Honey Cookies

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This honey cookie recipe has been passed down through four generations in my family. Shared between mother and daughter, grandmother and granddaughter, and cousin to cousin, this recipe is weaved throughout our family history. The honey cookies are guests at our holiday celebrations, making their appearance when family is gathered.

Growing up, the honey cookies were served out of large vintage yellow Tupperware container, brought in from the cold garage after the evening meal. By this time, the dessert table was already full, arranged with candies and cookies of all flavors and textures on brightly colored holiday plates. Since the honey cookies were a late arrival to the party (we would have certainly spoiled our appetites if they arrived sooner), they were placed on a nearby dining room chair. It didn't matter that the cookies were cold, or that they were not presented just so—everyone knew they were the genuine star of the holiday table.

Memories of holidays past bring up images of family laughing around the table, cousins sneaking extra cookies in pockets and up sleeves, and my grandfather reminding everyone, again, how much he loved these cookies.

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These honey cookies are a modest spiced cookie, no flashy sprinkles or bright colors, but it is their simplicity that makes them beautiful. The recipe for these honey cookies is traditionally of German heritage, prepared over the stove instead of in a mixer. The sugars are brought to a boil before the mixture is combined with butter, eggs, and sour cream. Once the flour is stirred in, the soft dough is chilled in the refrigerator to stiffen. The baked cookies have a unique texture—soft, yet substantial.

These honey cookies hold so much nostalgia for me. The smell brings out the savory and sweet scents of Christmas Eve dinner. The sight carries images of my late grandfather telling everyone another story, cookie in hand. The taste—well, the taste is of home.

May these cookies bring you and yours as many memories as they have given me.

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These soft Honey Cookies embrace the comforting flavors of the holiday—cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and anise. The spices come together beautifully and the addition of sour cream make these cookies soft to the touch and to the taste. An anise glaze may be added for a touch more flavor and a hint more sweetness. The cookies bake up smooth, which is perfect for decorating if you choose to do so. Share these cookies with family and friends during your holiday celebrations—perhaps you'll start a new tradition. 

One Year Ago: Chocolate Cream Pie
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Four Years Ago:  Sugar Cookies 
Five Years Ago: Red Wine Chocolate Truffles & Gingerbread Cookies
Six Years Ago: Candy Cane Popcorn
Seven Years Ago: Chocolate Truffles

Honey Cookies

Yields approximately 4 dozen cookies

1 cup (340 grams) honey
1 cup (200 grams) brown sugar, packed
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon anise extract*
1/4 cup (57 grams) butter
1/4 cup (60 mL) strong black coffee
2 large eggs, whisked
1/2 cup (113 grams) sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 cups (600 grams) all-purpose flour

In a large saucepan, bring the honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and anise extract to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, turn off the heat and add the butter and coffee. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature before adding the eggs, sour cream, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir well. Gradually mix in the flour to form a soft dough. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight, until the dough stiffens considerably.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a heavily floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out 2-inch round cookies (or other shapes), re-rolling dough as needed. If you don't have a round cookie cutter, a water glass will also do the trick. Bake for 12 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned and puffed. Cool completely before glazing.

Anise Glaze** 
1 cup (227 grams) powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon anise extract
2 teaspoons heavy cream, plus extra if needed

In a small bowl, mix together powdered sugar, anise extract, and heavy cream. If glaze is too thick, add more cream 1 teaspoon at a time until glaze is spreadable. Spread glaze onto cookies with an offset spatula and allow cookies to rest until glaze to set before serving or storing.

* 3/4 teaspoon anise seed can be substituted for the anise extract.

**In the photographs shown above, I decorated the cookies with a royal icing flavored with anise extract, but honey cookies are traditionally spread with or dipped into the anise glaze.

2 Comments

Kristin Rosenau

Photographer, writer, and baker of all things sweet.

