Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 12: Chocolate Espresso Cookie

This year, the Savour Sisters registered to be a part of the 2012 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. It brings together an international group food bloggers to participate in a massive cookie exchange. This year the event partnered with Cookies for Kids' Cancer, with each participant making a donation in addition to their cookie contribution. In addition OXO matched our donation. A huge thank you goes to Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil, and Julie from The Little Kitchen for all their hard work in organizing this great event. I would also like to thank the fantastic bloggers that sent cookies to us, check them out:

The Goodie Girl - Halifax, NS
Sweet Twist of Fate - Toronto, NS
Gourmet Housewife - Saskatooon, SK

This was the cookie that we shipped this year.

This recipe rolls our two favorite flavours into one awesome cookie. Dark chocolate and rich espresso in the same tender bite - absolute heaven! Chocolate chunks add this brilliant gooeyness and depth. Since this dough is so rich, we make the cookies on the small side.

Keep this dough in the freezer, that way anytime you have need for a little chocolate fix you can just bake off a pan.

If you would like to take this recipe up another notch, replace the vanilla with peppermint extract. WOW!

Makes about 3 dozen.

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 package Starbucks Via Medium Blend instant coffee (substitute 1tablespoon of instant coffee)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In the top of the double boiler melt the bittersweet chocolate.  Add the espresso powder and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients: flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
4. In a large bowl,  beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, add eggs and vanilla.
5. To this sugar mixture add the melted chocolate mixture, then add dry ingredients until just combined.
6. Add in chocolate chips.
7. Spoon heaped tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheet. Bake 12 - 14 minutes, rotating half way through cooking. Cookies are done when edges are dry.
8. Cool completely on a cooling rack.

Note: Be careful these cookies burn easily and will turn bitter.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 11: Spiced Mixed Nuts

Sometimes you are just looking for that special treat to bring to a party, or to give out as gifts to coworkers or friends as a hostess gifts. These nuts have a fantastic flavour; a little salty, a little sweet, and a mixture of fresh and dried spices for a little kick.  They are super quick to put together and store really well in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. For this recipe we chose our favorite combination of nuts for flavour and texture, but you can choose to add your personal favorites, or using less expensive products.

For 1 pound of finished nuts. (You will probably want to double or triple this recipe so you have lots on hand)

4 cups of mixed unsalted nuts (we used, cashews, almonds and pecans) 
1 teaspoon corriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons butter3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Put the nuts on a cookie sheet in a single layer and bake until nicely toasted, approximately 10 minutes. 
3. While nuts are toasting, put coriander and cumin in a large fry pan and toast over medium heat until fragrant.
4. Turn the heat to low and add the rest of the ingredients to the pan. Stir constantly until the sugar is fully melted, about 2-3 minutes.
5. Warm a large bowl by running under hot water and drying with a tea towel. Add the warm nuts to the bowl and pour over the topping mixture.
6. Stir until nuts are well coated.  Let nuts cool completely before packaging. 

Note: The warmed bowl makes the coating process easier.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 10: Classic Pecan Bars

I have to admit, this is my absolute favorite Christmas treat. I would rather have these than any other cookie, candy or square. It took four trial runs in order to get this recipe to be exactly what I wanted. Most recipes for pecan bars are too sweet, too soft, or don't have enough pecans. In this recipe there is a crisp and tender short crust that isn't overly sweet, and the topping has a wonderful rich caramel flavour and tons of pecans. I know that this will become one of your holiday staples as well.

Makes 20 squares.

For the Crust:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For the Topping:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup light-brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 6 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Add salt, flour, and baking powder, and mix until combined and the dough starts to form a ball.
4. Press the dough into the bottom of a 9"x 9" cake pan. 
5. Bake dough for 20 - 25 minutes until edges are golden brown. Set aside and let cool for at least 15 mins.
6. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
7. Toast the pecans on a cookie sheet by baking for 8-10 minutes.
8. In a medium saucepan, mix butter, sugar, corn syrup and salt. 
9. Cook over high heat until the mixture reaches a boil, stirring constantly. Let mixture boil for 1 full minute.
10. Remove pot from heat, stir in vanilla and cream then toasted pecans. (The mixture will boil up when vanilla added.)
11. Pour topping over the crust, making pecans are spread evenly and crust is covered.
12. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes. The topping will be bubbling across the entire surface of the bars.
13. Let the bars cool fully before slicing.  Run a pairing knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the topping.
14. Store in an airtight container. These bars freeze very well, but need to be thoroughly defrosted before serving.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Day 9: Pfferminskeuchen - Long Name, Awesome Cookie

