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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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chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies

Russell had oral surgery a few days ago and immediately developed quite a sweet tooth. Nothing like eating cookies and ice cream after spending hundreds on dental work! He was craving chocolate and peanut butter and asked me to make some buckeyes that I used to make when I worked for a cupcake shop. I thought it might be more fun to put a peanut buttery twist on traditional whoopie pies, and made a batch of chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies to satisfy his craving. Needless to say, they really hit the spot.

chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies | Brooklyn Homemaker

In case you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, a whoopie pie is a sandwich cookie made up of two cake-like cookies with a creamy filling between them. Whoopie pies are very popular in the Northeast and New England and, depending on the region, they sometimes go by the names black moon, gob, bob, or “BFO” for Big Fat Oreo. Although they probably originated in the Northeast, they’ve spread throughout the US in the past few decades and are well-known and well-loved all over the country. Traditionally they’re made of some kind of rich chocolate cake and filled with a creamy white vanilla or marshmallow filling. In recent years new varieties have popped up, including red velvet or pumpkin with cream cheese filling, or chocolate with fillings like peanut butter, mint, or caramel buttercream.

chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies | Brooklyn Homemaker

The history of the whoopie pie is something of a mystery. Many regions lay claim to their origins, but there is not enough evidence to prove any one area as their true birthplace. Handheld filled sandwich cakes were popular in Victorian era Europe, and whoever really invented the whoopie pie mostly likely borrowed the idea from these European treats. Victorian sandwich cakes were usually made of sponge cake filled with jam or cream, and were often cut into small slices or slivers and served with tea. Whatever their origins, America’s whoopie pies are decidedly less refined.

chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies | Brooklyn Homemaker

Many people agree that whoopie pies were invented by the Amish of Pennsylvania dutch country. The popular belief in this area is that these cookies were invented in Amish and Pennsylvania German culture and the recipe was passed down through generations without leaving any official paper trail. The legend has it that an Amish homemaker probably used some leftover cake batter to make cookies for her children, topped them with some buttercream, and liked the results so much that she shared the recipe with the surrounding community. The claim is that Amish mothers would pack the cookies into their children’s lunch bags and, on finding them, the kids would shout “Whoopie!”
Today these cookies are commonly sold in Amish country stores and farm stands throughout Pennsylvania and no trip to this region is complete without indulging on a traditional Amish whoopie pie.

chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies | Brooklyn Homemaker

The Berwick Cake Co. in Boston, Massachusetts also claims to have invented this treat. They claim to have started selling whoopie pies in the 1920s or 30, but the oldest printed reference to Berwick making whoopie pies is a newspaper ad from 1950.  Although the bakery closed years ago, the brick building still has the words “Whoopee! Pies” painted on its side. Whether Berwick invented them or not, many people believe they have commercial, rather than Amish, origins. These people believe that a production bakery probably used up some leftover cake batter and came up with a handheld cake by baking the batter on a pan like a cookie.

chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies | Brooklyn Homemaker

The state of Maine also lays a claim to the origins of the whoopie pie. Labadie’s bakery in Lewiston, Maine claims to have been making the confectionery since 1925, but many others think that the idea probably made its way to Maine from another state. Some people believe that the cookie traveled with some Amish groups that left Pennsylvania and moved to Maine. Others say that the whoopie pie came to Maine in the 1930s when a cook book featuring a recipe for a whoopie pie with marshmallow cream filling was published and distributed in New England by the Durkee Mower Company, the manufacturer of Marshmallow Fluff.
Whether whoopie pies were invented in Maine or not, the people of Maine take this cookie very seriously.  In 2011, the Maine State Legislature entertained the idea of naming the whoopie pie the official state dessert, but ultimately decided to name it the “Official State Treat”, choosing wild Maine blueberry pie as the state dessert instead.

chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies | Brooklyn Homemaker

The size of whoopie pies varies greatly depending on the region as well. Especially in Pennsylvania, some whoopie pies are huge sandwich sized confections that can feed two or more people. Other areas produce individual sized cookies, and recently some areas have started making bite sized mini whoopie pies.
The whoopie pies I made aren’t the huge Pennsylvania style, but they’re not the bite-sized variety either. I used a #24 portion scoop, about 3 tablespoons, and my pies ended up being about the serving size of a cupcake. This recipe made 12 finished sandwich cookies for me, but depending on the size you make them, your yield may be much different from mine. If you do decide you want to make your cookies a different size, you may need to adjust your cooking time by a few minutes.

chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies | Brooklyn Homemaker

This recipe produces a deep dark & chocolatey cookie. The addition of a healthy dose of coffee adds even more depth to the dark chocolate notes, and the combination of brown sugar, oil and buttermilk give it a wonderful chewy, moist and pillowy soft texture. Even without the filling, this cookie is phenomenal, and I “accidentally” baked an odd number of cookies and was forced, against my will I might add, to eat one on its own.
The real star here though is the peanut butter buttercream. It’s ultra smooth and creamy, just a little bit salty, a little more sweet, and crazy peanut buttery. It might be a bit too soft and loose to serve on super hot summer days, but this time of year it’s perfect. Briefly refrigerating the finished whoopie pies will help set the filling so it doesn’t smoosh out the sides when you bite down. The combination of these rich chocolate cakes with the sweet smooth creamy peanut buttery goodness of this filling is better than you can even imagine. Are you drooling yet? I  am.

chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies | Brooklyn Homemaker

Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

  • Servings: approximately 12 cookies
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Adapted from Baked Explorations

3½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
¾ cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/2 cup hot coffee
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cups peanut or canola oil
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature, shaken

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, and set aside.
In another large bowl, whisk together the cocoa and espresso powder. Add the hot coffee and 1/2 cup hot water and whisk until both powders are completely dissolved.
In a medium bowl, stir the brown sugar and oil together. Add this to the cocoa mixture and whisk until combined. Add the egg, vanilla and buttermilk and whisk until smooth. Using a rubber spatula to gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Make sure to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl as you fold.
Use a portion scoop with to drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets about 1-inch apart. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. Let the cookies cool completely on the pans while you make the filling (recipe below).
Turn half of the cookies so the flat side faces up, and distribute the filling evenly between the overturned cookies using a portion scoop, piping bag, or icing spatula. Top the buttercream with another cookie and press down gently so the filling spreads to the edges of the cookies. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set the filling, and let the cookies come back to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Whoopie pies will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge, on a parchment-lined baking sheet covered with plastic wrap.

Peanut Butter Buttercream

1 cup creamy peanut butter
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

With the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, cream the softened butter and peanut on high-speed until completely blended and smooth. Add sugar and, on low-speed, mix until combined. Turn up to high and beat until fluffy.

Pfeffernusse

My family background is mostly German. Both sides of my family have German origins, but my paternal grandfather is the most recent to have moved to the US, having immigrated after WWII. I remember when I was younger he would spend hours on the phone speaking German to his brothers and sisters, most of whom all live spread throughout upstate New York. Christmas was always a time when they would send each other gifts that reminded them of home, and that time of year meant my grandparents house would be filled with all kinds of German treats.

pfeffernusse | Brooklyn Homemaker

Grandpa had an ever growing collection of beer steins that his cousins would send him from Germany. When my sisters and I turned 21 we started trying to find his favorite types of German liqueurs (he’s a fan of the sweet stuff) like Kirschwasser and Barenjager. My grandmother never really cared much for German food or cooking, so the German edibles around the house tended to be candies, cookies and cakes. One of his favorites was Stollen, a bready yeasted fruitcake filled with marzipan, candied fruit and nuts, and usually covered in powdered sugar or a thick white glaze.  I never really developed a taste for Stollen, but another one of his favorites, Pfeffernusse, I absolutely love.

pfeffernusse |Brooklyn Homemaker

Pfeffernusse, AKA Peppernuts, is a strongly flavored European spice cookie. It’s kind of similar to a strong gingerbread in flavor, but with a bit less ginger, and with finely ground black pepper instead. Pfeffernusse traditionally has some ground or finely chopped nuts in it, along with citrus zest, molasses and brandy. Some say this is an acquired taste, but I just think it’s not what people expect when they pick them up. Either way, this is an amazing underrated cookie that you will love if you give it a chance. They have a very subtle sweetness with a pleasant old-world holiday spice flavor. They also have a really fun name. Just say it out loud. Pfeffernusse. Pfeffernusse. Pfeffernusse!

pfeffernusse |Brooklyn Homemaker

There are a lot of pfeffernusse recipes out there, but this one is as close to traditional as I could find. A lot of recipes I found didn’t have enough spice, many of them skipped the nuts and citrus, and most omitted the brandy. This recipe, from the Joy of Cooking, is just what I was hoping for. Store bought pfeffernusse can sometimes be a bit dry, but this recipe produces a moist, chewy and cakey cookie. It’s got a very respectable amount of spice, the molasses and brandy flavors really come through with the citrus close behind, and the soft almonds give it a bit of texture.