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Peppermint Chocolate Cookies

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Time is fleeting during these December days. The calendar continually grows fuller, as events and errands are penciled in for the evenings and weekends. With shopping to do and friends to meet, the holiday season is passing by too quickly. After realizing earlier this week that there are only two weekends before Christmas, I panicked. How would I be able to fit in everything without being overwhelmed? I stepped back for a minute, took a deep breath, and scheduled in time for myself.

Time is one of the most precious gifts we have to share—with ourselves and others. As an introvert, I enjoy keeping my free time to myself, but I often remind myself the value of sharing time with the people I care about the most. Phone calls and coffee dates often carry more meaning than we anticipate. I'm holding onto those important moments this season.

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One of my personal holiday traditions is baking and decorating holiday cookies. Each year I look forward to putting on a cheesy holiday movie marathon and spending time in the kitchen doing something I love. Though decorating may grow old after several long hours, the joy of being able to share the results is enough to keep me going. Even though I blocked out time for myself next weekend, I started the holiday baking early with these Peppermint Chocolate Cookies.

Buried in a pile of recipe drafts, I found a loved, but forgotten recipe for double chocolate chip cookies. I dressed up the cookies with a chocolate glaze and crushed candy canes. To suit your tastes, feel free to leave the chocolate chips out of the batter for less intense chocolate flavor, or add a hint of peppermint extract to the batter to boost the candy cane flavor. Either way, it's difficult to go wrong with this recipe.

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Peppermint Chocolate Cookies are a seasonal delight. Double chocolate cookies are half-dipped into a rich chocolate glaze. Before the cookies set, they are sprinkled with crushed candy canes and crunchy chocolate sprinkles. For extra peppermint flavor, add 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract to the cookie batter. These cookies are perfect for cookie exchanges, holiday gatherings, or dipped into a tall glass of cold milk.

One Year Ago: Poached Pear Gingerbread Loaf & Cinnamon Star Bread
Two Years Ago: Swedish Tea Ring 
Three Years Ago: Almond Espresso Cookies 
Four Years Ago:  Cranberry Upside Down Cake & Peppermint Marshmallows
Five Years Ago: Persimmon Cake, Lemon Cranberry Scones, Chocolate Pomegranate Tart, & Almond Cardamom Rolls
Six Years Ago: Pumpkin Granola Bars, Banana Cocoa Smoothie, Honey Cookies, & Peppermint Pinwheels
Seven Years Ago: Blueberry Brownies, White Chocolate Truffles, Pear Chips, & Candy-Striped Meringues

Peppermint Chocolate Cookies

Yields 2 dozen cookies

Chocolate Cookies
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (130 grams) brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup (170 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (40 grams) cocoa powder
6 ounces (170 grams) semisweet chocolate chips, optional

Chocolate Glaze
6 ounces (170 grams) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup ( mL) heavy cream
Candy canes, crushed
Chocolate crunch sprinkles, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and continue beating until smooth. Gradually add the baking soda, salt, flour, and cocoa powder, mixing until uniform. Stir in the chocolate chips, if desired.

Drop dough by the tablespoon onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until set. Allow the cookies to rest on the cookie sheet for a few minutes. Then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the chocolate glaze, bring the heavy cream to a near boil in a small saucepan. Immediately remove from heat and pour over chopped chocolate, allowing the chocolate to melt for 5 minutes before stirring until smooth and uniform. Set aside. 

To decorate cookies, dip half of the cookies into the chocolate glaze. Sprinkle crushed candy canes and chocolate crunch sprinkles over the chocolate. Allow cookies to rest until set before eating.

1 Comment

Kristin Rosenau

Photographer, writer, and baker of all things sweet.

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Pumpkin Caramel Bread Pudding

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The holiday season is right around the corner. For the past few years I have struggled to find the holiday spirit, but this year I seem to have it in an abundance. The feeling brings a comfort and ease, allowing the stresses of everyday life to fade into the background. Perhaps it is the excitement of having a new home to fill with lights and cheer, but I am grateful to have holiday baking and decorating ranking high on my priority list. 

