Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category


Seattle is filled with whiners. This summer when temperatures broke 100 degrees for over a week, they whined. This week, temperatures have barely risen above freezing during the day. And guess what? Seattleites are whining again. What am I doing? I’m drinking.

OK. That didn’t sound quite right, but it is in fact what I am doing to combat the cold. Just like I made ice cold daiquiris this summer and retreated to our blissfully cool basement, I have been making warm drinks this week and curling up under a down comforter. Let’s call it S.A.D. – seasonally affected drinking.

Warm drinks on a cold winter’s night are traditional in Northern climates and where my family comes from, Glögg is the drink of choice. Other countries have Glüwein or mulled wine, but in Sweden, it’s Glögg. They are all pretty much the same: steep some spices in wine, heat and serve.

I’ve tried several recipes over the years. A favorite comes from a dear familiy friend, John Swedstedt, who adds Vodka to his Glögg. This year however, I wanted to try out some new recipes. That’s not to say I didn’t want Vodka in my Glögg, I just needed an updated recipe.

In a pinch I’ve used the bottled Glögg concentrate from IKEA. It works, but I find the spices to be kind of flat.

I heard Marcus Samuelsson on the radio a couple of week’s ago. He’s an Ethiopian born Swede that now lives in America. His restaurant – and cookbook – Aquavit, had just what I was looking for. A little more online research and cookbook consulting and I think I’ve found a recipe to call my own.

3 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1 Tbsp cardamom pods
2-3 small pieces candied ginger
Grated zest of 1 orange
6 whole cloves
1/2 cup vodka
1 750-ml bottle dry red wine. I like Zinfandel
1 cup port
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 cup blanched, slivered almonds
1/2 cup raisins

Crush the cinnamon and cardamom using a mortar and pestle or smash on a cutting board. Put them in a small glass jar and add the ginger, orange zest, cloves, and vodka. Let stand for 24-48 hours. Strain the vodka into a large saucepan and discard the spices.

Add the red wine, port and sugars and heat over medium heat just until bubbles start to form around the edges. Do not boil.

Add a few almonds and raisins to the bottom of each mug and pour the hot Glögg over the top.

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For as long as I can remember, my mom and I have been making Choklad Biskvier at Christmastime. There is a Swedish Christmas tradition of making seven kinds of cookies – sju sorters kakor – and these cookies are one of the 7 (or 8 or 10) kinds of cookies we make every year. I have recently discovered though, that Choklad Biskvier are just as enjoyable the rest of the year as they are at Christmastime. It sounds kind of stupid to say I just “realized” this, I know, but do you ever make pumpkin pie in March? I didn’t think so.
Part of the reason I started making CBs year-round is because the recipe calls for three egg whites. You may remember that I love eggs and that I have a ongoing supply fresh chicken eggs. Since Gavin’s “new” favorite dessert is poundcake, I often have leftover egg whites to use up, and this recipe is perfect for using them up. These cookies also store well in the freezer, where they wait for you until you need them to serve guests, bring to a party or just eat by yourself while you lie on the couch watching reruns of 30 Rock with a glass of Malbec.
Since these cookies have been in heavy rotation, I have been spreading the love. I have brought them to meetings at work, exchanged them for the aforementioned fresh eggs and taken them to parties. Since Choklad Biskvier is not easy to remember or pronounce, my friend Robin just calls them “those ridiculously delicious cookies.” I often just refer to them as “those Swedish chocolate cookies.” If you can suggest a better name, I am accepting ideas.

I’ve been asked for the recipe dozens of times, but have always declined to share it because this is kind of graduate level baking. Consider yourself warned. Having said that, I have tried to provide as much detail (and photos) as possible into the recipe below. I even shot a little video. A video! Gavin warned me against posting it because it is one the geekier things I’ve done recently, so er…consider yourself warned, again.

Ridiculously Delicious Cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees


3 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
4 oz. blanched, slivered almonds
3/4 cup bread crumbs (I use Progresso brand)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
8 oz. semi sweet chocolate – chips or chunks
6-8 Tbsp unsalted butter
Prepare and bake the cookie
Grind the almonds in a food processor until fine. Like so:

Whisk the egg whites for a minute in a stand mixer. Add sugar and whisk on high for 3-4 minutes, until a stiff meringue is formed. Like….so:

Stir in bread crumbs and almonds and let the dough rest for 15-20 minutes.

Smooth a mound of filling onto the flat side of each cookie. Place them in the freezer for 10 minutes or so while you prepare the glaze.

