Sunday, December 19, 2010

Season's Eatings

I spent a snowy Sunday baking up treats for the holidays. It is utter luxury to take a day off from weekend chores and social events and instead to chop chocolate, whip eggs, sprinkle spices, roll dough and fill the kitchen with the aroma of home baking. All while basking in the soft glow of a warm home while snow piles up outside the windows. 

This is the resulting gift box of festive eats, and the photo is my submission to No Croutons Required: The Festive Photos Edition. On the right is rugelach, a filled pastry, in the middle are little cups of sweet-spicy roasted nuts, and on the left are Dorie Greenspan's famous world peace cookies

I've written a post about the world peace cookies before, here. My baking skills have improved a tad in the 3 years since I wrote that post, because I was a little better this time around at chopping chocolate, getting the dough together and baking nicer looking cookies. This is one delicious cookie, with a touch of salt highlighting the chocolate flavor.  They are eggless, short-bread like and simply melt in the mouth. 

If you want to make cookie dough in advance and keep it on hand for last-minute baking, this recipe is perfect. I kept one roll of dough in the freezer and it came in very handy this week when I wanted to take cookies to a friend whose baby was in the hospital- we love you, baby Henry!

The second cookie was rugelach, a traditional Jewish cookie that I have wanted to make for a long time. The question is- which recipe to use? Dorie Greenspan has a recipe for rugelach with a chocolate filling but I wanted a more traditional nuts and cinnamon filling instead. The King Arthur blog wrote a very tempting post on rugelach last month and I decided to try that recipe instead. But baking day dawned and I had no sour cream on hand, so in the end I went with Ina Garten's recipe

The recipe is well-written and was a joy to make. The cream cheese dough rolls out beautifully. I used orange marmalade instead of the apricot preserves, and there is simply no need to puree this in the food processor as the recipe suggests. Instead you can nuke it for a few seconds if needed to make the jam easier to spread. I skipped the sugar-cinnamon topping after the egg wash but otherwise followed the recipe closely. 

Here are the rugelach- not bad for a first attempt. They taste fantastic- a rich flaky dough encasing a sweet nutty filling, and they are small enough that one or two make a satisfying accompaniment to a cup of tea.

You have to be careful to tuck in the ends securely when you roll the pastries; I had a couple of them open up while baking and it resulted in these little pizza slice-like cookies. 

I sent some of the rugelach over for V to share with his colleagues. One of them is a Jewish lady from Russia (which means rugelach are part of her tradition) and she wrote me a sweet e-mail telling me she loved them and could she have the recipe. An Indian woman living in St. Louis making rugelach for an Eastern European friend- I got a kick out of that.

Finally, the glazed roasted nuts- I participate in swaps on Ravelry where knitters send gifts to each other, and in one of these wonderful packages, a knitter named Linda sent me a bag of these nuts along with a recipe card. They are addictive little snacks and we enjoyed them, so I made a mental note to try the recipes around the holidays. The recipe calls for pecans but I used equal parts pecans and walnuts.

Spicy-Sweet Pecans & Walnuts
(adapted from a recipe by Linda on Ravelry)
1. Preheat oven to 300 F.

2. Line a large (11 x 17 inch) rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

3. In a small bowl, mix together

  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more or less to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1/3 cup sugar
4. In a bowl, whip 2 large egg whites until foamy. I did this by hand with a whisk.

5. Gently stir in the spices and 5 cups total of raw pecan and walnut halves. Be careful that the egg whites stay as foamy as possible while mixing. 

6. Spread the nuts in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

7. Turn the oven down to 250 F. Rotate the sheet and continue baking for 15 more minutes. 

8. Let the nuts cool completely. Store in an airtight container. 

Here is the box of festive cheer, ready to be delivered.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it. Wishing everyone Happy Holidays during this last fortnight of 2010.


  1. That is lovely! I was with you on the pecans till I read about the foam. :( I really must get a mixing-thingy to be able to do all the baking that involves egg whites and peaks and foam now. Any suggestions? Hand? Stand? I don't have any sort of a mixer other than a Sumeet.

  2. What a lovely box of goodies! Lucky people who got it :)

  3. I can eat them all, just superb !!!

  4. wow... perfect gift box... wish i could get one :)

  5. Lovely and delicious gift box of home baked goodies

  6. Your gift-box is beautiful Nupur! I baked some cookies for friends in lab, but wrapped them untidily in Al foil and then tried to tie a ribbon on it. The result? Very lumpy and not at all tidy packages of cookies... Still, its the thought that counts, I suppose.
    Wish you lots of joy in cooking for family and friends over the holidays.
    Love, Shoots :)

  7. great gift box - and how lovely that you got as much pleasure in the making as I am sure others will get in the receiving!

