Where are the holiday cookies?

At this time of year, we’re usually baking cookies and making confections to give out to our family and friends. We scour our cookbooks for weeks, spend hours shopping for the perfect container to put them in, then more hours baking, and more hours packing them up for shipment, only to have them reach their destinations where they sit on the counter along with all the other baked gifts from everyone else. Instead of contributing to the waistlines and blood sugar levels of our family, this year we decided not to give out baked goods. But, with the holidays right on top of us we know we need to write at least one post about holiday cookies.

We’ve decided to showcase a recipes that really isn’t a traditional holiday cookie – yet. With the addition of whole rolled grains and whole flours, these cookies might become a favorite to add to your collection next year. The recipe is one Jason created a few years back, and one that has been recently influenced by Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain cookbook, with a whole grain philosophy, making it a little more unique. Typically made with 100 % rolled oats and all-purpose flour, Jason’s Cranberry Pecan cookies are earthier and chewier with a mixture of rolled whole grains along with a cup of oats and a flour ratio of one part Kamut flour to two parts all-purpose flour. The flavors of tart cranberries, toasted pecans and fresh orange zest make these cookies a real favorite year round. Of course, if you don’t have Kamut flour and multigrain cereal you can use rolled oats and all-purpose flour for the recipe.

While our families won’t be getting cookies this year, we have made a few batches in preparation for Santa’s imminent visit. On Christmas Eve, Santa will be greeted by a big plate of Cranberry Pecan cookies and a good-sized shot of Dalwhinnie to warm him up. And why not? Santa has a team of designated drivers to keep him on course through the night. He’s getting plenty of whole grain fiber in the cookies, which he obviously needs. We say let him enjoy a little nip before heading back out into the chilly night, belly full and cheeks aglow.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Cranberry Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

yield: 6 dozen cookies

1 1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cup plus ¼ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ cup soft butter
½ cup applesauce
1 tablespoon orange or tangerine zest
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup rolled oats
2 ½ cups multigrain cereal
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup dried cranberries
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup kamut flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream brown sugar, 1 1/3 cups sugar, salt, and butter until well cream, about 4 minutes. Add the applesauce and zest allow to incorporate. Add eggs and vanilla then continue to mix until eggs are blended. If the mixture looks a little broken, don’t worry the cookies will still work out.

In a medium bowl mix together the oats, multigrain cereal, pecans and dried cranberries. In a separate bowl mix together the kamut and all-purpose flours and baking soda. Add the oat mixture to the creamed sugar then slowly add the flour. Mix just until no flour is present.

Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop the cookies onto Silpat mat or parchment paper, spacing so that the cookies don’t touch during backing. Put the ¼ cup sugar on a small plate. Wet the bottom of a thick, flat bottomed glass and place the glass bottom on the sugar. Press down on the tops of each cookie, placing the glass back in the sugar after each press of a cookie. Bake for 10-12 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. The cookies may be a little crispy at first but will soften after a day or two in a cookie container.

Spicy apple pear butter

Pick, peel, and chop.

Cold winter weather invites the warm spicy flavors of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Apples and their cider provide the perfect medium for bringing those flavors to the palate. Spiced mashed apples make excellent sauces and butters, delicious eaten on their own or used to compliment the flavors and textures of both sweet and savory dishes. Apple butter, the much thicker slow-cooked version of applesauce, is a tasty companion to cheese and bread and a nice counterpoint to rich, fatty pork.

Apple-based sauces have been a part of the human culinary tradition for millennia. Apple butter, on the other hand, is decidedly American with origins in 18th century Pennsylvania and Appalachia. Apples are cooked and mashed and then cooked some more until they’re nearly as thick as paste. Seasonings include the classic sweet spices, some apple cider and perhaps a bit of apple brandy (obviously not included in the original Amish recipes). Once nice and thick, the butter can be water processed in mason jars and kept for months in the pantry.

Concentrating the flavor.

Apple butter is easy enough to make. We made a batch in October after we received a large shipment of apples and pears in our Capay produce box. We knew we couldn’t eat them fast enough to enjoy them at their best, so we opted for this simple form of preservation to extend their shelf-life. We mostly ate it on peanut butter sandwiches and cheddar cheese sandwiches, but it could have been used as a condiment with tender pork loin or as a topper to our muesli pancakes.

We recently used up the remaining apple butter from a recent batch in a recipe for barley scones from Kim Boyce’s beautiful baking book, Good to the Grain. Instead of using strawberry preserves we used the apple butter along with some grated Irish cheddar cheese. They were perfectly sweet and savory. With the addition of crispy bacon and soft scrambled eggs, a cozy Sunday brunch at home brought our weekend to a delicious conclusion.

Spicy--fresh ginger, nutmeg, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks.

Since we used up the last of the apple butter in these delicious barley flour scones before we’d accumulated enough fruit to make another batch, we were relieved when this weeks Capay produce box arrived full of apples and pears. We aren’t big sticklers for rigid adherence to a specific recipe. The technique for creating fruit butters is so universally applicable to things that “melt” and thicken that it seems silly sticking to one variety of apple or pear. Sticking to a particular variety of apple or pear may make the flavor of your fruit butter more consistent from batch to batch, but when your making such a small amount for your own personal use it’s nice to try an assortment of different apple and/or pear varieties.

In the recipe below, we recommend using apple cider (we like to use hard cider). If you don’t have any, you can substitute a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with enough water to make up a half-cup of liquid. The resulting butter will be a bit more tart making it a nice side to savory dishes, like pork roast.

Spicy Apple Pear Butter

Jars of apple pear butter. YUM!

3 lbs. apples and/or pears, any variety
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider (or 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, plus water to make ½ cup liquid)
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated preferred
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
a pinch of salt

Peel, core and large dice the apples and pears. Add to a medium size pot with the rest of the ingredients. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally for 1 hour, being careful not to burn the fruit.

Place the pot in the oven at 200 degrees for 8 hours or overnight. Can be stored in the fridge for a few months or canned to extend the shelf life.


Right out of the oven.

Apple and Cheddar Barley Scones

(adapted from Good to the Grain)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons barley flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoon cold, unsalted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup whole milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar)
1 egg
1/2 cup apple butter
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a Silpat mat. Add the dry ingredients into a large bowl and whisk together to fully mix the flours.

Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add them to the dry mixture. Using your hands, quickly rub the butter between your finger

s, breaking it into smaller bits. Continue rubbing until the butter is in sizes ranging from rice grains to flattened peas. If the butter becomes too soft, place in the fridge for 10 minutes before continuing.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg until thoroughly combined. Pour the buttermilk and egg into the dry mixture, and mix until barely combined. The more you mix, the tougher the scone will be.

Use a pastry scraper or a spatula to transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface. The dough may be too sticky to handle; if it is, dust it with flour and fold it together a few times. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Flour your hands and pat each piece of dough into a disk about 3/4 inch thick and 7 inches in diameter.

Cover one disk with the cheddar cheese and top with apple butter. Top the spread with the other disk and press down gently so that the dough settles into the apple butter. Brush the dough lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Use a sharp knife to slice the circle into 8 triangular wedges, like a pie. Carefully place the wedges on the baking sheet, leaving a few inches between them.

Bake the scones for 22 to 26 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. The scones are ready when their tops are golden brown and some of the apple butter and cheese has bubbled over onto the pan. The scones are best eaten warm from the oven or later that same day.

Makes 8

NOTE: If you can’t find barley flour feel free to substitute whole wheat flour or you can use all purpose flour for the full recipe.