christmas cookies

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
  • Print
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

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spicy gingerbread linzer cookies with orange white chocolate ganache

Don’t blink folks, it’s almost Christmas!

spicy gingerbread linzer cookies with orange white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

Every year it feels like it just sneaks up on me. No sooner have I taken a breath after the Thanksgiving dishes are washed than Christmas is a week away and I still haven’t done any shopping. I am terrible about waiting until the last minute to buy gifts. Always have been.

Luckily cookies make a great gift!

spicy gingerbread linzer cookies with orange white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

Growing up my family always had trays of cookies around in the days leading up to Christmas, and having a variety of treats around always made things feel that much more festive and celebratory.

spicy gingerbread linzer cookies with orange white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

One way to get that big variety of cookies for the holidays, without having to spend days in the kitchen, is to throw a cookie swap. A traditional cookie swap is basically a party where everyone makes one big batch of one type of cookie, and then everyone gets together and exchanges them. To make it really fun you can serve snacks and cocktails and have a packing station with cute paper boxes and cookie tins and tags and ribbons and twine. All the cookies are divided evenly and then everyone goes home with a handful of each type.

spicy gingerbread linzer cookies with orange white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve always wanted to host a cookie swap but have never felt like enough of my friends would want to participate to make it worth my while.

spicy gingerbread linzer cookies with orange white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

Thanks to the magic of internet though, I got to get in on the fun after all. This year I participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, organized by Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen.

the great food blogger cookie swap 2014 | Brooklyn Homemaker

The idea is simple. You register as a participating blogger, make a small donation, and you’re assigned three bloggers to send cookies to. Then three other bloggers are assigned to send cookies to you. It’s like secret santa through the mail, but with dozens of cookies! Last year over 600 bloggers participated and over $14,000 was raised for Cookies for Kid’s Cancer!

spicy gingerbread linzer cookies with orange white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

I wanted to make a recipe that felt really special to me, and had flavors that I’ve always associated with the holidays. I’ve always had a love of dark molassessy spice cookies at Christmas, and linzer cookies have always felt really fancy, so I decided to combine the two ideas into one perfect holiday cookie.

The gingerbread recipe I used has been my favorite for years, and makes a really delicious cookie all on it’s own. If you want to make gingerbread cut outs, this is a great recipe to try. The cookies are thick and chewy and dark and bursting with plenty of spice. There’s warm spices like cinnamon and cloves, but there’s also a nice hint of actual heat from ground black pepper and ginger.

To take things to a whole other level of fancy, I sandwiched the cookies with an orange white chocolate ganache filling. It’s just the right amount of creamy sweetness and bright citrus zest to perfectly compliment the chewy spiciness of the gingerbread. When choosing white chocolate it’s really important to read the ingredients and make sure it actually contains cocoa butter. Most white baking chocolate and white chocolate chips actually don’t, but are instead white chocolate flavored sweetened palm. My advice is to look for plain white chocolate bars in the candy aisle instead.

spicy gingerbread linzer cookies with orange white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

My cookies went to Club Narwhal, Love and Joy, and Pale Yellow. I hope they enjoyed them as much as I did, and as much as I enjoyed making them. There’s something about making cookies this time of year that is so much more fun than usual!

I received chocolate brown butter cookies from The Sassy Life, almond lace sandwich cookies from Love and Olive Oil, and peppermint sugar cookies from Greens & Chocolate. Everything was amazing, and Russell and I have been munching away merrily every since! What’s left of the cookies even made a guest appearance in my Mexican hot dark chocolate post!

Thank you so much to everyone who sent me cookies, and to everyone who participated this year! This was so much fun, and now I have a bunch of new favorite cookies for the holidays!

spicy gingerbread linzer cookies with orange white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

Spicy Gingerbread Linzer Cookies with Orange White Chocolate Ganache

  • Servings: makes about 2 1/2 dozen 2.5 inch cookies
  • Print
Spicy Gingerbread Cookies:
Barely adapted from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
3/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons milk

white chocolate ganache filling (recipe below)
powdered sugar for dusting

Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade attachment. Pulse until well combined, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and pulse repeatedly until mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 30 seconds. With food processor running, add molasses and milk and process until dough is evenly moistened and forms soft mass, about 10 seconds.
If you want to double the recipe, you’ll need to make it in multiple batches.
Divide dough in half and roll into ¼ inch thickness between two large sheets of parchment paper. Place in refrigerator at least two hours (or overnight) or place on a flat surface in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes, until firm. The colder the dough is the easier it is to work with, so I recommend freezing.
Preheat the oven to 350F and adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Once cold and firm, peel the top sheet of parchment from the dough, flip the dough over onto the parchment, and peel off the other piece. You can cut into any shape you like, but if you want to make linzer cookies make sure you have one cutter that is 1/2 the size of the other (or smaller) to make your “window” in the top cookie. Cut out half the cookies in a solid “base” shape, and cut the remaining half of the cookies so that the smaller cutter forms a “window” hole in the center of the top cookie.
Place on prepared baking sheets spacing cookies 1 inch apart. Bake until centers are just set and dough barely retains imprint when touched very gently with fingertip, anywhere from 8 to 11 minutes depending on the size of your cookies. To bake evenly, rotate the baking sheets halfway through. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 5 to 10 minutes or until cool and firm enough to remove from the parchment without breaking. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Gather scraps into a ball and repeat rolling, cooling, cutting, and baking with remaining dough until all is used.

Orange White Chocolate Ganache Filling:

7 oz good quality white chocolate (from bars, not chips)
1/4 cup heavy cream
finely grated zest of one large orange
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

In the the bowl of a double boiler over a very gentle simmer, break up the white chocolate into small pieces and combine with the heavy cream, orange zest, and salt. Stir with a silicone spatula until the chocolate is completely melted with no solid chunks remaining. Take your time, and be sure that the water in the lower pan never goes above a gentle simmer.
Once the chocolate is melted, remove from heat, add the butter and gently stir until completely melted and combined.
Set aside to cool until firm but spreadable. This will take about an hour or two. I’d recommend that you don’t try to refrigerate it because if it gets too cold it’ll be too firm and you’ll need to melt it again to soften it.

With a small offset icing spatula, or a butter knife, spread a small amount (probably about 2 teaspoons) of the ganache filling on to each base cookie. Top each of the filling-covered base cookies with a top cookie and line the filled cookie sandwiches up in a single layer on a clean surface. Dust all the cookies with a light coating of powdered sugar.

If packing for transport or shipping, I’d recommend refrigerating for at least an hour to fully set the ganache.