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.

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.

Oatmeal Fudge Bars

I have held an affinity for houses since I was young. Growing up, I had recurring dreams of houses filled with endless rooms. I would explore them, opening door after door, impatient to see what the next one held, disappointed when I finally awoke. Nowadays, my love for houses reveals itself in less subtle manners. Along with a standing date to watch This Old House on Sunday mornings, I regularly go on home tours for no reason other than a curiosity to know what's inside. In the summer, my boyfriend and I go on long walks around the lakes scattering our Minnesotan city. The lake walks are our compromise; he prefers to take in the beauty of nature and I prefer to take in the beauty of the lakefront properties. 

I imagine the lives held within those four walls—what the mothers hope, what the fathers fear, what the children dream.

Now that I've recently started the search for a home, the excitement I've kindled has faded somewhat as the reality has sunk in. The market is difficult, the region I'm searching is one of the highest priced in the city, and the houses I can afford will need a lot of love. I understood there would be compromises, but it wasn't until I was actually faced with the tangible decisions that I realized how difficult this process would become. Do I choose the house with the beautiful yard, but disappointingly tiny kitchen? The house with the pleasing fit and finish, but dysfunctional layout? While a good coat of paint can go a long way, it cannot cover up the unchangeable.

Right now I am looking for a beautiful place, a beautiful place to grow my family, a beautiful place that needs only a good coat of paint and little else. It doesn't exist—not for me and not right now—which has been a hard realization to swallow. Adjusting my expectations has left me with complicated feelings, especially when reality still comes at such a high price.

A house doesn't make a home, as my mother reminds me. And she's right, of course. It will be up to me to make a place beautiful, to put in the love and the work and the hope, to build a home.

Oatmeal Fudge Bars are a sweet, chewy bar to satisfy your cookie cravings. The bars feature rich dark chocolate sandwiched between chewy oatmeal cookie layers. The cookie layers are more pronounced than the chocolate, creating a balance between flavors. Enjoy with a tall glass of milk.

One Year Ago: Quick Puff Pastry & Traditional Challah
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Orange Cake & Blackberry Coconut Scones
Three Years Ago: Almond Cake & Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake
Four Years Ago:  Blueberry Lemon Pancakes, Lavender Lemon Shortbread, Lemon Pudding Cake, & Chocolate Oat Muffins
Five Years Ago: Rosemary Focaccia, Swedish Visiting Cake, Chocolate Toffee Scones, & Rosemary Crackers
Six Years Ago: Lemon Chocolate Tart, Coconut Cream Cupcakes, Yeasted Waffles, & Vanilla Almond Cupcakes

Oatmeal Fudge Bars

Yields 16 servings

Oatmeal Bar
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter
1 cup (200 grams) brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups (170 grams) old-fashioned oats

Chocolate Filling
5 ounces (140 grams) semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1/3 cup (80 mL) heavy cream or full-fat coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with parchment paper and lightly grease.

In a medium bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until uniform. Gradually add flour, baking soda, salt, and oats, mixing until uniform. Press 2/3 of the dough into the prepared pan evenly. Set aside the remaining 1/3 of dough.

In a microwaveable safe bowl, combine roughly chopped chocolate, heavy cream, and espresso powder.  Heat in 30-second increments in the microwave, stirring between each increment until smooth. Pour over dough and smooth.

Crumble remaining 1/3 dough over the top and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting and serving.