holidays

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes

When I was a kid, Halloween was my absolute favorite holiday.

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

I mean, I’ve always loved Thanksgiving too, for the food of course, but as a young kid Halloween was the freakin’ best. Turkey and pumpkin pie are great and all but costumes and candy, and running around at night like a little lunatic with fake vampire teeth? Grandma’s cornbread dressing couldn’t hold a candle…

I’ve had countless costumes over the years, but I’ll never forget an especially uncomfortable year dressed as Frankenstein with tons of sticky green makeup and itchy stick-on eyebrows and neck bolts. After that, the simpler and more elegant Dracula was definitely my go to.
Each year I’d get a new costume complete with fangs, cape, and gold medallion, and as a young gay boy I already had all the crisp white button downs and black dress pants that were required but not included with the costume.  (No jeans and T-shirt for this little sissy boy!)
I think it really was the dressed up, fancy man aspect of Dracula that appealed to me most year after year, and it wasn’t until I found my grandma’s old wig in her bathroom closet that the appeal started to wear off…

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

These days I usually spend most of the month of October thinking up all sorts of witty, hysterical costumes that I could wear, but never do. The last time I dressed up was for work, about 4 years ago. I’d just started working at Whisk slinging fancy kitchen gear, and we all came up with this hilarious plan to come to work dressed as a Food Network star.
Group costumes are the best! What could go wrong?!?!

A few days later I show up to work in full Ina Garten regalia, and oops! Everyone either forgot or didn’t have time to get their costumes together.  One person, who usually works from home, loved the idea and actually did come in for an hour or two dressed as Alton Brown (essentially dressed as an older, nerdier version of himself) to take pictures, but everyone else either didn’t dress up or threw something else together at the last minute.
As I stood there working my full shift in an oversized navy blouse, huge clip on pearl earrings, lipstick, and an itchy bob wig; I vowed never again to be duped by allure of an amazing group costume idea.

I haven’t dressed up since.
Womp Womp.

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

Even though I’m too old for trick-or-treating and haven’t put on a costume in years, I really do still have a special place in my heart for Halloween.

I like to imagine that some day in the future I’ll be the type of adult who’s famous among his circle of friends for hosting amazing costume parties that are talked about for years to come. Basically I dream of one day throwing Halloween parties just like the ones on Roseanne, complete with decorations so elaborate and costumes so perfectly spot-on that everyone I know will try, and fail, to one-up me year after year.
By the way, am I the only one who’s ever wondered how the lower middle class Connor family, who always seemed to have trouble paying their bills on time, came up with all the money for their costumes and decorations?
I guess it doesn’t matter, but, like, that stuff ain’t cheap!

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

With all my dreams of Halloween entertaining one-upmanship, the minute I saw this adorable haunted skull cakelet pan, I knew that I HAD to have it.

You all know I love Nordic Ware. I’ve told you more than once twice three times (a lady), but after finally having a chance to use this pan you’ll have to excuse me as I wax poetic once again.

Nordic Ware has been making exceptional cookware and bakeware right here in the US for 70 years now, and even after all this time they’re still a family owned company. The bundt pan is by far their most famous and most popular product, but they also specialize in all sorts of elaborate and festively shaped baking pans. No one can compare to their quality and selection, and ALL of their pans are sturdy, heavy duty, ultra-non-stick, and unbelievably durable.
I should know! I put their pans through the ringer!

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

There is so much detail in these little skulls that I was worried it wouldn’t read once the cakes were baked, or that I’d have problems getting the cakes out cleanly from all the intricate details face and teeth. At this point I should have known that I had no need to worry. These little cakes released like a dream and all that detail came across with amazing definition in the finished cakes.

There’s actually so much detail in these little cakes, that even though I tried decorating them in several ways, I found that my favorite cakes were the simplest, with just a double coat of thin sugary glaze. Of course you can decorate them however you choose, but I really think the simpler, the better. In fact, as much as I love the creepy look of the bright red chocolate candy eyes, I worry that even they take away from the scary perfection of the little cakes as they were straight out of the pan.

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

The recipe below, simply adapted from my favorite chocolate bundt cake recipe, makes 12 mini skulls, or 2 pans worth. If you only have 1 pan, make sure you wash the pan really well between batches. I also recommend that you dry it well and throw it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before reapplying the butter and cocoa. Otherwise the pan will be warm from being washed and the butter will melt and make a mess when you try to dust it with cocoa.
If you don’t have this pan at all, you can get it here, or you can just make this recipe in one 10 cup bundt pan. It won’t be as scary to look at, but it’ll certainly taste just as chocolatey and delicious!

