burnt toast

Category: Biscuits

Coconut Macaroons

coconut macaroons

…And merry December to you too.

My expectations of a cold winter have been fulfilled (woo!), it has snowed once and rained a few more other times. Switzerland, it’s good to be back.

 

It’s biscuit season over here, and enthusiastic about European tradition as I am, I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to tell you guys about my first batch of goodies. They’re quite wonderful, if I say so myself. They’re nothing typically traditional, but still familiar enough and a bunch of fun to shape. The trick to getting moist, sticky-centred, yet toasty crunchy crusted macaroons is to give them a pre-treatment in a large frypan, giving them plenty of rest time before finishing them off in the oven.

coconut macaroon 2

Coconut Macaroon Pyramids

from the wonderful David Leibovitz

Makes 30-35

 

4 large egg whites

1¼ cups / 275g sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon honey

2½ cups / 230g desiccated coconut

¼ cup / 40g flour

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

 

In a large frypan, mix together the egg whites, sugar, salt, honey, coconut and flour.

Over low heat, stir the mixture constantly, making sure you scrape the bottom to prevent it from scorching.

When the mixture becomes hot, stir it for 2-3 more minutes, then remove it from the heat and add the vanilla essence. Transfer it to a bowl and cool it to room temperature – it will be a lot easier to handle then.

If you’re not in a hurry, or completely forgot you had something important on, you can cover the macaroon dough and keep it in the fridge for up to a week.

However, if you are ready, preheat your oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Form 1 Tbsp mounds of the mixture into triangular pyramids. To help get each side nice and flat, flatten it gently on an even surface. If your hands get to sticky, give them a rinse under some cold water Space them evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for 16-18 minutes, until deep golden brown. Cool completely.

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Caramel and Walnut Cookies

caramel and walnut cookie

If I were to ask you what your favourite type of cookie was, would you belong in group a.) Nothing too soft, no oats or other wannabe health food ingredients, no currants, and preferably with Lindt chocolate chunks or toasted walnuts. b.) Aaaaaaaaah anything? or c.) I don’t eat cookies unless they’re made from organic triple-distilled unicorn butter. I’d say I (obviously) belong to the a-team, although I’d admittedly really appreciate you as a human if you were from group c, because you’re funny and probably will never know.

This cookie is the leader of the a-team. The one with the I’m-so-cool-I’m-not-even-trying attitude, which they can totally pull off because they’re friggin awesome to hang out with. Everyone can do with one of those on their team. They’re good value. And might I also say delicious. The brown sugar does a wonderful job at providing a depthy caramel flavour, while the walnuts add a further dynamic with their toasty vibes. These cookies are even better and crunchier the next day, so keep a few to the side.

 

Caramel and Walnut Cookies

Adapted from orangette

Makes around 30

 

200g unsalted butter, at room temperature

250g / 1 ¼ cups brown sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla essence

250g / 1 ¾ cups plain flour

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

100g / 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

 

Preheat the oven to 190°C and line two baking trays with baking paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the butter and sugar with a hand-held mixer until well combined. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to incorporate. Throw in the flour, baking soda and salt, and mix until it all comes together. Finally, add the walnuts. Once they’re more or less evenly distributed, roll heaped tablespoonfuls of dough into balls and flatten them with your fingers to about 1 cm thickness on the baking sheet, making sure they have a 5cm gap between each other. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned. Carefully transfer them to a wire rack or plate to cool while repeating the same process with the rest of the dough.

Store the cooled cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Mailänderli

mailänderli

My general attitude towards heart-shaped things is “Can you go and be kitsch somewhere else please?  It’s making my face ache. With disgust.”

I’m sorry if we don’t share the same outlook on life, but hey, more giant squidgy I-Love-You – holding teddy bears for you. I mean, someone’s got to take them.

However! There’s always a however. These biscuits are an exception. Why? Nostalgia and childhood memories my friend. This one is for you, fellow expats. For all those fondly reminiscing the tins upon tins of delicious Christmas bickies.

Nobody can make a biscuit quite like the Swiss.

Oh it’s not Christmas? Christmas is just an excuse to make biscuits. I don’t need an excuse.

So let me introduce you to the humble Mailänderli. A plain, simple, buttery little thing, with a golden lacquered top with a faint whiff of citrus. A general all-rounder, this biscuit fits perfectly into the breakfast category, best with a cup of milky tea.

cookie sheet

Mailänderli

 

Makes about 100, depending on size

 

250g butter, softened

220g caster sugar

½ tsp salt

grated rind of one lemon

3 eggs

500g plain flour

1 egg yolk

1 tsp cream

With a handheld mixer, whip the butter, sugar, salt, and lemon rind until well combined and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each one is added. Whip until the mixture turns a few shades lighter. Replace the mixer with a wooden spoon of some sort, because you’ll be adding the flour now, and you don’t want it all over your kitchen floor. Gently stir the flour into the butter mixture, until it comes together as a soft, yellow dough.

Now, divide into two and cling wrap each ball of dough and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight. I tend to put one half in the freezer, because it does make a lot.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out between two layers of plastic (I find a plastic bag cut in half works beautifully. That way you don’t risk your biscuits getting too floury or dry) to a thickness of about 8mm. Now it’s time to go wild with your cookie cutters. Use whatever shape you want, just be aware that you may have to adjust the baking time according to the size of your biscuits.

Lay them out on a lined baking tray with enough space between them so they can spread, and pop them back into the fridge tor 15 minutes to firm up.