Make the glaze and…watch the video
In a double boiler melt the chocolate and 6 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Stir until smooth. It should be the consistency of Hershey’s syrup. If needed, add more butter. As you glaze the cookies, you may need to reheat the glaze if it begins to stiffen.

Drop tablespoon-sized mounds onto a cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray (I use a little dosing scooper for this). Bake for 10 minutes. Remove with a metal spatula so they don’t crumble and cool on a wire rack, flat side down.
Prepare the filling and frost the cookies
Sift powdered sugar and cocoa together onto a flexible mat or piece of wax paper. Cream the butter on high until lighter in color and smooth. On slow speed, add the sugar/cocoa mixture until combined. Add the vanilla and mix on medium until smooth.

The easiest way to apply the glaze is to dunk the chocolate half of the cookie into the pot of glaze. I can’t really describe in words how to do this so, as promised, there is a video demonstration. It’s over on my old blog – checkitout.

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Consolation Prize

Although our dreams of a Mexican Christmas were dashed, I have to say that a small part of me was thankful to be home for some Scandinavian traditions.

We managed to make it over to my parents house for Christmas Eve dinner – a feast with all the Swedish and Norwegian specialties. We got to take home some leftovers and some tasty cookies, but my favorite was some of the cooking broth leftover from cooking the Christmas ham.

One of the traditional Swedish dishes is Julskinka (Christmas ham). Nowadays you can purchase the ham finished, but traditionally it took several days cure it in salt. On the day before Christmas Eve, the ham is boiled for several hours. The ham is then left in the broth overnight in the fridge. On Christmas Eve, the ham is dried, painted with a coating of egg and mustard, sprinkled with bread crumbs and baked.

The salty, flavorful broth does not go to waste however. After skimming off the fat, you warm the broth and everyone gathers around with bread to dopp i grytan (dip in the kettle). Traditionally, this was done on Christmas Eve. My mom has always saved the broth until Christmas morning (or any other morning, since the broth can be stored in the freezer for several months). You warm the broth and simmer the Swedish crispbread for a minute or two until it is soft. Then, pull it out with a slotted spoon and serve it slathered in butter.

As the snow started falling again this afternoon, I poured myself the last from our beer reserves and made myself up a plate of tasty, salty, hammy comfort food.

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Every Christmas – for as long as I can remember, my mom has made a Pepparkakor Hus. That’s Swedish for “gingerbread house.” It was a fun tradition – my mom did all the work and I got a house. I also got to take it into my classroom and share it with schoolmates (we’d smash it and eat all the stale pieces.)

That was then, but this is now and we haven’t made a pepparkakor hus in years. I have never really had the desire, until I saw this.

Oh really, Red Envelope? You evil temptress with your gifts for every occasion, your clean navigation and nice product photography. Think you can also offer the end-all, be-all in gingerbread houses too!? Think you can just jump onto the mid-century bandwagon and cash in on the trend? $80 for a gingerbread house?!

HA! I’ll take your mid-century and raise you a pair of Eames lounge chairs. Actually I called up mom for a plan of attack. Yeah, I’ll admit I never could have designed this without her. I am not exactly artistically gifted.

You wouldn’t believe how this thing came together – mom got out the graph paper and, using the picture of our house above, she sketched out a pretty good to-scale plan. We cut out the plans, then traced them onto parchment paper. Rolled out the dough, cut, baked and assembled. What a cinch.

Um, OK – not really. Rolling out pepperkakor dough is already a little tricky. It has to be very, very thin. Well, combine the thinness with lots of little window cutouts and doors, argh, it was really kind of a pain in the ass. I was determined though.

Once we baked up all the pieces, assembly began. The thing about assembling these buggers is using the right adhesive. And in our case, this adhesive is molten sugar. Holy hell – this is some scary ass shit to work with. If you get it on you, it immediately adheres to your skin and begins to harden. Needless to say, some injuries occurred.

Assembly would have been much easier if we were actually working with perfectly measured pieces. See the thing is, the dough changes shape once you bake it. No matter how good your original plans are noor how well the rolled & cut dough are, baking it alters the shape. Thankfully my father, who’s a builder, was on hand to ovesee the project. Sure, sure, sure – he had lots of tips, but he’s used to working with different materials. And plans for that matter. Not so helpful afterall.

Nonetheless, we managed to get it assembled. Mom kept reminding me that icing covers a multitude of sins (can this theory be applied elsewhere?). Indeed it did. Armed with a piping bag and some pretty wicked icing, I went to town! I iced the hell out of this pepparkakor hus. And then it snowed – fluffy, fluffy powdered sugar snow. And behold….

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