By the way, if you’ve never tried this trick before, using cocoa powder works just as well as flour to prevent the cakes from sticking to the pan, but helps the cakes look extra dark and chocolatey, rather than the dusty uneven look flour sometimes gives to the outside of chocolate cakes.

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

The flavor of these little cakes is deep dark chocolate perfect with a super tender and moist crumb. Thanks to that simple powdered sugar glaze, these little cakes almost taste like a reeeeeally good moist chocolate doughnut.

The Oreos, complete with cream (don’t use boxed crumbs!), add a really nice touch, especially if you leave some in nice big chunks so they don’t melt and disappear into the batter. Essentially you just want to put them in a plastic bag and crush ’em up with your hands or whack at them with a rolling-pin until there are no whole cookies left, but you still have lots of bigger pieces.

Now tell me, what kid (or adult) could resist a super moist chocolate cake filled with oreo cookie crumbs? Especially one in the shape of a cute-yet-terrifying little skull???

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

Dark Chocolate & Oreo Mini Skull Cakes

adapted from Joy the Baker

For the Cake:
1 1/4 cups strong hot coffee
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder (I used “Double Dutch Cocoa“) plus extra for pan
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup peanut oil or any neutral vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups (about 1 package) roughly crushed oreos (NOT oreo cookie crumbs, you want the cream too)

For the Glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For decorating (all optional):
Red M&Ms
Sanding or decorating sugar (black, red, or silver)
white mini nonpareils
More crushed Oreos

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
Brush a skull cakelet pan (* see note) with softened butter, and dust with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess.

Whisk coffee and cocoa together in a bowl together until free of lumps and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, mix together sugar, salt, baking soda, eggs and egg yolk on low for just one minute. Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract and mix on low again for another minute.
Add the flour and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes more. Add the cocoa mixture and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes. Finally, stir in the roughly crushed Oreos just until evenly distributed throughout. The batter will seem quite loose and liquid, it’s supposed to, don’t worry.
Pour half of the batter into the prepared cake pan, filling each cavity about 3/4 of the way up. This recipe makes two pans worth of batter. If you have two pans, you can bake them both at once, or once the first batch is out of the pan you can wash, dry, and cool the pan in the fridge before reapplying butter and cocoa and baking the remaining batter.
Bake for 20-30, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for at least 15 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack.

To make the glaze:
Whisk the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla together in a medium bowl until smooth and free of lumps.

To glaze and decorate:
After some trial and error I found that the easiest way to glaze the cakelets was to pick up them up by the base and dip them into the glaze like a doughnut. Remove from the glaze, let drip dry, and turn over to dry on a cooling rack. I actually liked the look of the glaze best when the cakes were glazed twice. If you want to double glaze, wait for the first coat to dry five minutes or so before dipping again.
If you’d like to decorate with sanding sugar, crushed Oreos, or mini nonpareils, sprinkle them over the cakes before your final coat of glaze has dried. If desired, add red chocolate candies in the eye sockets.

*Note: If you don’t have a skull cakelet pan this recipe makes 1 (less spooky but equally delicious) bundt cake in a 10 cup bundt pan. A bundt will need to bake for about 55 to 65 minutes .

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holiday milk punch

I realize how snobby this will probably sound, but I’ve never been a fan of store bought eggnog.

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

I guess it’s because I was spoiled my whole life by my mother’s eggnog. Every year we’d have a big family Christmas party and she’d spend the whole day making cocktail sauce and big bowls of shrimp, layering trays of her famous taco dip, and whipping up two huge punch bowls full of her Christmas eggnogs (one them regular, the other chocolate, both spiked with plenty of hooch).

She used to save a little for us before adding the booze when we were really little, and when we finally reached double digits we were allowed just a tiny cup of the same nog as the adults.

When I was still pretty young I didn’t really like the taste of the adult version, but it was so thick and rich and heavy that even when I was old enough to actually enjoy the alcohol I couldn’t have more than a cup or two before feeling full to the point of bursting.

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Right after college I decided to host a holiday soiree of my very own, and I thought a big batch of mom’s homemade eggnog would be just the ticket. It was every bit as rich and delicious as I remembered, but it was my first and last time making it. Once was enough for me to decide that it took too much time and effort to make something so heavy that people wanted only one or two cups. Of course, everyone loved it, but they all moved on to something else later in the night, and half of it went to waste.

