the mixture has reached 60°C (140°F). At this point the sugar should have dissolved and the mixture starts to get thicker and glossier. Take off the heat. With the help of a standing mixer or electric hand mixer, whisk on high speed until the mixture is cool and stiff peaks form. (You can of course whisk it by hand if you fancy a nice workout. Been there, done that.) This usually takes 6 to 10 minutes. Carefully fold in the almonds.

Spoon the meringue into six equal rounds. Make sure that the meringue is slightly higher at the rims so that the meringue later holds the topping better. Lower the oven temperature to 100°C (200°F). Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. At this point, the outside should be crisp while the inside still has a marshmallow-like consistency (you can lift a meringue round and poke a hole in the bottom; no one will notice). If you decide to make one big pavlova, you'll need to bake the meringue for further 10 or so minutes. Let cool completely.

Unless you're living in a very humid area, you can bake the meringues one day in advance. Store them uncovered at room temperature until ready to assemble.

To assemble
To make the topping, whip the heavy cream until very stiff. Gently fold in the yogurt and sugar.

Just before serving, top each meringue with the cream yogurt mixture. Generously top with berries. Serve immediately.

Let the Christmas Baking Begin – German Hazelnut Macaroons

my blue&white kitchen

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth,
for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire:
it is the time for home.

– Edith Sitwell

The first of December. The land was covered in snow and the sun shone in all its glory. It shone so bright that I had a hard time to see the road as I drove to work (read: hazard driving). "What a perfect start for this exciting month!", I thought to myself.

December will be filled with all sorts of cookies – some will be traditional, like these ones, while others will be more on the experimental side. Baking will be inevitable – fresh yeast will be sitting in my fridge on a regular basis. There is also a big chance you will be served a pot of meat stew if you happen to stop by. As you see, it's all about flour in your hair, the smell of cinnamon & cardamom in the air, and joyous moments of creating and recreating memories.

German Hazelnut Macaroons :: my blue&white kitchen
German Hazelnut Macaroons :: my blue&white kitchen

This is a traditional German Christmas cookie recipe. I make several batches every year. They are absolutely delicious and quick to make. How flat or fluffy your cookies will come out, depends on how long you whip your meringue. I usually whip the egg whites and sugar for 4 to 5 minutes. This way the cookies will be fluffy but the top will even out as it bakes.

I would love to hear what you are baking for the holiday season. So please, leave a comment!

(I made these for a special someone. But SHHHH, he/she doesn't have a clue yet. It's supposed to be a surprise.)

German Hazelnut Macaroons

slightly adapted from Ruokaposti 8/1985
makes about 20 cookies

160 g (5.6 oz) hazelnut flour (I grind mine from whole, unblanched hazelnuts)
2 egg whites (M)
130 g (4.6 oz; 1 ½ dl; 0.6 cups) granulated sugar
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder

whole hazelnuts, for decorating

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°C). Line two baking trays with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, mix together both flours and baking powder. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and sugar in a clean & dry medium-sized bowl. Whip on full speed or until stiff. With a stand mixer this takes 4 to 5 minutes. With a rubber spatula, fold in the dry ingredients.

With the help of two spoons, portion the macaroons on the lined baking tray. Top each one with a whole hazelnut. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes. The macaroons should now still be light in color and the center slightly soft to the touch (they will get firm as they cool down). Take them out and let cool completely. The macaroons can be stored in an airtight container for 2 to 3 weeks.

German Hazelnut Macaroons :: my blue&white kitchen

 I wish you all HAPPY COOKIE BAKING!