Nothing says the holidays like a plateful of cookies. Luckily, there’s no end to the types you can bake. Take out your mixers, turn on your ovens, and rev up the appetites. It’s cookie-eating season. Sugar and Toll House choco-chip may be first choices, but a few folks at Carmel Valley Ranch share different emotions tied to the humble treat.
“My grandparents bought a 300-year-old farmhouse in the Swiss Alps during World War II. To this day, that beautiful home surrounded by mountain peaks remains in our family,” says Kristina Jetton, the general manager. Jetton’s Swiss fave is spitzbuebe, a shortbread-y cookie sandwich with jam in the middle. Saveur’s recipe is here.
Kristina Jetton’s Spitzbuebe Recipe
2 sticks butter
1cup and 2TSP sugar
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
Grated lemon peel from one lemon
3 1/4 cups flour
1 jar of strawberry jam
1. Cream melted butter with sugar. Add all eggs and beat until mixture turns a very light yellow. Add flour
and grated lemon and combine and knead until dough forms. Wrap and cool in refrigerator for at least
2. Preheat oven to 325.
3. Roll out dough very thin and cut out circles of just under 2″. Warm strawberry jam. Bake circles 15 minutes until just pale golden. Remove from oven, let cool. Take one cookie, flip it and place a small amount of jam in middle, press another round on top and create a “jam” sandwich. Place on platter.
4. Once you have completed all cookie sandwiches sift powdered sugar on top, like a light dusting of snow!
“Mooncakes are Chinese pastries eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival [usually in September]. The family gets together to share them while watching the moon,” says Shanshan “Julia” Jin, who works in accounting. Mooncakes are named after the moon goddess, Chang’e, who is believed to have made this round cake.
Castaño galleta de chocolate, a chestnut sugar cookie, is a favorite of Chef Gustavo Trejo. The banquet chef discovered them while visiting with Portuguese family who had acres of chestnut trees. “These cookies brought back memories of sitting with my grandmother roasting chestnuts and drinking hot chocolate with cinnamon,” he says. The Smitten Kitchen blog has their version.
Chef Gustavo Trejo’s Castaño Galleta de Chocolate Recipe
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chestnut flour (see notes)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter with the sugars, vanilla, salt and cinnamon. Add the egg and mix on a low speed for 1 minute. The batter should be smooth and light.
3. Measure the chestnut flour and then sift it into the batter with the baking soda. Mix just until the flour is fully incorporated
4. Fold in the chocolate chips and use a 1-inch ice-cream scoop to shape your cookies, placing them on the parchment-lined baking sheets as you go. There should be at least 2-inches between them.
5. Slice roasted chestnuts are thinly and place about a half of a slice on top of each ball of cookie dough. Bake in the preheated oven until the cookies are golden brown, about 9 minutes.
6. Let cookies sit for about a minute on the baking sheet, and then carefully use a flat-bottomed, metal spatula to move them to a cooling rack. Serve at room temperature.
Meanwhile, Franzi has fond memories of Vanillekiperl. “My great grandmother was born in Prague into a family that owned a moving carnival and, as a child, she traveled throughout Europe. She was eventually married and settled down in Germany, where my grandfather was born. On their first Christmas together, my grandmother wanted to make something very traditional, knowing that liebe geht durch den magen: The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
“She visited the local baker and asked for his best German Christmas cookie recipe. His response? Vanillekipferl. From then on, she baked Vanillekiperl every year for her family and neighbors. When my grandfather grew up and got married, he brought that tradition into his family, as did my father when it was his turn.”
“I remember sitting around the fireplace in my great grandmother’s house, when she would bake Vanillekipferl and tell me stories about her childhood adventures. I got to know other counties and traditions, and how exciting it was for her to create her own!”
Franzi’s Vanillekipferl Recipe
1 dash of salt
100g ground almonds
120g powdered sugar (to turn over)
100g vanilla sugar (to turn over)
2pc vanilla bean
1. Quickly mix all the ingredients into a short-crust dough and leave it in a cool place for one hour.
2. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1 cm before cutting into small pieces and forming crescent-shaped cookies.
3. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking tray and bake at a moderate temperature (200°C) for around ten minutes or until they turn a light brown colour.
4. Mix icing sugar and vanilla sugar together, then toss the hot cookies in the mix.
5. Store the cookies in a sealed tin for several days for them to become crumbly.