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Just before Christmas in the first year that Russell and I lived together I spotted a recipe on Smitten Kitchen that piqued my interest.

I’ve never been a huge fan of milk as a beverage on it’s own. I don’t even usually eat cookies with milk, and reserve it only for cereal instead. There was bourbon in this milk punch recipe though so I was willing to give it a shot.

It’s so much lighter, and so much simpler to make, that I honestly didn’t expect it to hold a candle to homemade eggnog. To my surprise though, I absolutely loved it! It’s doesn’t really taste like eggnog; it’s not nearly as rich and custardy and, well, eggy; but it does have a sort of similar flavor profile. A bit of milk, a bit of cream, a bit of sugar, a bit of vanilla, and a bit of nutmeg; all topped off with enough booze to make it taste exceedingly festive.

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

I was in love.

I may actually even like this better than eggnog. I mean, I still think homemade eggnog is the bee’s knees, but this is just as festive and you don’t want a nap after one glass!

I wouldn’t exactly call milk punch healthy, but I would say that it’s a heck of a lot healthier than eggnog. Much less fat and a bit less cream, and no raw eggs to worry about. You’d never know it though. This stuff is TASTY!

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Recipes for versions of milk punch (very different versions from this one) actually date back to colonial times. Benjamin Franklin even had his own recipe that’s been making the rounds on the internet lately.

These days recipes similar to this one are very popular in the South, especially in New Orleans where it’s often served with breakfast or brunch. There’s even a scene in the film “The Help” where a milk punch is being prepared before a meeting of the ladies bridge club.

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

The first time I tried milk punch I made it with bourbon, following Smitten Kitchen’s recipe to a T.

Just before I decided to share it here with all of you though, I saw an an article about a taste test for the best hooch to use for eggnog. After tasting some nog spiked with various spirits, straight or in combination, they found that a mix of rum and brandy had the best, most quintessentially “holiday” flavor.

While I absolutely love bourbon 365 days a year, I decided that I could let rum and brandy have their turn for this holiday recipe. I’m so glad that I did, because it somehow made my milk punch taste even more similar to a homemade eggnog. Even if you’d still prefer bourbon though, this recipe is nice and strong, as any holiday cocktail should be.

If you have time, I’d recommend freezing your milk punch for a few hours until it gets slushy. It has a thicker, almost milkshake like texture this way, and it means you can make it ahead of your guests and take it out whenever they arrive. You can even make it a day ahead and keep it in the freezer, but you’ll need to stir it up and let it sit out for a bit if it freezes through.
The second best method would be to shake it in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice until it gets super cold and frothy. For an even easier presentation, you could simply serve it in a punch bowl with plenty of ice, or even a frozen milk ice ring. Either way, just finish it with a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg and you’re in holiday heaven!

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Holiday Milk Punch

  • Servings: 6 to 10, depending on size
  • Print
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

4 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream *see note
1 cup good dark rum (not spiced rum)
1/2 cup brandy (or cognac) **see note
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish.

In a pitcher, whisk together milk, heavy cream, rum, brandy, sugar and vanilla.
This can be served a few ways. You can serve very well chilled in an icy punch bowl, or shaken with ice until frothy and frigid. My favorite way though, is to freeze it until slushy. This will take 3 to 4 hours, but you can leave it in there up to a day. Stir before serving it in chilled glasses, finished with a few gratings of fresh nutmeg.

notes:

*For a thinner, healthier version use more milk and less cream. For a thicker, richer version use more cream and less milk, equalling 5 cups total.

** You can use more brandy and less rum if desired, or all brandy, all rum, or even all bourbon. I think 1 1/2 cups of alcohol total offers the best flavor, but you can do less if you don’t like as much hair on your chest.

old-fashioned marble cake #bundtbakers

Are y’all ready for a very special holiday edition of #bundtbakers?

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

My mom recently renovated and moved into a new house, and a while she was unpacking she asked me if I wanted any of her old cookbooks. She was trying to downsize but the only one I asked for was a well worn book from the 1940s called “The Modern Family Cookbook” by Meta Given. She’d actually had it for so long that she couldn’t even remember where’d she’d gotten it, but thinks it was probably her Grandmother’s.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

As soon as I got it home I started pouring over the recipes and wondering about all the funny old fashioned foods that no one eats anymore. It’s just filled with all kinds of things that I honestly can’t wait to try.