Between the pages of one my grandmother's cookbooks are dozens of little scraps of paper with recipes written on them. There all kinds of cookie and square recipes, all from her friends or family. In this particular cookbook there were multiple copies of a recipe for Pfferminskeuchen or Peppermint Cookies. This is a traditional Mennonite cookie that is light and puffy with a crisp thin crust. Each recipe is a little different, some of them were written in German, but all of them made huge batches of cookies! This is a traditional Mennonite cookie that is light and puffy with a crisp thin crust. It has a mild peppermint flavour but it is the peppermint icing that really gives the cookie a holiday feel.  We have created this recipe as a compilation of all the recipes from my grandmother's book, we also updated it add some more flavour, as well as making the size of the recipe more manageable.
This recipe calls for some unusual ingredients. First, peppermint oil, which can be bought at many cooking and baking shops, however I use peppermint extract and it works beautifully. Secondly the recipe calls for baking ammonia or ammonium bicarbonate, which is the leavening agent that gives the unique light texture.  I have found it at several cook shops like Gourmet Warehouse in Vancouver. I found a few online stores that claim to carry it as well. 

This recipe makes approximately 60 - 3" cookies.
Note: The dough needs to rest in the fridge overnight before baking.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon baking ammonia, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flour (plus some for rolling)
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Glaze:
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoons peppermint extract
6 candy canes, crushed (optional)

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix well.
2. In a second bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt.
3. Dissolve baking ammonia in hot water making sure there are no lumps. (This will smell, don't worry)
4. Into the egg mixture, add sour cream, peppermint oil and baking ammonia, beating each in well.
5. Add dry ingredients into wet until well combined.
6. Divide the dough into 2 balls, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate overnight.
7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
8. Prepare aluminum cookie sheets, by greasing and dusting with flour, tapping off all extra.
9. Take one of the dough balls at a time, and roll on lightly floured surface, until 1/4" thick.
10. Cut cookies using small round cookie cutter or drinking glass.
11. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cookies should still be pale, but lightly golden on bottom. (This will really stink, it's OK, don't panic)
12. Cool cookies on wire racks. Cool completely before eating.

For the Glaze:
1. Mix icing sugar, milk and peppermint in a bowl. Icing should be thin like crepe batter.
2. Dip cookies in glaze to coat the top. Use finger to wipe some of the excess off, so glaze isn't too thick.
3. Sprinkle with crumbled candy canes if desired.

Please Note: Baking ammonia smells awful, both when you open the jar and you may want to hold your breath when opening the oven, however, it is perfectly safe and leaves absolutely no taste once the cookies are fully cooked.  Based on some online searching online, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of baking powder plus 1 teaspoon baking soda but the texture will not be exactly the same. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Day 7: Not so Rummy Rum Balls (Gluten Free)

What is Christmas without the classic rum ball? It seems that every family has their own recipe. Some are rolled in icing sugar, or nuts or the traditional chocolate sprinkles.

This recipe is special in a couple ways, firstly it is gluten free, using ground almonds instead of flour or cookie crumbs, and secondly, there is no rum in my rum balls!

Personally I am not a fan of rum, its too sweet, and I don't like it paired with chocolate as much as other liqueurs. Last year, while making holiday treats, I came up with the idea to make rum balls with Canadian Club Whisky and I was thrilled with the results. You will be too!!  I keep these in the freezer and let them thaw for about 30 minutes before serving.

Makes about 40 - 1" balls.

2 cups of ground almonds
2 cups icing sugar
8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, grated
2/3 cup Canadian Club Whisky
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate sprinkles or sanding sugar

1. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together until well blended.
2. Add the vanilla and 1/2 cup of the whisky. Mix well.
3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4. Roll the dough in small 1" balls. The dough will be quite dry, but the warmth of your hands while rolling will help the balls keep together.
5. Dip the balls in the remaining whisky and roll in sprinkles. You may have to press the sprinkles in place.
6. Let balls set up on plate before serving or storing in an airtight container.