As with most holiday family gatherings, bringing the dessert falls on my shoulders (and I am only happy to oblige). While classic pies—pumpkin, apple, and chocolate cream—are a Thanksgiving tradition, I also enjoy introducing a new dessert alongside the standard selection. In past years, the flavor combinations of chocolate and ginger and pumpkin and espresso have made appearances. For this Thanksgiving, I am planning for the flavors of pumpkin and caramel to join together with rum and raisin in this bread pudding recipe.

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I first made a batch of pumpkin bread pudding seven years ago while I was living in Montreal for graduate school. A large group of us gathered in the living room of a small, one-bedroom apartment, far-flung from our families and homes, to celebrate Thanksgiving together. The meal may have been cobbled together (and each other's faces new and unfamiliar), but we enjoyed each other's company and left with full stomachs. 

The recipe I used back then was quite fussy. While it was delicious, it had too many steps and special techniques to make it approachable for a busy holiday season. For this version of pumpkin caramel bread pudding, I took the same ideas—pumpkin, caramel, and rum raisins—but simplified the recipe to a few steps without losing any of the classic flavors. 

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This Pumpkin Caramel Bread Pudding is a decadent, seasonal dish to share. Brioche bread cubes are layered with rum-soaked raisins, and set into a rich, pumpkin based custard. Caramel sauce is drizzled over the top just before serving. The preparation of this bread pudding allows for some flexibility—prepare it the night before and bake the next morning, or bake it the evening before and reheat before serving. Whether for brunch or dessert, the bread pudding will be a crowd pleaser.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Gingersnap Tart
Two Years Ago: Rosemary Olive Bread & Pear Spiced Sangria
Three Years Ago: Pumpkin Pie (Dairy-Free) & Glaze Chocolate Cake Doughnuts
Four Years Ago:  Gingerbread Pear Bundt Cake & Pumpkin Streusel Muffins
Five Years Ago: Pumpkin Espresso Bars, Maple Roasted Chickpeas, & Gingerbread Muffins
Six Years Ago: Banana Chocolate Muffins, Cranberry Orange Brioche, Cranberry Sauce, & Cranberry White Chocolate Tarts
Seven Years Ago: S'mores Cupcakes, Chocolate Espresso Pots de Creme, & Sugar-Coated Daydreams

Pumpkin Caramel Bread Pudding

Yields 10 to 12 servings

1/4 cup (60 mL) dark rum
1 cup (120 grams) raisins
2 cups (475 mL) half and half
1 cup (237 mL)  whole milk
15 oz. (1 1/2 cups or grams) pumpkin puree
6 large eggs
1/3 cup (105 grams) maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 loaf of brioche or challah bread (about 1 pound), cut into 1-inch cubes
Caramel sauce, for drizzling

In a small saucepan, place the rum and raisins over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat when warm. Cover and let the raisins soak for 20 minutes. Set aside.

In a blender, blend together the half and half, whole milk, pumpkin, eggs, maple syrup, spices, vanilla, and salt until uniform. Set aside.

In a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, spread half of the cubed bread over the bottom. Sprinkle half of the rum raisins evenly over the top. Repeat with remaining bread and raisins. Pour the pumpkin custard mixture (and remaining rum from the raisins) evenly over the brioche. Allow it to sit until the brioche has completely absorbed the custard, about 30 minutes or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

Bake the bread pudding, uncovered, for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it is puffed and set. If the bread browns quickly, cover the pan with tinfoil to prevent further browning while it finishes baking. Let cool slightly and drizzle with caramel sauce. Serve warm.

To prepare ahead of time, cover and refrigerate the baked bread pudding overnight. Then, cover with aluminum foil and rewarm in a 325 degrees F (160 degrees C) oven for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

3 Comments

Kristin Rosenau

Photographer, writer, and baker of all things sweet.

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