As you can probably imagine, I was most interested in the desserts. Surprise!

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

While flipping through the cakes section I came across a recipe that I instantly knew I needed to try. It was actually the caption under the title that really caught my eye.
“Old-Fashioned Marble Cake always has its dark part darkened with molasses and spices, because that’s the way Grandma used to make it.”

I’d never heard of a marble cake darkened with molasses. Have you?

In my mind marble cakes are always a mix of chocolate and vanilla, and to be honest, I’ve never really been a huge fan. I love chocolate and I love vanilla, but I prefer them as separate flavors. I feel like they sort of get lost in each other, and bring each other down rather than elevating one another when marbled together. But molasses and spice? Now that I could get into!

This version just sounded so terribly interesting, not to mention delicious!  I’ve always been fascinated by food history, and I just couldn’t resist the idea of making a recipe for a marble cake that pre-dates the one we all know today.

old fashioned marble cake | before chocolate, marble cake was darkened with molasses and spice | Brooklyn Homemaker

I find the very idea that the marble cake has evolved from one flavor profile to another completely intriguing. This got me to thinking about how and why this could have happened in the first place.

“Old-Fashioned Marble Cake always has its dark part darkened with molasses and spices, because that’s the way Grandma used to make it.” I soon realized that if this recipe was published in 1942, and it was the author’s grandmother’s recipe, then the recipe itself was probably from the late 1800s. Then it dawned on me that at that time in history cocoa and vanilla were rare, exotic, and expensive ingredients that many bakers just didn’t have access to. Molasses and spice were easy enough to find, so I’m sure that’s why they were used first.

Maybe it’s just the food nerd in me, but I find all this stuff to be so much fun and I just couldn’t wait to share this recipe and the story behind it with the bundt bakers!

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

I almost went ahead with this recipe back when I first saw it, but ultimately decided that I should wait until the holidays because it sounded so similar in flavor to gingerbread (just without the ginger). I was a little worried that I’d wait all that time and then my cake wouldn’t fit with the bundt bakers theme for December, but I decided I’d cross that river when I came to it.

Lucky for me, Liv of Liv for Cake played right into my hand and chose “naughty or nice” as the theme this month. How perfect is that? Richly spiced cake with dark, earthy molasses juxtaposed against an ethereal light and airy white cake. Naughty AND nice mixed and marbled together into one perfect holiday cake. Please make sure to scroll down past the recipe and check out all the other naught and nice cakes this month!

The original recipe didn’t call for a glaze but just said, “Frost if desired, but no frosting is required.” I thought I may as well go ahead and drive the naughty point home with a nice boozy rum glaze.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

This cake lends itself perfectly to being baked as a bundt. The original recipe said to bake it in a tube pan like an angel food cake, but only because the bundt pan hadn’t yet been invented! They didn’t hit the scene until the 1950s.

I followed the recipe almost exactly, but did decide to add just a touch of vanilla to the white cake part. The original recipe didn’t call for it because it wasn’t readily available or affordable when it was developed, but now that it is available and affordable I saw no reason to leave it out. I’m sure it’d still be great without it, but thought it would really add a nice boost of flavor to the white cake.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

It was sort of a a funny exercise rewriting a 70 year old cake recipe. The first paragraph was just about triple sifting the flour before measuring because flour back then didn’t come pre-sifted. The recipe was also sort of vague and inexact in some places, because most housewives back then already knew how to follow a recipe. It actually said to “bake in a slow oven for about an hour”.

I tried my best to update it and make it easier for the modern baker to follow. If the finished cake was any indication, I think I did a pretty good job.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m so glad to have the opportunity to revive a recipe that’s probably over a century old, and even more glad that it came out so absolutely wonderful! The cake is super light and tender, with a healthy dose of rich earthy molasses and a lovely bit of spice from the cinnamon and clove. When I first read the recipe I worried that the clove might be a bit overpowering, but I worried for nothing and wouldn’t change a thing. It tastes and smells just like the holidays, but if you want it to taste even more like gingerbread, you could easily add two or three teaspoons of ground ginger.

Ginger or no, this recipe is as fun and festive a holiday cake as you could ask for.

