Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy St. Nikolaus Tag

It started with a blender.

I knew what mom was working on for dinner.  Whatever it was, it never required that particular appliance but it made an awful racket and that's what she needed for her supterfuge.    I sat still in the living room, goofy grin on my face, paying scant attention to whichever stop motion animation special was playing and waited for the blender to stop.


Then I'd listen for her declaration from the kitchen, "I think I heard something outside! You might want to check the front door!"

And I ran, 0 to 60 in 2 seconds, from ass planted on the carpet to feet scampering on the hardwood in record speed, to open the door.



I knew that she knew that I knew that she was the culprit, the mad woman in the brisk evening who ran around the entire house and bolted up the front stairs to put stockings at the door and sprinted back through the kitchen door to turn off the blender and make her holy pronouncement.  And I loved her more for it, that she kept up such a lovely ruse when I was far too old to fall for it.  As long as  lived under her roof, until I was 18, she played St. Nikolaus and well after, she still sent care packages to mark the day.

So I wish everyone a happy St. Nikolaus Tag.  Especially the wonderful moms and dads who take care to make moments magical for their children, no matter their age.

Spekulatius:  St. Nikolaus' Cookie

Spekulatius is one of my favorite cookies, no matter the season.  It is crisp and spicy.  I'm partial to those with almond, although there are varieties without.  But they all are thin, crunchy and delightfully spicy.

INGREDIENTS
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup almond flour
3/4 cup well packed brown sugar
2 sticks (8 ounces/16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 egg
(extra flour for dusting work surface.  Corn starch for dusting springerle mold)

PROCEDURE

-whisk together AP flour, almond flour, salt, baking powder and spices.  Set aside.
-cream together butter and sugar until well combined.  Add egg, almond extract and vanilla bean paste.  Mix until combined.
-slowly add flour mixture until JUST combined and turn over on a work surface and gently knead until the flour is evenly distributed into the dough.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours.
-Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough until it's 1/4 inch thick, if you are using a springerle roller or mold.  Otherwise, if you are using cookie cutters, roll to about 1/8 inch thick and cut the cookies and bake at 350º for 15 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned and crisp.
–If using a springerle mold, liberally dust with corn starch (don't use flour, it won't coat the mold properly and the dough will stick in the crevices).  Press the mold into the dough evenly.  The pressure from the mold should result in the dough being about 1/8 thick all around.  Bake at 350º for 15 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned.