Holiday Baking Recipe: Swedish Spritz Cookies


It’s December, so holiday baking season is in full swing! This was the first Thanksgiving in decades that I didn’t cook or bake anything. And I was perfectly fine with it. But I had a few good reasons to bake these Swedish Spritz cookies today.

One of my brother’s housemates lost his mom a few years ago and she left him her cookbook. Out of the blue one day, he shared one of her recipes with me. I was so touched. A family recipe is a treasure.

He gave me the recipe this past summer, but I hadn’t had a chance to bake them.  Well, time just kept passing, as it’s known to do. He asked me a few times if I had tried them yet and I promised myself that I would make them soon. My family has Sunday dinners each week and I thought these would make a festive dessert. Plus, I was in a baking mood today!

As I was looking at the recipe and comparing it to other similar recipes, I realized that I didn’t have a cookie press. His family is Swedish, so his mom’s recipe didn’t have the part about needing the cookie press, because it was probably pretty obvious to her.

Luckily I have no problem improvising when I bake, so I used a cookie stamp to get a similar effect.

There were some cookies leftover from our family dinner, so I gave them to my brother’s house for everyone to share. His housemate had such a smile when I told him that I finally made the cookies and he gave me the biggest hug. Which he has never done before. Ever.

My mom said that baking these cookies was a way to keep memories of his mother alive. I have to agree. So much about food, especially around the holidays, is about family, memories and love.

These cookies are very good and I will definitely bake them again. Simple, tasty and not too sweet. They are practically as quick as using ready made cookie dough. Perfect for this time of year.

Here’s the adapted recipe below if you’d like to try it. I received permission to blog it.

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Swedish Spritz Cookies (makes a dozen and a half cookies)

INGREDIENTS:

1 stick butter (softened)
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. almond extract
1 cup plus 2T flour
pinch of salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

Set aside an ungreased cookie sheet or place parchment paper on sheet. Set oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, stir together butter, sugar and egg yolk. Add extract, salt and flour. Stir until combined. Batter comes together nicely and will be a dough that is easy to handle. If you have a cookie press, use as instructed.

I rolled the dough into small balls, then baked for 10 minutes. Remove sheet from the oven and use cookie stamp to press design onto the top of each ball. Bake for another 5 minutes for total baking time of 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cook, then serve or store in a container. Enjoy!

Blueberries Make The Cake

A simple single layer cake with lots of blueberries.

It’s July, so if you’re on Instagram, you may be noticing that everyone’s feed is filled with blueberries.

Whether you picked them yourself, found them at a farmers market, or bought them at the grocery store, ’tis the season.

My favorite cakes during the summer are simple single layer cakes. They aren’t too sweet. They travel well. Plus, since they aren’t frosted, they hold up in the heat.

One of the recipes that I use as a base is a Norwegian Apple Cake. I’ve been using this recipe for years, with a few changes. One of the easiest ways to adapt it is by changing the type of fruit.

I made the cake a few weeks ago using cherries. Everyone loved it, so this past week I used blueberries. Lots of blueberries!

I used two cups and the cake was bursting with blueberry flavor. Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a try.

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Summer Blueberry Cake
(makes one single layer cake)

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup butter (softened)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups blueberries (washed, stems removed)

INSTRUCTIONS:
In a medium bowl, combine butter, sugar and eggs. Stir in salt, extracts, baking powder and flour until well combined.

I use a regular size round cake pan, but a square or loaf pan would probably work fine too. I used to grease and flour the pan, but now I use parchment paper. So whatever way you prefer is fine.

Pour batter into a pan. Pour the blueberries over the batter and press into the cake.

The original recipe says to bake for about 25 – 30 minutes at 400 degrees. I’ve baked this cake a few times and am still adjusting the time and temperature. Blueberries are more wet than apples, so more baking time was definitely needed. The last time I baked this cake (July 13, 2019) for about an hour at 350 degrees. That seemed to work well. Everyone loved the cake and raved about the texture.

After the cake is done, I put it in the fridge and let it cool down. If you are taking it to go, maybe for a picnic, wrap it in foil,  pack it and be on your way!

Let me know if you try it and what you think.

Recipe: Double Berry Almond Breakfast Cookies

Double Berry Almond Breakfast Cookies cooling on a rack.