In the meantime, whisk together the egg yolk and cream, and preheat the oven to 200°C. When the Meiländerli are ready to come out of the fridge, get one of those kitchen paintbrushes and  paint the top of each of them with the egg yolk mixture. Whack them in the oven for about 10 minutes until slightly golden. Whatever you do, keep an eye on them, because they like to be sneaky and go a shade darker, depending on your oven of course.

Take them out of the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.

They’ll last for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Lemons and Coconut

one little lemon slice

Little Cousin Eileen used to love lemon slices.  So small and frail with a big cloudy mop of blue hair, you’d think she’d get blown away if you’d turn the fan up high enough. But it was that wilful, slightly cantankerous character of hers that kept her going till 96. An interesting little lady she was. I often sit in the rocking chair Grandma inherited from her and ask myself how she didn’t get dizzy by that rocking rate. And the consumption of the many lemon slices. Perhaps even the two combined?

I don’t know if she’d like these – they’re a little different to the dense standard version you can get at the bakery. If it’s an indication at all, the first time I made a batch, Grandma’s lady friends went nuts about them. And if three lots of women with four times more cooking experience than I have ask me for a recipe, well then it is definitely an honour on my behalf to share it.

What you end up with is a cinnamon-kissed shortbread base, slathered with a tart and creamy lemon curd with a crisp coconut macaroon topping. Sexy stuff.

lemon slices

Lemon Curd and Coconut Macaroon Slice

Makes 12 or so

For the crust

150g / 1 cup plain flour

75g / 1/3 cup caster sugar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground cinnamon

125g cold unsalted butter, cubed

For the lemon curd

150g butter

¾ cup caster sugar

pinch salt

½ cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)

1 tsp grated lemon zest

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

2 Tbsp double cream

2 Tbsp plain flour

For the coconut topping

2 egg whites

pinch of salt

½ caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

180g / 2 cups shredded coconut

For the base, preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 20 cm square baking dish with baking paper. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Rub in the butter with your fingers until it resembles sand, then knead together until a dough forms. Press into the bottom of the prepared tin and bake for 10 minutes until ever so slightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and lower the heat to 160°C.

In the meantime, make your lemon curd. I am an impatient person so I forego the double boiler method and just do it in a saucepan. Just keep whisking the crap out of your curd and you won’t have to worry about curdled egg. So in a small saucepan, melt the butter on a low heat. Add the sugar, salt, lemon juice, zest and vanilla. You don’t want the mixture boiling, just nicely warm. Again, a shortcut created by me to speed up the process. (You can start with cold ingredients if you want.) Add the eggs and yolks, and start whisking. Keep at it until it thickens to the consistency of custard, or yoghurt or whatever you want to compare it to. Remove from the heat and stir in the double cream and flour. You can now pour it over the base.

Whisk the egg whites in a medium bowl for a few seconds with a fork, then add the salt, sugar and vanilla and whisk a little longer. Stir in the coconut and distribute over the lemon curd. Bake for 20 minutes, checking regularly to see how the coconut’s going, because it browns quite quickly. Once it’s golden brown and some of the tips have caramelised even darker, remove from the oven and cool. Then place in the fridge to firm up before cutting into as many squares as you want.

Chances are your grandma will love these, too.

Vanilla

vanillekipferl

Once upon a time, far far away, there was a little girl that lived in Switzerland who loved Christmas. Every year she’d look forward to lighting the advent wreath, to baking cookies with her mum, to opening the Christmas calendar and to decorating the the cute little pine tree she had helped to pick at the markets. Then, if she was lucky, Santa and his donkey would come by and give her a little bag filled with juicy mandarins, chocolates and peanuts. And then finally, Christmas Day arrived, where she and all the other little children were smothered with gifts, while their families and relatives happily sat by, singing Christmas carols, while the snowflakes outside silently covered the rooftops and footpaths. That time of year was just magical.

On the other side of the world, quite a few years later, this now not so little girl is sitting on the veranda, covered in sunscreen with a cold drink next to her, wishing for the life of her that it will soon be January. No matter how many cute little Father Christmas-hat – bearing wallabies she sees, she is incapable of taking on the Christmas spirit. It’s just too fucking hot.

So reminiscing the past, Switzerland, and snowy Christmas days, here my favourite biscuit recipe. May you too have an awesomely hot/cold/dramatic Christmas, and may we perhaps one day meet on a cold and snowy night to bake biscuits. Merry merry.

Vanillekipferl

 

I am not much of a biscuit person, so it means quite something that I’m giving you a recipe for some here. They are beautifully simple vanillary melt-in-your-mouth shortbread-style mouthfuls of pleasure.

Makes heaps (or about 4 baking trays worth)

 

500g plain flour

½ tsp salt

300g icing sugar, plus extra to decorate

400g cold butter, cut into cubes

4 tsp vanilla essence

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

200g ground almonds

2 egg yolks

Combine the flour, salt, and icing sugar in a big bowl. Next, add the butter and rub it into the flour until it resembles coarse sand.

Add the rest of the ingredients and knead into a soft dough. Cover with clingwrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°C. While keeping the dough as cool as possible, shape it into finger – thick sausages. Cut these into 2cm lengths, and roll them into “horns” or bananas or waxing moons or whatever you feel like calling them at that precise moment. Place them on a baking paper – clad tray and bake them for 10 – 15 minutes – they should barely have taken on any colour. A golden hue is perfect.

While the bickies are still warm, turn the biscuits in a plate filled with icing sugar. Once they’re cool, you can always sprinkle on more.

Great with a cup of Lady Grey tea.

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