Christmas in general is quit a relaxed affair in Italy - people take things easy - always time to talk and have a coffee at the bar - no rushing about trying to get all the last bits and pieces.
Here in the house - things are getting more quite - the season is almost over - so with less guests around - we get to do all the other things - we never get around to during the season - and one of them is baking cookies......
Otherwise we like to mix the traditions up a bit - the 24th starts with a early breakfast - then down to the butcher to get the prize of the evening - the duck - this is a very danish tradition, that we keep a live - this year it will be roasted with Valpolicella and oranges - so maybe not so traditional after all - once the duck is secured - things get more relaxed - it's then mostly centered around the fire place, reading a book, playing cards, eating panettone, enjoying a glass of wine, roasting a few chest nuts on the fire and maybe watching a movie - then for dinner the duck and rice pudding, then of to the bar for coffee before midnight mass at the Duomo. Back to the bar for drinks and to wish everyone a merry christmas.
25th is PJ day - so late breakfast in bed, then at some point it is time to hit the kitchen to get the sugo for the pasta on the go - this year we are cooking even more duck - the legs from last night's duck are gently simmered in redwine and herbs for a few hours, then the meat is taken of the bones, chopped and then returned to the pan for a final simmer and seasoning. Served with a good homemade pasta and a leafy salad, then a "passagiata" in town to wish all more merry christmas....then home to the fire place and a glass of passito and more panettone....that it....
x- mas danish/umbrian style.
So back to the cookies - if you still have a quite hour or two to spare - we like to share with you some of this years winners from the goodie bag and wish you all a very merry christmas - with all the laughter, food, vino and joy.....
makes about 30 cookies
500 g all purpose flour
500 g sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp powdered nutmeg
1 tsp powdered cinnamon
1 tsp powdered cloves
75 g candied orange zest, chooped
150 g almonds, toasted and roughly chooped
25 g honey
165 g water
1 egg for glazing
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsious.
In a bowl add flour, sugar, baking powder, spices, orange zest and almonds. Mix well, then add the honey and the water. Mix again and when it start to come together, pour the dough out on a flour dusted work surface and knead it well.
Cut the dough in smaller pieces, 50 g a cookie, roll them into a sausage - about 12 cm. Then gather the ends to form a ring. Place the cookies on baking sheets with baking papper - about 8 cookies to a sheet.
Bake them in the preheated oven for 15 minutes until golden, remove from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before placing them on a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies will firm up a s they cool.
Store them in an airtight cookie jar.
Makes about 20 filled biscuits
1/2 vanilla bean
35 g icing sugar
175 g soft butter
150 g all purpose flour
35 g cornflour
60 g soft butter
140 g icing sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp fine grated lemon zest
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celcious.
Take the seeds from the vanilla bean and add a bit of the icing sugar, Mix/scrabe it together and add it to a bowl together with the rest of the sugar and butter. Whisk with an electric handheld mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour and the cornflour until combined.
Place the mixture in a piping bag fitted with a medium sized fluted nozzle. Pipe 2 cm rounds into a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and let them cool on the tray, before placing them on a wire rack.
Mean while make the filling. Place butter, icing sugar, lemon juice and zest in a bowl and beat with an electric handheld mixer untll fluffy and creamy. Place the filing into a clean piping bag fitted with a smaller nozzle and pipe onto half the cooled biscuits and sandwich with the remaining.
Store in an airtight cookie jar.
We bake our short breads in rectangular dish - 13x39 cm - but your can easily use another size of tin - just leave some of the dish empty - the main thing, is that you keep your short breads on the thick side.
220 g soft butter
110 g sugar
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
330 g all purpose flour
2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
Preheat your oven to 180 degress celsious and cover your baking dish with baking paper.
In a bowl whisk butter and sugar together for a few minutes until white and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and mix a little more. In another bowl mix flour, rosemary and salt. Add the flour to the butter mixture and mix it all together. Press the dough into your choosen baking dish - use your finger tips to press the dough down and to get an even surface. Aim for a thickness of about 1- 1 1/2 cm. Use a fork to make holes in the dough.
Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the oven - gently lift them out of the tin - be careful - they are very fragile when warm. Cut them into small breads - long strips - and place them on a wire rack to cool - before storing them in an airtight cookie jar.