I did try to get a picture without my little assistant's hand in it,
but it was impossible, so I gave up. :)
I've been enjoying all of the virtual meals and exchanges going on lately; the round-ups are an excellent source of new cooking/baking ideas! So when Di invited me to participate in this year's virtual cookie exchange, it was a no-brainer...the only problem was deciding what to bake.
My mother-in-law is the queen of Christmas cookie baking. When we used to spend Christmas with my in-laws in Montana (before having kids negated the idea of driving the treacherous mountain passes in the winter), hubby and I would trip over each other to be the first to get to the treat shelf. The treat shelf includes tins, baggies, and boxes of heath bars, cinnamon candy, crescent cookies, fudge, beef jerky, peppernuts, pizzelles, chocolate chip cookies, peanut blossoms, sugar cookies...all homemade.
Hubby's favorite cookies in the world are his mom's crescent cookies, so I thought briefly of making those. But he looks forward to that package more than anything each year, and somehow it seems wrong to make them here. :) So then I thought of one of my favorites: peppernuts. I'd never had peppernuts before meeting my in-laws, but I was immediately drawn to the crunchy, spicy little cookies. Hubby and I always took a big baggie of them with us on the drive home, and when the curvy roads would make me a little sick, they were the only thing I could eat. Did you know that ginger is a great remedy for an upset tummy?
My mother-in-law is one of those "by feel" bakers, telling me to add stuff until it looks a certain way or "to taste" (which was so hard for me before I became more confident in the kitchen!). I'm including weights and measures for what I used, but for the flour, you really have to just keep adding it until the batter is stiff enough to roll/shape into ropes. The only other change I made to the recipe was to use unsalted butter in place of shortening.
makes about 560 bite-sized cookies
2 c (400g) sugar
1 c (226g) unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs (100g)
2/3 c (160g) sour cream
2/3 c (160g) brown sugar
2 tsp (10g) anise extract
1 1/2 tsp (4g) ground cloves
1 T (6g) ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp (3g) ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp (3g) ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground pepper
2 2/3+ c (335g - 600g) all-purpose flour
1. Preheat the oven to 400º.
2. Cream the sugar and butter in a mixer.
3. Add the eggs, sour cream, brown sugar, and extract, and mix to combine.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and the spices.
5. Add the flour mix to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. You may need to adjust the flour to get a stiff dough. (My MIL's initial recipe called to start with 2 2/3 c flour, which weighed about 335g; I ended up using about 560g of flour, and my dough was still rather sticky.) Some recipes I saw called for chilling the dough before rolling it out. I tried it both ways (rolling right away and chilling for a while) and didn't notice a difference; then I chilled the dough overnight and they were much easier to roll the next day.
6. Take a small portion of dough and roll/pinch it into a rope about 1/2" thick. Using a knife or bench scraper, cut the rope into really small pieces (1/2" long). Fill up a baking pan; these don't rise, so feel free to stick them close together.
7. Bake the trays for 10-11 minutes or until cookies are lightly golden. (You have to experiment with the texture you like; 12 minutes will make a really crunchy cookie. Hubby and I both prefer them crunchy on the outside but a little soft on the inside, so 11 minutes was about perfect for us. The batch that chilled in the fridge overnight took closer to 13 minutes.)
8. Let cool for a couple of minutes on the tray, and then use a spatula to transfer them to a bowl.
These cookies will last for quite a while, stored in an airtight container. You can also freeze them.
Be sure to check out Di's site later this week for the round-up of all of the delicious cookies people baked!