The rum glaze really adds another level of holiday cheer too, but if you’d prefer to keep this cake kiddo safe though, feel free to skip the rum and use an equal amount of milk instead.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

Old-Fashioned Marble Cake

Adapted from Meta Given’s 1942 Modern Family Cookbook

Light Part: 
2 cups cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Dark Part:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons cloves
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 tablespoons molasses
3/4 cup buttermilk

Rum Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon dark rum
1 1/2 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 325F. Generously butter and flour a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan and tap out excess flour. Refrigerate pan.

Light Part:
Measure flour, baking powder, and salt for the light part into a bowl and whisk together until evenly distributed. Beat egg whites until they reach stiff (but not dry) peaks in the bowl of an electric mixer. Gradually mix in 1/4 cup of the sugar. Transfer to a small bowl and cover while you proceed.

In the same mixer bowl, cream butter and blend thoroughly with remaining 1/2 cup of the sugar. In a separate bowl (or measuring cup) mix buttermilk with vanilla. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to butter, beginning and ending with flour and beating well after each addition. Gently fold beaten egg whites into batter being careful not to overmix or deflate the whites. Transfer batter to another bowl and cover while you proceed.

Dark Part: 
Measure flour, soda, salt and spices for the dark part into a bowl and whisk together until evenly distributed. In the mixer bowl, cream butter until soft and smooth; add brown sugar and cream together thoroughly. Add beaten egg yolks and molasses, and beat until fluffy. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour and beating until smooth after each addition.

Drop alternating large spoonfuls of dark and light batter into the pan until all batter is used. Use a dull knife to make a swirled pattern in the batter for a marbled effect.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly with fingertips. Place on a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes to cool before inverting to remove cake and cool completely.

To make the glaze whisk the sugar, rum, & milk together in a small bowl until lump free. If too thick, add a drop or two of milk until you reach the desired texture. If too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar.

Drizzle glaze over completely cooled cake. Cake should keep, well covered and air tight at room temperature, for up to 3 days.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

This month is filled with enough naughty and nice to make Santa’s head spin! Even the naughty cakes though, are plenty nice. I wish I could try each and every one!

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BundtBakers

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#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving Bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme or ingredient. You can see all of our lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest Board.

Updated links for all of our past events and more information about BundtBakers can be found on our homepage.

Happy holidays y’all!

nusstaler

What is it about cookies that makes them the (un)official dessert of the holiday season?

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

With all the baking people are doing this time of year, and with all the desserts that fit the bill for the holidays, why the humble cookie? You got your cakes, your tarts, your pies, your puddings and custards, your candies, and all manner of other sweet treats that feel just as festive and celebratory.

Perhaps cookies take the cake because they’re so sharable. Because they’re such a social dessert. Even though they’re essentially single serving, homemade cookies are always best eaten with friends and family.

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Maybe it’s because they make such excellent gifts. Unlike cakes and pies, cookies keep well at room temperature for a long while, so they store, pack, and ship well. A batch of cookies that comes out of an oven in New York City can be enjoyed by a California grandmother just a few days later.

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Maybe it’s because they’re so customizable and widely varied. Spiced cookies, iced cookies, soft cookies, crunchy cookies, chewy cookies, thin cookies, thick cookies, sandwich cookies, stuffed cookies, cutout cookies, chocolate cookies, nutty cookies, fruity cookies, oaty cookies, buttery cookies, olive oil cookies, endless kinds of cookies!

Fill a tray to overflowing will all of your favorites, and it’s an instant party!

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

A cookie swap is a great way to make sure your holiday party has that obligatory cookie platter, without being stuck in the kitchen for days to roll and cut and decorate fifteen different recipes.

If you’re not familiar with the idea of a cookie swap, each person bakes up a huge batch of one recipe, and then everyone gets together and swaps everything. You show up with a boatload of own your recipe, but leave with half a dozen of several different cookies to share with your family. It’s like a baker’s dream party. A pre-holiday-party holiday party!

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

While I absolutely love the idea of a cookie swap, I’ve never actually been to one! Thankfully, most food bloggers love to bake (and eat) cookies just as much as I do, and a few years ago two of my favorite bloggers decided to get creative with the cookie swap concept.

the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015

Thanks to Love & Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen, we now have the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! Food bloggers from across the nation and across the globe get to interact and share cookies with each other from the comforts of home. We’re assigned three blogs to send our cookies to, and three blogs send cookies our way. It’s like secret santa by mail, but with homemade cookies!