pfeffernusse | Brooklyn Home

The list of ingredients in this recipe is substantial, with many different spices going into this cookie to give it it’s distinctive flavor. One spice you might not have in your cabinet is cardamom, but I implore you to try to find it. It has an exotic floral citrus flavor and is slightly reminiscent of cinnamon & ginger. It goes really well in spice cakes and similar desserts, especially desserts with apples. I love to add it to apple pie, and when I used to make apple butter I considered it my secret ingredient. As for the brandy in this recipe, it mostly bakes off in the oven, but imparts a great flavor and adds moisture, so I definitely wouldn’t skip it. If you don’t have brandy and don’t want to buy it to use a few tablespoons, you could sub it with another alcohol like rum or bourbon. Orange liqueur could be nice too but might make the cookies too sweet so you might want to reduce the sugar a tablespoon or two. I wouldn’t use Irish or Scotch whiskey because the flavor can be too strong or even smoky.

pfeffernusse | Brooklyn Homemaker

Most Pfeffernusse recipes I found called for them to be rolled warm through confectioners sugar. I’ve had them this way and they’re delicious, but I remember the cookies my grandfather eating when I was young having a stiff white shell of glaze, so that’s what I wanted. After a bit of searching I found what I was after. When you whip this glaze up it resembles marshmallow fluff, but thinner. You basically dip the whole cookie into it, let the excess drip off, and then dry the glaze in the oven while it’s cooling. Once the glaze has hardened you’re good to go. To dip these cookies I attempted to be dainty and polite, using a slotted spoon, but I quickly realized this was a job for clean hands. You’ll have it everywhere, and it’s sticky, but it’s so worth it. Once all your cookies are dipped you transfer them back to your baking sheet to dry. I used a small offset icing spatula, but a large butter knife should work well too.

pfeffernusse | Brooklyn Homemaker

If you’re looking for a new cookie recipe for the holidays, look no further. These cookies are said to be a favorite of Kris Kringle’s and they’re about to become one of yours. They might be a little unexpected, but most people with a grown up pallet will appreciate this European holiday treat. Anyone who enjoys spice cakes and gingerbread will surely fall in love with pfeffernusse. Traditionally they’re a small cookie, about an inch across when baked, but I made mine just slightly larger. I used a #60 cookie scoop, or about a tablespoon of dough for each cookie. I’d say a more traditional size would be about 2 teaspoons of dough, which would give you a few more finished cookies. They store and travel really well, so they’re perfect for taking home to family for Christmas, for sharing with friends at a cookie swap party, giving as gifts, or even mailing to the grandparents. They even improve with a few days age, so making ahead is a good idea, and they stay fresh for two weeks or more, so you might want to make extras!

pfeffernusse | Brooklyn Homemaker

Pfeffernusse

  • Servings: about 4 dozen 1.5 inch cookies
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Adapted from Joy of Cooking

2 cups plus 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks (whites reserved for glaze)
1/2 cup finely chopped sliced or slivered almonds
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
6 tablespoons molasses
6 tablespoons brandy (or rum or whiskey if you don’t have brandy)

Glaze:
3 egg whites
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices in a medium bowl. With an electric mixer beat butter and sugar until very fluffy. Add egg yolk and beat until well combined. Stir in almonds and citrus zests, and scrape bowl. In a small bowl mix the brandy and molasses. Alternate stirring in flour mixture and brandy mixture until combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, up to 2 days, to allow flavors to blend together.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop about a tablespoon of dough, I used a #60 scoop, and roll into a ball in your hands. Line up cookies about an inch away from each other on your parchment. Refrigerate for 10 minutes or more, then bake, 1 sheet at a time, for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned and no longer wet looking on top. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes before dipping in glaze.

To make your glaze, whip your egg whites to stiff peaks with an electric mixer. Slowly mix in confectioners sugar, and whip until completely combined with no lumps. With clean hands, dip your still warm cookies into the glaze and completely cover them. Let glaze drip back into the bowl and transfer cookies to a wire rack to allow any excess glaze to drip off. Once all your cookies are glazed transfer them back to your parchment lined pan and put them back in the still warm oven with the door open just a crack. Let the glaze dry in the oven for 5-10 minutes and transfer the pan to the counter. Let the glaze harden completely, for an hour or more, before serving or storing. If storing immediately, turn the cookies over and let the bottoms dry for an hour before stacking, and divide layers with parchment or wax paper to avoid sticking.