Tip: you can also roll the rum balls in toasted ground almonds or icing sugar, if you don't have sprinkles, but you will not need to dip the balls in whisky first.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Day 6: The World's Greatest Shortbread

There is nothing more to say about this recipe other than it is quite simply the world's greatest shortbread. It melts it your mouth, has a rich buttery flavour, and a delicate texture. Our mother has made this recipe every year for as long as we can remember, and Christmas wouldn't be the same without it. This is the cookie our friends and family beg to have included in care packages and the first to disappear of the platers of treats.  She got the recipe from a newsletter put out by Sussex Realty in the mid 1980's. She still has the original newsletter, butter stained and dirty, but that just demonstrates how well loved this cookie is. We haven't changed or adapted this recipe at all, because there is nothing that could be done to make it any better.

This is a sliced regrigerator cookie. We usually shape the dough into logs and keep it in the freezer until we need it. These cookies store well at room temperature, but there is nothing better than when they are fresh, so better just to slice off a pan full and bake when you need them.

Makes about 2 dozen.

2 cups flour
1/3 cup icing sugar
1 cup butter
pecan halves or glace cherries for decoration (we prefer pecans, but the cherries are Christmas colours)

1. Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
2. Using a hand blender or Kitchen Aid, mix in butter. Blend for approximately 5 minutes.
3. Divide the dough into halves and form into 2 logs, by wrapping in wax paper. Once wrapped make sure the logs are squared off and nicely shaped.
4. Refrigerate over night.
5. Slice the cookies into 1/4" cookies, place on cookie sheet lined with parchment.
6. Place pecan half or 1/2 glace cherry on each cookie.
7. Bake at 350 for 15 - 20 minutes, until slightly browned


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Day 5: Chocolate Mint Frangos

In thinking about the recipes that we wanted to post on this blog for the 12 days of Christmas Goodies, we were reminiscing about our favorite holiday treats of our childhood. One of my favorites was a recipe for a decadent treat that were called Frangos. They were a type of frozen mint chocolate tart named for the famous Fredrick & Nelson candy that you can find at Macy's in the US.  Susan doesn't remember them much, but I distinctly remember going down into the basement and digging for them in the freezer when no one was looking.  Mom doesn't remember where the recipe came from and I couldn't find any reference to this awesome desert, so I created this recipe purely based on my memory of the flavours. What I ended up with was an indulgent frozen chocolate mint mousse on a chocolate crumb base. Just as good as I remember, but now I don't have to sneak around to get one.
Makes 12.

24 Chocolate Biscuits (I use Mr. Christie brand)
1/4 cup of butter
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 eggs
1/4 cup cold brewed coffee (you can substitute milk)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 pinch salt

1. Put paper liners into a muffin tin.
2. Put the biscuits in a ziploc bag and crush the chocolate biscuits finely.
3. Melt the butter in the microwave and mix into the chocolate crumbs.
4. Divide the crumb mixture and press firmly into the bottom of the muffin cups. Put aside.
5. In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Set aside.
6. Separate eggs, putting yolks into a bowl with the coffee and sugar. Put over the double boiler and wisk constantly until mixture it has thickened and can coat the back of a spoon.
7. Add egg mixture into the melted chocolate and set aside to cool to room temperature.
8. Whip the cream to soft peaks and mix in peppermint.
9. Make sure your beaters are clean, then whip the egg whites and salt until the soft peak stage.
10. Fold half the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten, add the rest of the whipped cream, then the egg whites, folding very carefully.
11. Spoon the chocolate mixture into the muffin cups. Freeze until solid, about 6 hours. Store in the freezer until needed. Let soften for 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Day 4: Ginger Orange Spiced Apple Cider

At this time of year, its important to slow down and spend some quality time with friends and family. We developed this recipe as an alternative to the classic apple cider. It is lighter, less heavily spiced version. It has the wonderful flavour of fresh ginger and orange brandy. Don't worry about driving home after enjoying either, the alcohol is a small amount and will cook off while it simmers.

Serves 4.
4 cups unsweetened apple juice
2 sticks cinnamon, broken in half
4 slices of fresh ginger (about 1")
6 tablespoons orange liqueur (we use Orange and Brandy by Grand Marnier, or Cointreau)
1. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients.
2. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
3. Remove cinnamon and ginger pieces and serve.

What are your favorite holiday traditions? What makes this season so special for you? Tell us, we want to hear from you!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Day 3: Savory Cheddar Crisps

Since when does every holiday goodie need to be sweet? Sometimes you just need something savory, cheesy, and rich. Enriched with cheese, herbs and spices, these rich buttery crackers boast an exceptional flavor and crunch that simply can’t be duplicated by store-bought varieties. (Think little yummy fishy-type crackers, but for grown ups.)

Makes 4 dozen crisps.