  8. What a lovely gift box! Everything looks great.
    Happy Holiday to You, V and Dale!

  9. Shalom, dear Nupur! Did you know I'm Russian jew on my dad's side ;)

    Your goodies are gorgeous -- I am going to try the chocolate cookies for sure. The holiday baking bug bites me about once every five years and this is one of them.

    Wishing you all the best as always!

  10. thats one beautiful gift packed with goodies..Happy Holidays!!

  11. Lovely gift box .. hope I could get one !

  12. Oh that's a beautiful gift! Festive and yummy but also a little bit different from the standard fare.

  13. Everything looks so festive. I am planning to give homemade granola this year. After seeing your post, I'm planning to add some nuts to the mix. Have a great Holiday weekend. Enjoy.

  14. Am so missing my oven... I'm missing baking for the season. Everything looks delish. Happy holidays

  15. Hi Nupur,

    Rugelach's are a traditional Christmas favorite of my American husband's family, so my husband and I have been making it for a couple years now. Funny thing is, I happened to visit my parents in India right after baking these same time last year and, to my surprise, they *loved* them! And all their friends loved it as well -- it's an eggless recipe, so ideal for even vegans, of which there are many in India.

    Anyway the point of this story is, inspired by how much my parents seemed to love the rugelach (made with the traditional apricot filling), I remade a batch in my parents' Baroda kitchen. Because apricot jelly is hard to find, I substituted orange marmalade for apricot jelly -- and I have to say, the results were just not as good. Still delicious but without that fruity apricot flavor I have come to associate with these nuggets. Anyways, thought I'd share -- if you can get hold of apricot, I would recommend using it.

  16. Hi Nupur,

    Thanks for sharing the lovely recipes. The box looks great. Is there any substitute for egg whites in the Sweet N Spicy pecan & walnuts recipe to work for vegetarian/vegan food lovers?

  17. Happy Holidays Nupur. I am secretly wishing to get that box of cookies :)

    And yes it is good to take off from our regular chores and bake our favorite goodies. The aromas are indeed therapeutic.

  18. Lovely lovely lovely package of treats! :) The nuts especially intrigued me - don't they taste eggy at all? I am definitely going to try this.

    Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year to you, V and Dale! :)


  19. SS- All you need to make foamy egg whites for this recipe is a simple whisk and some muscle power :) No electric appliances are needed. I updated the post to clarify that I used a hand whisk.

    Anjali- Thanks! The people who got this box are lovely and deserve all the goodies in the world.

    Priya (Y) M- Thanks, I was happy the goodies turned out well.

    Julie/Julia- Thanks!

    myspicykitchen- Thank you!

    Sutapa- The packaging is secondary- how lovely that you baked cookies for your labmates, Shoots you are quite the baker!

    Johanna GGG- You said it best- making these goodies is more fun than receiving them.

    Manasi- Happy Holidays to you and your family too- hope you have settled into your new home.

    Linda- Really? How fun! Oh yes, the chocolate cookies are totally worth it, everyone loves them. So what are you baking this year?

    harini-jaya- Happy Holidays to you too!

    Kanchan- Thanks!

    Priya Sreeram- Thank you!

    Please DNFTA- I'm glad you think so :)

    Pavani- Homemade granola is such a wonderful gift. Happy Holiday break to you too!

    Raaga- My wish for you for the new year is that you get a wonderful oven very soon.

    Sandhya- Thanks for the comment- I will be sure to try rugelach with apricot jelly next time I make it!
    Yes, it is great that this recipe is eggless (there is an egg wash recommended to give the rugelach a glaze but it can be skipped) so is suitable for those who don't eat eggs but not for vegans because it does contain a lot of dairy (cream cheese and butter).

  20. Anonymous- Sorry, but I don't know of a substitute for the egg whites in this recipe.

    Preeti Kashyap- Thanks!

    Radhika- I agree, the baking aroma making a house feel like home.

    Miri- Happy Holidays to you and your family too!
    The nuts are not eggy in the least. From what I can tell, the egg whites help to bind the spices to the nuts, make the coating crispy and give the nuts a beautiful glaze.

  21. I tried the Peace cookies last night. They turned out so good. being allergic to eggs, am so glad this one didn't have eggs. Till now, other cookies i've made have tasted great, but have been hard. this one is soft, so am super happy about it. Thanks for sharing the recipe! Happy Holidays!

  22. Great choice for cookies! I know how grat the world peace cookies are.. and rugelach. I made both last year for Christmas, actually. :)

    I love how the nuts don't have any oil. Yay for egg whites! :)

  23. Season's Greetings to you Nupur!! The box looks so festive. That was so nice of you to take cookies for your friend, nothing comforting and enjoyable than home baked cookies.
    Dale has been a really good pup this year, and am sure Santa will bring him a special treat :)
    Happy Holidays!

  24. YOur post title caught my eye. Love it! Like your bakes even better. I think you're being unfair by saying your bakings a tad better. I wouldn't mind that tin of goodies as a gift. :)

    Season's greetings and best wishes for a very happy new year.


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