Christmas Cookie Tradition

P1050371What’s better than baking Pecan shortbread cookies? Baking them with a friend.

Jenna is someone special in my life. I wanted to give her a gift that she’d really enjoy. Since her love language isn’t opening gifts, but is spending time together, I invited her to my home for a cookie baking marathon.

In a little under four hours, we baked three kinds of cookies, totaling 6 dozen of our all time favorites.

Before she arrived, I anticipated how much fun we’d have. I wanted our afternoon to have the kind of touches that minister to the heart. A fire crackled in the kitchen wood stove. Christmas music played from a little stereo. To complete the ambience, I plugged in the twinkling clear lights that drape over the turquoise buffet. It’s gorgeous, retro and is a focal point in my home.

P1050378When Jenna arrived, I immediately learned that Christmas music wasn’t eliciting fond memories of holidays past. Her crinkled nose and frown, a look of disgust and boredom, clued me into what she didn’t want to hear.

She let me in on her experience. I discovered that she usually loves the time tested songs that remind us of Christ’s brith, but she had listened to Christmas music at work ad nauseam where her boss has had it going all day, every day, since October. Okay, scrap the holiday tunes.

We put on some of her favorite Christian hits, and we sang, chatted up a storm, measured ingredients, creamed butter, blended, mixed, and scooped dough onto cookie trays–trays that are patinated from decades of use.

Many dozens of  happy cookie marathons were orchestrated on these trays with my children. All are now grown and married. The trays, darkened by years of use, remind me of the hours we spent making cookies during a lot of Christmases. Now counting thirty. That’s a lot of love and that’s a lot of butter.

What did Jenna and I bake?

Jenna’s favorite…snickerdoodles.

My family’s favorite…chocolate chip, coconut, walnut cookies.

And soon to be a new favorite…Amazing Pecan Shortbread cookies.

P1050375I’ve included the recipe for you and I hope you’ll give it a whirl. Maybe you’ll even use it in your own cookie baking marathon.

How’d I come up with this recipe? I transformed the traditional pecan cookie by adding almond extract and updating it with healthy ingredient choices. This new version is delicious.

These are five thumbs up, high fives, five stars all the way. I can hardly wait to serve them to my kids Christmas morning. They’re going to love them.

Amazing Pecan Shortbread Cookies 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cup pecans, chopped 
  • 2 1/2 cups Kamut flour (I  like baking with Kamut flour, which is an ancient and more wholesome flour. It’s lighter than whole wheat, is loaded with nutrients, including selenium. If you prefer the whiter variety, substitute for 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour.)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature. (Salted butter means that I didn’t need to add salt. But if you like measuring salt and sprinkling it into your mix, use saltless butter and add 1/2 tsp salt.)
  • 3/4 cup honey (Or 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar.)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Turning these ingredients into amazing Pecan Shortbread cookies is quick and easy.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake at 10-12 minutes. I live at an altitude of almost 5,000 feet and baked them in my old GE double oven for 12 minutes. They were very slightly browned on the bottoms and soft in the middle. Cool before transferring them from your trays to containers. For baking ahead, they do great served from the freezer.

  1. In a large bowl, pulverize butter using an electric mixer for 1 minute or until thoroughly creamed. Add sweetener (honey OR sugar), eggs and almond extract. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy.
  2. In another bowl, mix thoroughly together the flour and baking soda.
  3. Pour in flour mixture, and add the chopped pecans to the buttery mixture. Beat on medium speed just until combined.
  4. Cover dough and refrigerate for 3 hours or more. You can store dough in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  6. I usually oil my pans. But you can use parchment paper or silicon baking mats. I find that oiling them takes all of 2 minutes and clean up is easy.
  7. When the dough’s well chilled, scoop out dough with a spoon (about 1 tablespoon) and roll into balls. Using the back of a spoon, press an indentation into the tops and press a pecan half into the indention. (TIP: If you don’t have time to chill the dough, it won’t form into balls. Follow the same instructions, forming the dough into your spoon and plopping them onto your trays. This is what Jenna and I did. And they turned out great!)
  8. Bake on the center racks of your preheated oven, 10-12 minutes. Cool them completely before removing. Store in a sealed container or freeze. 

Merry Christmas!

Pamela Koefoed

To Follow me: http://www.pamelakoefeod.com, Facebook and Instagram.

 

It’s Always Pie Season at My Home

pie

Crustless Mock Pumpkin Pie (Sweet Potato Pie) with home made whipped cream, and a cup of matcha (green tea).

Sweet potatoes and I have only been friends a short time. After numerous failed attempts to enjoy eating them, Eureka! I finally hit the motherlode. Oooh-la-la. I’m now having a (not too secret) food affair with the orange jewels from the ground, but only when they’re disguised as pumpkin pie.

The texture is firmer than pumpkin pie, but the flavor is so nearly identical that when it’s served to friends, they think they’re enjoying the yummiest pumpkin dessert they’ve ever had. (Possibly a little exaggeration here.)

Yesterday, I baked this pie (recipe below) without the crust because my hands are healing from tendon injuries. Pie shell making and hand healing aren’t synonymous. And we all know that less gluten in our diets is a good thing.

I’ve enjoyed a couple of pieces already and it’s a delight to my taste buds. Plus, I know that I’m giving my body something amazing for good health.

I baked five medium sized sweet potatoes in a covered dish @ 350 degrees for 90 minutes. When the potatoes were squishy, I removed them to cool. Late afternoon, I skinned them, and beat them on high with an electric mixture. They’re easy to puree. Mixed in all the ingredients, poured into a glass pie dish (not deep dish), and baked at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.

Here’s my recipe for your own delicious sweet potato pie. It’s adapted from a traditional southern recipe. I promise you, if someone in your family disdains sweet potatoes, but loves pumpkin pie, they will love your special dessert.

4-5 medium sized sweet potatoes, approximately 2 pounds

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup honey or real maple syrup

1/2 cup milk (or heavy cream)

3 large eggs (or 4 small eggs)

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional: 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust

Directions

Bake sweet potatoes whole in their skins for 80-90 minutes, or until very soft. Let cool, or dip them in cold water to cool them. Don’t leave them in the water, however. Remove the skin.

In a large bowl, add: sweet potato, butter, and mix well with mixer on high. Add, milk, sweetener, eggs, the spices and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until mixture is thoroughly blended and creamy.

Pour into an unbaked pie crust or pour into a greased and lightly floured (or non stick) pie pan. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 55 to 60 minutes. It will be somewhat firm when done and will get firmer in the refrigerator. Test doneness with a knife. Insert it in the center, about half way down. When it comes out clean, it’s ready to come out of the oven and cool. Refrigerate. Serve cold with whipped toping.

Wishing you and your family a joyous Christmas,

Pamela Koefoed