3/4 cup butter, softened
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (preferably "cold pack" like Imperial or Black Diamond)
1 teaspoon "Franks Red Hot" or Tobasco sauce
3 tablespoons rosemary, finely diced
1 1/2 cups flour
5 cups Rice Crispies cereal

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and cheese.
3. Add tabasco and rosemary. Blend well.
4. With a spatula fold in flour and Rice Crispies until well combined.
5. Roll dough into balls 1.5" in diameter, place on ungreased cookie sheet.
6. Flatten balls slightly with a fork.
7. Bake for 15 - 18 minutes until lightly browned.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Day 2: Chocolate Bark with Fruit and Nuts

You can't have the holidays without lots of chocolate. That's just the way it is, but sometimes the store bought stuff is just lacking. This recipe is so easy, and so fast. You can be finished in under 15 minutes including the clean up. We love making batches of this bark, packaging it in pretty cellophane bags and giving it as hostess gifts, or to coworkers as presents. And the great thing about this recipe is that you can change the goodies you put in the bark to suit your personal tastes.

Makes Lots! (Trust us you will need it)

20 oz chocolate (We prefer a combination of 12 oz semisweet, and 8 oz bittersweet, due to the sweetness of the fruit)
1/4 cup candied ginger, diced as small as possible
1 cup dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries, unsweetened (not Craisins)
1 cup pecans
2 cups almonds, with skins

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place pecans and almonds on the cookie sheet in a single layer, and bake for 5-8 minutes to toast. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
3. Chop the ginger and apricots, and put in a bowl with the cranberries and cooled nuts.
4. Cut the chocolate into rough chunks, and place in a heat proof bowl.
5. Using the double boiler method, melt the chocolate until about 3/4 melted. Take the bowl off the double boiler and let the residual heat melt the rest of the chocolate.
6. Add the fruit and nuts to the chocolate, reserving about a 1/2 cup to sprinkle on top of bark.
7. Spread the chocolate mixture out onto the parchment lined cookie sheet. Bark should be about 1/4" thick. Sprinkle with remaining nut mixture and press lightly into warm mixture with spatula.
8. Let the chocolate cool, for about 30 minutes then put into the refrigerator to set fully.
9. To store, break into large chunks and put in airtight container. Keep in refrigerator or freezer.

Note: As a general rule, the better the chocolate, the better the results, but to balance cost with flavour we enjoy the taste of Baker's brand.  The one thing that will not work is using chocolate chips.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Day 1: Bacon Ginger Cookies - Best ginger cookie ever!

One of the flavours most associated with the holidays is ginger. Warm and spicy, ginger cookies come in all kinds of forms, crispy and chewy, there one to suit everyone's tastes. I discovered this amazing idea to add bacon to ginger cookies while reading a Martha Stewart magazine a couple years ago. I used it as an inspiration for my own version. A lot of people have turned up their noses at these cookies, but the flavour wins them over every time. The bacon just added a fantastic crunchy, salty treat.  If you love things that are sweet and salty, these are the cookies for you. (Plus you know anything with bacon in it, has to be good.)
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.


8 slices of thick-cut smoked bacon, cut into 1/4" cubes (Hint: if you freeze the bacon for 30 mins it is easier to slice neatly)
2 1/4 cups flour 
2 teaspoons baking soda

1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup Turbinado sugar for rolling

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Fry the diced bacon in a large frying pan on medium-low heat to render all the fat and make the bacon very crispy without burning. This should be done slowly, it will take about 15 minutes. Carefully spoon bacon onto paper towel to dry, but reserve all the fat in a bowl and let cool. (You should end up with 3/4 cup of bacon fat. If you didn't get enough fat, make up the difference in butter.)
3. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together; flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Put aside.
4. In a second bowl, mix butter and cooled bacon fat and both white and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
5. Add the egg and molasses to the sugar mixture. Then add the dry ingredients mixing slowly until just blended.
6. Add the crispy bacon bits and fold into the batter. Let the dough rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. 
7. Roll the dough into balls approximately 1" across, roll the balls into the turbinado sugar.
8. Place the balls on a cookie sheet and flatten slightly with a fork.
9. Bake for approximately 8 minutes, rotating the pan once. The cookie is done when it starts to crisp on the outside but is still soft in the center.  Cool the cookies on a rack until completely cool.

Note: This dough freezes brilliantly! Make ahead of time and keep the doughballs in a ziploc bag, when  you want to bake some let them thaw out before rolling in sugar and baking. The finished cookies freeze very well too.