cookie swap

ginger pinchies

Have you guys decided which cookies you’ll be baking for the holidays yet? Have you narrowed it down to just one recipe, or are you making a few different kinds?

ginger pinchies | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I was little my grandma would always have a big tray of homemade cookies on the counter every Christmas, and it was always so much fun to choose which kind to try first. Being the chubby little dough boy that I was, by the time we were done opening presents you better believe that I’d tried each and every recipe she had on that platter, sampling a few of them more than once, you know, just to be sure.

ginger pinchies | Brooklyn Homemaker

This year I signed up for a cookie swap at work and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I’ve always wanted to host one myself but never thought enough of my friends would be interested to make it work. This year though, one of my coworkers suggested it and to my surprise, so many people signed up that I’m actually worried about how many batches I’m going to have to make. The more people who sign up though, the more varieties of cookies I’ll have for my holiday spread this year. An embarrassment of riches y’all!

Originally my plan was some kind of spicy gingerbread cutouts, but after Nordic Ware reached out to me to ask if I’d be interested in a project they’re working on with the Minnesota Historical Society, I might just have to change my plans!

ginger pinchies | Brooklyn Homemaker

To celebrate their Scandinavian American roots this holiday season, Nordic Ware joined forces with the Minnesota Historical Society and Mill City Museum to help them promote a special holiday cookbook they’ve just released.

Nordic Ware has been a major part of Minnesota’s heritage and history since 1946, and they’re still a family owned company!  The Minnesota Historical Society helps preserve Minnesota’s past, shares the state’s stories and connects people with history in meaningful ways. They play an important role in Minnesota’s historic preservation, education and tourism; and provide the public with award-winning programs, exhibitions and events. Part of the historical society, The Mill City Museum was built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill, located in Minneapolis on the historic Mississippi Riverfront. They teach their visitors about the intertwined histories of the flour industry, the Mississippi river, and the city of Minneapolis.

ginger pinchies | Brooklyn Homemaker

Written by self proclaimed Nordic food geek and meatball historian Patrice M. Johnson, and published by Minnesota Historical Society Press; Jul: Swedish American Holiday Traditions focuses on the Christmas food traditions of Swedish Americans in the Midwest.

From smörgåsbord and St. Lucia processions, to Christmas Eve gatherings with family and friends, Swedish Americans are linked through the generations by a legacy of meatballs and lutfisk. Throughout the Midwest where Swedish immigrants settled, holiday dishes placed on the julbord (Christmas table) tell stories about who they are, where they come from, and where they are heading.

In exploring Swedish American holiday customs, Johnson begins with her own family’s Christmas Eve gathering, which involves a combination of culinary traditions: allspice-scented meatballs, Norwegian lefse served Swedish style (warm with butter), and the American interloper, macaroni and cheese. Just as she tracks down the meanings behind why her family celebrates as it does, she reaches into the lives and histories of other Swedish Americans with their own stories, their own versions of traditional recipes, their own joys of the season. The result is a fascinating exploration of the Swedish holiday calendar and its American translation.

ginger pinchies | Brooklyn Homemaker

Jul is full of recipes that are perfect for holiday celebrations, even if you don’t have Swedish or Scandinavian roots.  The are tons of mouth-watering recipes for celebratory savory dishes, drinks, and desserts, but I went straight for the cookies when I was deciding which recipe to try out and share. Coming from a German American family, I share the author’s love for heavily spiced holiday treats and it didn’t take me long to zero in on a fun and unusual recipe for spice cookies she calls “Ginger Pinchies”.

These two-tone cookies were named after Johnson’s cat Pinchy, and inspired by her daughter’s love of ginger and her aunt’s well-worn copy of a Swedish Tabernacle Church Cookbook. Although they’re rolled up differently, the recipe is similar to a traditional pinwheel cookie. Rather than chocolate though, the dark part is a ginger-heavy spiced molasses dough and the light is perfumed with fresh citrus zest and a touch of vanilla. It reminds me so much of an Old-Fashioned marble cake recipe that I found in an old cookbook from the 1940s, which I made into this stunning holiday bundt a couple years ago!

ginger pinchies | Brooklyn Homemaker

Reading that this recipe was a 2015 Minnesota State Fair Gold Medal Flour Cookie Contest Blue Ribbon Winner was all  I needed to see to know this was the one for me.

The results are in y’all, these cookies are amazing! The light part is citrusy and delicate, soft and chewy, and I absolutely love the contrast with the rich and spicy molasses dough. Taken all in one bite they balance perfectly, and because I’m a nerd I also tried eating each dough separately in small bites to see how I liked them on their own. Just perfect! Thanks to my new Nordic Ware half sheet pans, the cookies baked up perfectly tender with delicately and evenly browned bottoms. While dark non-stick pans can sometimes overheat and burn the bottoms of cookies, these professional grade pans heat evenly and consistently producing perfectly baked cookies every time!

These cookies are absolutely ideal for your holiday spread, and they’ll be great for my cookie swap. You should definitely check out this cookbook for yourself, but so you don’t have to wait to make these cookies, I’ve shared the recipe below.

ginger pinchies | Brooklyn Homemaker

Ginger Pinchies

  • Servings: makes 16 cookies
  • Print
recipe from Jul: Swedish American Holiday Traditions
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk, beaten
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (divided)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange (about 1/2 teaspoon)
zest of 1 lemon (about 1/2 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon ground ginger (or 2 to 3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
pinch nutmeg
pinch cayenne

Use a stand mixer with paddle or a hand mixer to beat butter on low speed for about 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar and bead on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn mixer to low and add egg yolk and milk and mix well. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture and continue beating until dough forms.

Divide dough in half (there will be just over 2 cups total) Add half of the dough back to the mixing bowl along with vanilla, orange zest, and lemon zest. Mix until incorporated. Form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Set aside. Place remaining dough in mixing bowl along with remaining 1 tablespoon flour, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, & cayenne. Mix until incorporated. Dough will be very soft. Form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Chill both dough balls at least 30 minutes. (I froze mine for 30 minutes)

Place parchment paper over work surface and roll each dough ball into a 1/4-inch-thick, 8×5-inch rectangle. (It’s important to try to get as close to a rectangle as possible, rather than an oval shape, so that your finished cookie log isn’t hollow at the ends.) Place one dough rectangle over the other, aligning the dough as perfectly as possible. Starting at one of the narrow ends of the dough, use the parchment to help you gently roll the dough into a spiral, stopping a little more than halfway up the rectangle. Flip the dough upside down and roll the other end into a spiral so that the dough resembles and S-shaped log. Wrap in clean plastic wrap and chill at least an hour. (Again, I froze mine)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice chilled dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices for about 16 S-shaped cookies. (I sliced my log in half, then into quarters, then sliced each quarter into 4 slices to get 16 evenly sliced cookies) Place on prepared baking sheets about 1 to 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until evenly browned on the bottom. Cool on rack.

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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

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.