Thursday, December 28

Great Presents and Late Cookies

Happy 4th Christmas day! ;)
[Sigh] The presents are unwrapped, the family is gone, the Christmas tree has lost most of it’s special-ness, and you’re probably still full from all the loads of food.
Finally, everything is becoming calmer. Now starts a bit of that peacefulness. You survived the big stress and it’s now time to relax… How about some more cookies? Just kidding.

The true Christmas thought isn’t of course about presents or mountains of food, but it is a nice side issue.
It’s far from necessary, but it is a great opportunity to do something extra for your loved ones, pamper them (a bit) with treats you know they would appreciate.
And you can’t believe how incredibly spoiled I got…

Not bad, eh? Thank you Santa(s) for all the beautiful, thoughtful presents! ;)

But it’s clear that these amazing books come with another problem.
In gods name, what should I make first?? It’s already impossible to choose from Hermé’s, how should I ever pick something out of three??
Luckily my vacation isn’t over yet, and as I’m a bit sick and spend most of my time in bed now, I have all the time to read them from cover to cover and amaze myself about their geniusness…

Back to other sugar, back to the Christmas Sugar Cookies! Although Christmas is over and I do think these are really Christmas-y cookies, I wrote down the recipe here below. They are so sweet, buttery and easy that I wouldn’t mind having them, lets say, on a February morning.
And you can make them of course easily less Christmas-y by replacing the cherries for something like chocolate chips! They make a nice present, and they are perfect for making ahead, as you make the dough in advance.

The Plaisir Sucres, Macarons, Croissants, Tarte Tatin, and who knows what more, (unfortunately) have to wait a bit more because first…it’s (almost) time for making the best oliebollen!

=> Haha, mine are way better than these!! ;)

Will be continued...

Christmas Sugar Cookies (makes a hundred!)
(From BBC GoodFood)
- 300g (1 ½ cups) granulated sugar
- 140g (1 stick and 2 Tbsp/½ cup and 2 Tbsp) butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp milk
- 550g (4 cups) flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 200g (1 cup) glacé cherries, chopped. (bigarreau)

1. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter together until pale and creamy. Gradually beat in the eggs, vanilla and milk.
In a new bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together. Then add a few spoonfuls at a time to the butter mixture, stirring with each addition to combine. Fold the cherries through the dough, and shape into to logs.
Wrap the logs in cling film, freeze one and chill the other for at least 2 hour.

2. Heat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line three baking sheets with parchment paper. (of course if you don’t have three, bake in batches)
Take the chilled logs from the refrigerator, unwrap, let warm up slightly, and use a large knife to slice rounds the thickness of a coin.
Lay the cookies out on the trays and bake for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Repeat this process for the other log in the freezer.
Cool on a wire rack before serving. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Optional: spread the logs with some egg yolk and roll them though the sugar! Extra sugar cookies!

Saturday, December 23

Have yourself a...

I know it’s needless to say, but I’ll do it anyway:
It’s really almost Christmas now!
I hope this info is not new or comes with a shock for you, because otherwise I think it would be smart to make some plans and get going (!)
What are you doing this year with Christmas? A 15 courses menu? (it wouldn’t be a surprise with you foodies!) Eating out in a Michelin worthy restaurant? Nothing? Or like us, having a buffet with all kinds of little snacks and other tasty things?
I’m in charge of the dessert section this year -what else?- and decided to go for a few different sweets and desserts, simply because I couldn’t choose…
One of them is this rich chocolate cake with hazelnuts. This is the kind of cake that gets only better and better the longer you wait…perfect for Christmas!

I’m always careful in the kitchen - did you know 58% of all indoor accidents happens in the kitchen?! - but this time I was extra careful, as I still have last Christmas etched on my memory...
Last year me and my mom were hostesses, so on Christmas morning after breakfast and presents, we got back in the kitchen and prepared the final things for dinner. It was nice, but busy and slightly chaotic, and their was still a lot to do.
I was just making a piecrust: butter, flour and sugar were in the bowl, the hand blender was cheery grunting, and the dough was ready to be made into a bal. I putted down the blender and placed my hands in the bowl.
I wanted to have as well the last bit of dough that was sticking in the blender, so I, clearly without thinking, went for it.
10 minutes later we were, me still in my pj’s, at the first aid post. When my finger touched the blade, the power switched on and -luckily!- only my fingernail didn’t survive. Merry Christmas indeed! ;)

So this year I made sure nothing needed the blender…
I haven’t tasted this cake yet of course, -that would be rude!- so I can’t tell you how it tastes, but judging the ingredients, the look, the soft inside versus the crunchy outside, and the incredible smell, it’s only really promising…

Have a great time, merry Christmas everybody!