Back in 2008, I posed the question, “Cupcake or muffin?” Is the only real difference that one we eat for breakfast or a snack and the other is dessert? Muffins sometimes have glaze, which is basically frosting.

Calorically there is not much difference either. I agree with a recent Vox article stating that we need to get real about our American breakfasts. They are basically dessert.  Although an article found in Essence may help assuage our collective guilt.  Eating dessert for breakfast may help us lose weight. Let’s go with that one!

If you ever think that I will discourage dessert, then you are sadly happily mistaken. I have a healthy (cough, cough) breakfast cookie recipe for you. It’s been a while since I blogged a recipe, so the time is right.

The only reason that I found this recipe is because another one of my favorite magazines abruptly stopped publicationMore Magazine. It was a great magazine. Stylish, intelligent and thoughtful. Oh well. Seems that doesn’t sell. I still miss Whole Living. *sigh*

But I digress. For the remainder of my More subscription, I was given Shape Magazine. It’s not bad, but not a true replacement. Anyway, I did find this breakfast cookie recipe. It’s sweet, but uses maple syrup instead of sugar. I added honey and made a number of other changes based on the ingredients that I had at home, my particular tastes and knowing my oven.

As I always say, a recipe is just a starting point. Adapt away! Let me know if you try the recipe and what you think.

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Double Berry Almond Breakfast Cookies (Adapted from recipe on Shape Magazine)
(Makes a dozen)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1  1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup cranberries (halved)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened dried cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp. orange peel

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium to large bowl combine ingredients. Mix well. Use an ice cream scoop to put batter on baking sheet. Bake about 30 minutes. Remove cookies and let cool on a rack. Enjoy!

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Pear Crisp: Breakfast For Grown-ups

Pear CrispBreakfast or dessert? I’ve asked this question before. Since I’m a grown-up, I’ve decided that it’s breakfast.

When I was a kid, I remember looking forward to being one of the grown-ups and being able to make my own decisions about things just like this. Because in the greater scheme of life, shouldn’t I be able to eat what I want for breakfast? Now is certainly the time to reap the benefits.

Last Sunday, I salvaged some subpar pears by baking with them. The inspiration for the crisp came from the apple crisp recipe shared by Amy Traverso. I made several changes, but her recipe served as a nice framework.

I cut the ingredient amounts in half, so it worked for the amount of pears that I had. I left the skins mostly on, but removed some of it because of brown spots. I changed the sugar to half brown and for the other half decided to finally use this coconut sugar that I bought about a while ago. I was a bit concerned that it might taste like coconut, but I didn’t notice it.

I used regular salt instead of kosher. Instead of all cinnamon, I used some cardamom too. For the flour, I keep a mixture of all-purpose and wheat in a container that I use for everything. It’s not measured, but it’s mostly all-purpose.

The crisp was really good and G loved it. He said, “That’s what grown-ups eat!” I happen to agree.

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Pear Crisp
(4 servings)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups pears (cut up)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter (melted)
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom

INSTRUCTIONS:

Place the pears in an ungreased baking dish, then set aside.

In a medium bowl, add the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugars. Combine ingredients, then stir in egg. It will be crumbly. Spread the mixture over the pears. Drizzle the melted butter over the top. Then sprinkle the cinnamon and cardamom.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. You should probably let it sit and cool for a few minutes before cutting it. But we were hungry and watching CBS Sunday Morning as we were waiting for the crisp to finish baking.

Once it was done, I took a few quick pictures and we ate it. Because sometimes grown-ups are as impatient as kids!

Happy November to you!

{You Pick Six} An Interview with Writer: Amy Traverso

Amy TraversoMy apple appetite keeps increasing. Sometimes I’m eating more than an apple a day!

But who can blame me? Certainly not Amy Traverso, who wrote The Apple Lover’s Cookbook and is Senior Lifestyle Editor at Yankee Magazine.

As mentioned in a previous post, I learned about Amy’s book after seeing her speak as part of a panel discussion at TECHmunch Boston. She was also named one of Boston’s “Ultimate Tastemakers” by Boston Common magazine.

So it’s truly an honor to have her participate in the eighth part of the interview series, You Pick Six. Let’s jump in!

