Sunday, December 15, 2013

Our Christmas traditions: Doggie biscuits & new labels

Yep, that's right. We make doggie biscuits every year. And we don't even own a dog. But our friends do, and my in-laws used to, so I started the tradition when I was quite pregnant with little brother.

This little guy here, routinely rolling out dough and cutting out bone and dog shapes.

Big brother also likes to help. We use this Epicurious recipe and the boys take turns measuring out ingredients, rolling out, cutting shapes out and carefully placing them on baking sheets and brushing them with egg wash.

This year I designed labels using PicMonkey. My favorite web-based editor for quick blog photo editing, and now it also lets me make all these cool labels using overlays and design elements that almost look like I know my way around Photoshop. Which of course I don't.

It's so easy that I made all kinds of labels for all our handmade gifts. I love it. Love it. LOVE it. Did I mention I really really like it?


Here's to Christmas traditions and adding to them. Because maybe these labels will be a permanent addition, saving me the trouble of designing and making / stamping new ones every year, thinking about Christmas label design in September. I mean, not that I would ever think about Christmas labels and gift lists in September. Ha.

What's your favorite tradition?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Our Christmas traditions: Kulleraugen

These are hands-down my favorite cookies. Known as jam drops or thumbprint cookies to the rest of the world, we call them Kulleraugen, which translates to something like googly eyes.

Funny thing is, I hardly ever make them myself. My mom makes them, as one type of cookies in her annual Christmas repertoire of a dozen or more types of cookies.

And she only makes them because I request them. Every year she'll ask me what to make, and every year I don't care about all the elaborate confections and artfully decorated cookies and request Kulleraugen instead. And every year I ask her to make a double batch. She never does, but she also doesn't include these in the cellophane bags of cookies she gives to friends and neighbors. These are our to eat.

Of course, with two boys, my share of these cookies is getting smaller by the year. And on top of that, big brother has the Christmas get-together at his class this wee, and with me having to work both the day before and the day of the little party, I opted to bring cookies.

But what to bring? As pretty much every year, we made those cookies that by now make up our holiday cookie tradition: fig and cinnamon swirls, plum streusel stars, Christmas cantuccini. But those aren't necessarily for kids. At least not all kids.

There's only one answer to that: me making a double batch of Kulleraugen today. What makes them special is not just the fact that they belong to my Christmas for as long as I can remember or that I make them from a photocopied newspaper clipping that dates back to the Seventies. They are also filled with homemade red currant jelly from our own backyard. Bright red and wonderfully tart.

I have a feeling I have to hide these well or they'll be gone before I can take some to school. Or maybe I should just make another batch. Or two.

Kulleraugen (Jam thumbprint cookies)

250g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
100g sugar
homemade vanilla sugar or vanilla extract to taste
3 egg yolks (save the whites for another use, such as coconut macaroons. Just saying.)
150g butter
red tart jam or jelly such as red currant
1 egg white and some chopped almonds, optional

Sift flour and baking powder into the bowl of a standing mixer. Add sugar, salt, vanilla and egg yolks. Mix briefly with dough hook. Turn the mixer off and add butter in cubes. Mix until small crumbs form. Knead the by hand until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least an hour.

Roll the dough into longs and cut off walnut sized pieces. Roll pieces into little balls and push a well into the with your finger. Place on a lined baking sheet. Fill cookies with a little jam and bake at 175 C for about 10-12 minutes.

Optional: once you have rolled your little balls, brush with a little egg white, dip into chopped almonds and proceed as above.

The cookies should not brown and just set, maybe turn a tiny bit golden around the edges.

We store them in Christmas tins where they keep for a few weeks. In theory, that is.