Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest Post: Holiday Treats

Hi everybody, I'm Alessa from Farbenfreude! Sarah has kindly asked me to write a guest post while she's busy with holiday preparations, and since I'm slowly getting into the holiday spirit myself, I thought I'd write about my favorite cold weater Christmas treats today.

I grew up in the South of Germany, not far from the mountains, so winter, and especially Christmas, have always meant snow and crispy cold, foggy (or occasionally sunny) days for me. Getting up and going to school (or work) when it's still dark, getting home when it's dark already, cozying up on the couch with a mug of hot tea or chocolate and a good book. And, of course, the smell of cinnamon, vanilla and hot cookie. Making Christmas cookies in the weeks before the holidays has always been one of my favorite family traditions. The hot oven, the delicious smells, the working together to produce little bites of holiday bliss...

One of my all time favorites are Cinnamon Stars, a very traditional kind of German Christmas cookie. They have absolutely no flour in them, just almonds, sugar, eggs and of course, cinnamon. They are chewy and have a little crust of meringue on top and, apart from the dough needing some cooling time, are incredibly easy and fast to make. And so yummy! :)

Cinnamon Stars
3 egg whites
2 cups (250g) powdered sugar
1Pck (2Tbsp) Vanilla Sugar
3 drops bitter almond flavor (or 2Tbsp almond liqueur)
1Tbsp ground cinnamon
3 cups (about 320g) ground almonds

Beat the egg whites until they form a peak, then incorporate the powdered sugar bit by bit and beat the mixture at least a minute more. Divide the mixture in two and put away half for the moment. Mix the other half with the vanilla sugar, almond flavor, cinnamon and ground almonds. It is going to be sticky but should form a ball of dough. Put it into the fridge for at least an hour. Roll the dough to about half an inch thickness on a floured surface (works best if you put it between sheets of foil wrap) and cut out little stars (or whatever shape you like) with cookie cutters. Transfer them onto a cookie sheet. Ball the leftovers together and roll and cut out anew until you've used up all dough. Frost the cookies with the egg-sugar-mixture and pop them into the oven at 300°F (150°C). Bake for 10-15 minutes. The frosting should still be white! Store them in an airtight container with a slice of apple, to keep them moist.

Another, more recent winter indulgence of mine is hot chocolate. Hot Cherry Chocolate to be exact. I think I got the idea from a Starbucks, back when I was an au-pair in Tennessee and spent countless hours meeting friends there. While we do have several Starbucks in Berlin, the prices seem quite over the top to me, not to mention they don't always have the "special winter" drinks and if they do, they taste cloyingly sweet. So in the end, I decided to make up my own recipe.

Hot Cherry Chocolate
1 cup milk
3 tsp cocoa powder
1 small dash of salt
3 tsp cherry sirup
1 dash of ground cinnamon
whipped cream

Heat up the milk and whisk in the cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon. Add the cherry sirup (I like the taste and sweetness of 3 tsp but you could easily add more or less), pur into a christmas-y mug and top with whipped cream (or foamed milk) and another dash of cinnamon. Curl up on the sofa with a good book and enjoy! :)

I'm really happy with that recipe. Nice and chocolaty, not too sweet and the fruitiness of the cherry sirup makes it extra lovely. I think this would also work well with other kinds of sirup (vanilla or almond come to mind). In the mornings, I sometimes add a small cup of espresso, which also goes very nicely.

I hope you like my recipes! If you try them, would you tell me how it went and if you liked them?

Have a wonderful holiday season everybody! And thanks Sarah for inviting me over!

xox Alessa


Sarah said...

Nom nom nom!!! I'm going to try both recipes!

Thanks so much for your lovely post, Alessa! :)

Sølvi said...

Alessa, these looks delicious! can´t wait to try them! :-)

velosewer said...

Yum Yum Yum. Thank you for the recipes.

Ali said...

Ooooh, tasty! I'm going to pass this on to the boy's sis and mom, 'cause they bake. I often don't have the patience for baking (you mean I have to measure stuff??), unfortunately I sew that way, too :0 But I definitely want to try those Cinnamon Stars!!

Alessa said...

:D Thanks for letting me participate, Sarah!
@ Sølvi&velosewer: I hope you like them! :)
@Ali: Hehe, I'm like that in pretty much everything except baking. It may help that we bake with scales instead of cups over here, so you can just toss stuff into the bowl, set to zero and toss in the next ingredient... ;)