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What is a favorite simple recipe to prepare at home?
This time of year, it’s definitely my grandmother’s apple crisp, which she first discovered in an issue of Country Gentleman magazine back in the 1930s. She saved the clipping and now I have it. It’s different from the oatmeal-based crisps that most people know, because the topping is more like a cobbler or a sweet biscuit. You combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder as the base and the only liquid comes from a couple of eggs that you stir in until the mixture is crumbly. Then you drizzle 6 or 8 tablespoons of butter over the whole thing and sprinkle it with cinnamon. I have absolutely no self-control around this dish and will gladly eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you come to my house for dinner in the fall, chances are this is what I’m serving for dessert.

Grandma Mary’s Apple Crisp
Yield: 8 servings
Time: 1¼ hours, largely unattended

5 large tender-tart apples (such as McIntosh or Jonathan; about 2½ pounds total), peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick rings or slices
5 large firm-sweet apples (such as Jazz or Ginger Gold; about 2½ pounds total), peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick rings or slices
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF, and set a rack to the middle position. Arrange the sliced apples in an even layer in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish (no need to grease it); set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the eggs and, using a fork or a pastry cutter, work in until crumbly. The mixture will look like streusel, with a mix of wet and dry bits. (Have no fear; the eggs provide enough liquid.)

3. Spread the topping evenly over the apples, then drizzle all over with the melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake until the topping is golden brown and apple juices are bubbling, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes, then serve warm from the pan.

Apple Stack Cake-horz2What is some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
My father always told me that if you become an expert at something, you’ll always have work to do. Of course, you also have to be good at many things in order to have a career as a food writer. You should be able to cook, to cover trends, to write about restaurants. But having one area of concentration is useful.

What is a favorite quote?
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – from Neale Donald Walsch. I used to hate public speaking or doing live TV. I completely dreaded having to promote The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. I wanted to stay in the kitchen and behind my computer!  And then I got a call from my publicist informing me that she had booked me on The Martha Stewart Show. I hung up the phone and cried. But having to do it (Martha was very nice, btw) and having to get up there and give talks at libraries and women’s clubs and farmers’ markets reminded me that the only answer to fear is doing exactly the thing that you want to avoid. And the rewards come back tenfold. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences since I got out there.

What is a favorite childhood food memory?
I grew up in one of those Italian families with the grape arbor and a big garden in grandma’s back yard and salame hanging from the rafters in the root cellar. We had big Sunday dinners with homemade pasta and from-scratch cakes. (As I type this, I realize it sounds like a bad cliche or a Saveur personal essay parody, so let me add that my grandparents mixed their red wine with ginger ale and we made our pesto with cream cheese instead of pine nuts because it was cheaper). But the centrality of those Sunday dinners taught me that food isn’t merely sustenance or fashion, but something that can connect you with your community and history. It’s where some of my happiest childhood memories live and it’s what I wanted to bring into my adult life by becoming a food writer.

What is a favorite cookbook?
I still go back to The Zuni Cafe Cookbook and have learned more from it than perhaps any other book I own. There are others that do a terrific job of teaching technique, but Judy Rodgers knew how to explain the mechanics without losing the poetry. Also, reading her book reminds me of living in San Francisco and all the wonderful food we had there.

Tell me about your book.
The Apple Lover’s Cookbook is my love letter to an incredible fruit—one that has woven itself into human history for thousands of years. The project began with a simple love of apple crisp and other homey recipes and of the orchards themselves, but when I started learning about the history (for example: Apples are native to Asia, not North America) and about their diversity (there are thousands of varieties being grown worldwide), I was hooked.

The Apple Lover's CookbookApple are unique in the fruit world for many reasons. Unlike, say, oranges or lemons, apples are available in multiple varieties pretty much everywhere they’re sold. Even my neighborhood convenience store has Granny Smith and Red Delicious. And they all taste very different. They also respond differently to cooking: one (Northern Spy) will hold up well in a pie and another (McIntosh) will turn to mush. So I decided to bring some order to the chaos and organize about 60 different varieties into one of four categories, based on how sweet (or tart) they are and on how they respond to cooking. Are they firm and tart? Tender and sweet? I used that info to guide the recipes—there are 100 of them, from soup to entrees to dessert—and the book helps you choose the best ones for, say, pie versus pancakes versus braised brisket.

The book is full of gorgeous photos by Squire Fox, and I give tasting notes and historical info for each variety, plus an index with apple products, apple festivals, and a guide to hard cider, which is growing exponentially in popularity.

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Thank you so much for participating Amy!

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Photos provided by Amy Traverso.