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake (for 10 till 12 people, adapted from La Dolce Vita)
- 250g (9oz) chocolate (minimum 70%)
-115g (1 stick/½ cup) butter, softened
- 5 eggs, split
- 140g (¾ cup) finely granulated sugar
- 50ml rum/cognac
- 100g fine maizena
- 150g (1 ¼ cups) hazelnuts, roasted

1. Preheat over to 180°C (350°F) and grease and flour a 22cm (9 inch) round cake pan.

2. In a small saucepan, mix the chocolate, broken in little pieces, and the butter over low heat till the chocolate is melted. Take the pan of the fire and let to cool a bit.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar together to a thick, creamy mixture. Mix in the chocolate mixture, rum, maizena and hazelnuts until well blended.

4. Whisk the egg whites until stiff (but not dry!) and fold them carefully in the chocolate/hazelnuts mixture.
Scoop this mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 till 40 minutes.

The cake is ready when it’s dry and firm to the touch, but still a bit wet and silky inside. The top is as well cracked, but that’s how it should be.
Let the cake in it’s for until it’s completely cooled, take out on a serving plate and dust with powder sugar.
Optional: serve with a big dot of mascarpone and strong coffee…Yum!

Thursday, December 14


Sinterklaas has left the country, our (gigantic) tree is up, shining and smelling really nice, and I have finally time to spend some time behind the computer and post again.
It has been so busy lately…I’m glad it’s almost vacation - time for Christmas!
(who in the world can do math or French when you know you have to go to school for just one more week?!)

Did you know that Santa Claus is based on our Sinterklaas? Yes - they both refer to Saint Nicolas; a bishop who lived in the third century and became known for his generosity and love for children.
A big difference however, is that Sinterklaas still comes with a boat from Spain, and Santa Claus with a sledge from the North Pole. Sinterklaas comes along with his black ‘pieten’ and Santa Claus has elves…
Here in Holland you see around this time of year a sort of battle between Sinterklaas and Santa Claus, on who’s nicer/better…really strange when you know they are the same person!

Anyway, Saint Nicolas 1 is gone and it’s time for number 2! Christmas!
Time for a lovely, forest-y smelling house, twinkling lights, Christmas songs on the radio, snow (yeah right!), presents under the tree, and…making Christmas cookies!

Making Christmas cookies is such a relaxing, rewarding thing - and it will definitely bring you in the holiday spirit!
It’s easy, they smell amazing, you can make them in every kind of shape or flavour you want, and it’s really fun to decorate them in every possible way…

I made my basic recipe which is perfect and really hard to mess up, and when I was finished I added some of my favourite flavours.
I divided the dough into three, and kneaded into the first ball some salt and pepper, into the second ball some cinnamon and into the third ball some cacao powder…
They all turned out beautiful and perfectly crispy, but the cinnamon version was absolutely my favourite…delicious!

I made a sugar glaze and melted some chocolate, put on a Christmas cd and I got going with a whole load of decorations: candy pens, sprinkles, and lovely little silver, gold, and green sugar balls…
It was really calming (in these 3 hours I almost forgot all the schoolwork I still have to do…) and you will feel so proud and artistic if your cookie turns out good and pretty…
And the ugly, not so arty cookies? Ah…they’ll be quickly gone and forgotten… ;)

Christmas Cookies
- 300g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg, ½ tsp ground ginger, ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 100g (½ cup, 1 stick) butter, softened and sliced
- 100g (2/3 cup) brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, beaten with
- 4 Tbsp liquid honey
- 250g (2 cups) confectioner’s sugar
- 4 Tbsp boiling water
- 100g (1 bar) good quality chocolate
- sprinkles, candy pens, sugar balls, etc.

1. In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, spices and baking powder. Add the butter and sugar, and mix with the electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until crumbly. While the mixer is spinning, slowly add the egg/honey mixture. - Don’t pour in at once, otherwise there is a big chance you’re dough will be too sticky! - Pour in until you have a well blended, handable dough.
The dough is now ready. You can just use it like this (and go to step 2) or add some spices/flavours.
This is what I did:
Divide the dough into three and put the three balls into different, small bowls. Add to bowl 1 a good pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Knead this into the dough. Do this as well for bowl 2 and 3, adding 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, and 2 tablespoon of cacao powder.

2. Beat each ball down to a disc and wrap into plastic. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 170°C (340°F) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Flour your work surface, and take out the first disk of dough.
Roll out thinly, keep flouring (it can be a bit sticky) and cut out the cookies - or if you don’t have cookie cutters, just carve them out with a sharp knife. Transfer to the baking sheet and make a small hole in each cookie so you can hang them in the tree.
Knead the leftovers together, roll out again and cut out more cookies. Do this until you have no more dough left. Do this as well with the other two flavours.
You can also put a bit of chocolate and cinnamon dough together and make fusion cookies! (see the last picture)

4. Bake for about 10 minutes until the bottom is golden brown. But keep checking them during the baking! Let cool completely and make the glaze, or store in an airtight container.

1. Mix the confection’s sugar with the boiling water, adding each spoon of water after the previous one is well blended, until you have a silky, thick glaze.

Melt the chocolate, while stirring, in an heatproof bowl.
Get out a few clean spoons, kitchen paper and the decorations…and get creative! ;)