It’s a great way to meet new bloggers and taste some seriously delicious cookies. It’s also a great cause, as donations are collected for participating, and all proceeds benefit Cookies for Kid’s Cander, a national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer.

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Coming up with a cookie recipe worthy of sharing with other food bloggers was a job I took extremely seriously.  We’ve already established that I’m a bit of an over achiever, so I found the infinite number of cookie recipes out there pretty daunting.

When it comes to the holidays, I usually like to stick to my German heritage, but I was running out of ideas. A few years back I made some traditional pfeffernusse, and last year I made a gingerbread linzer cookie for my first time participating in the cookie swap.

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Whenever I get kind of stumped I like to pour over Pinterest for inspiration. That’s where I found a recipe from Saveur for a traditional Bavarian Christmas cookie called nusstaler that caught my eye. I was intrigued. They looked beautiful and sounded delicious. Absolutely. You betcha. I couldn’t wait.

Then I read the reviews.

Almost everyone who attempted to make their recipe said there were problems with it. I won’t get into all the details but from what I was reading this recipe had obviously not been thoroughly tested before publishing and had some serious technical flaws. I liked the idea of this cookie so much though, that I took to google looking for other recipes with better reviews. The problem is that Nusstaler are largely unknown in the US and the only recipes I could find were in German. The real barrier wasn’t the language though, it was the measurements. Google translates websites for you at the click of a button, but converting metric recipes isn’t quite so easy. You can easily find out the equivalents in cups and teaspoons, but they don’t always work out the way you’d want. I realized that a direct translation and conversion would mean my recipe would included measurements like 1.865 cups of flour, and I was almost ready to give up and ditch the whole thing.

But it was too late. I was bewitched by the very idea of these nutty chocolatey little cookies. I’d spent so much time digging for recipes that I was determined to stick with it. So, I decided to just try to figure it out on my own. Mind you, this is a cookie I’ve never tasted, never even heard of before seeing them on pinterest, but I was just going to wing it.

The basic idea was simple enough. Nusstaler are hazelnut shortbread dipped or coated in chocolate. After a little research I learned that they’re supposed to be sort of coin shaped. Nuss means nut, and Taler is a German spelling of Thaler, an ancient silver coin that was used in Europe for centuries. Thaler is actually the root of the word Dollar! So, essentially, nusstaler translates to nut coins. Yum!

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

While I can’t promise that my version of the nusstaler is completely authentic or traditional, I can promise that they’re absolutely delicous.

I was expecting them to be crumbly and crunchy like other shortbreads I’ve had, but these were actually pretty tender and delicate. I think this comes from the high nut to flour ratio in the shortbread base. Much of what I read online said nusstaler is usually made with equal parts white flour and finely ground hazelnut flour, so that’s what I went with.

The flavor is buttery, earthy, nutty, delicate, and perfect; with a touch of crunch from the whole toasted hazelnut topping each cookie. They’re just barely sweet in such a way that the coating of rich bittersweet dark chocolate on the bottoms really adds something. I thought that they might end up tasting a bit like nutella, but the flavors of the chocolate and the hazelnuts acutally reach your tongue separately so you’re able to enjoy each flavor individually.

I hope you’ll give these Bavarian Christmas cookies a try. If you do, I’m sure that these funny little nut coins are sure to become a new holiday favorite!

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Nusstaler

  • Servings: makes about 2 dozen cookies
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1 cup whole hazelnuts, plus more for garnish
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 to 8 ounces good quality dark or semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F.
Arrange hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and rub hazelnuts, a small handful at a time, in a kitchen towel to remove the husk. It won’t all come off, and that’s okay.

Transfer 1 cup of hazelnuts to a blender or food processor and grind very finely into a coarse flour. Pulse in flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa, just to combine. Set aside.
Beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and beat just until combined. Gradually mix in flour mixture until well combined. Refrigerate until firm, about an hour.

Portion dough into 1 inch scoops, about 1 1/2 tablespoons each, and arrange on parchment lined baking sheets, spaced about 2″ apart. Press a hazelnut into the top of each. Bake at 350F until just beginning to brown around the bottom edge, about 10 to 13 minutes.

While cookies cool, roughly chop chocolate and melt over low heat in a double boiler.
Dip bottoms of cooled cookies into melted chocolate, carefully lifting out with a fork. Return to parchment lined baking sheets until chocolate is completely cooled and set.

Cookies should keep for about a week in an airtight container