Sweet beginning of December
December 3rd, 2006

The first day of December isn’t only a precursor to a fast impending approaching holiday season but also a benchmark, a quite strong reminder about taking it easy and appropriate time management – in my non-business life. Due to my regular job schedule and freelance projects, making pre-Christmas-fun-time is becoming an ever so difficult task, in other words I’m running late: NO PRESENTS, NO COOKIES yet. How depressing is that?! Nevertheless, this year’s 1st of December was a truly worthy start into my personal Christmas season, for many unexpected and very different reasons. Well, and homemade cookies played a role, too!

Busserl...

Here we go, reason ONE:
Aside from reading blogs and design-related stuff, my daily early morning routine also includes a few online newspapers. After all the recent discussions (going back and forth, void of any real ambition & progress) about smoking in public, I joyfully noticed our coalition parties’ agreement to ban smoking from restaurants (among others). Could I trust my eyes? Was this for real? While the whole debate here in Germany was and is conducted with sheer aggression and low tolerance on both sides (smokers and non-smokers), I personally would love to being able to savor good food without the nuisance of smoke all around me. Anyhow, it is a draft, hence not yet implemented and still ways to go before we hopefully see change. So far, so good.
The flip side of the coin you ask? How come that pubs and nightclubs are exempt and what makes a pub a pub and a nightclub a nightclub? And how is it possible, that the tobacco lobby releases a restricted non-smoking law draft to the politicians, a document that miraculously turned into the official law draft of the coalition parties – including even the same typos? Banana republic?! (a must-read, in German though)

Reason TWO:
Aside from our very own sneak-preview party on Friday (well done Craig, Dagi & Carlos!), our one and only sneak-preview cinema celebrated their 700th sneak preview show. We all may have looked a tad silly like blues brother clones wearing funny Ray-Ban-style 3D goggles, but the humiliation was worth it, the bonus 3D shortfilm was a fun experience. The real surprise however was “The Holiday“, a wonderful chick-flick presented afterwards – in fact, it was shown even before the movie’s world premiere! Perfectly apt to let you slide right into into a fine holiday mood…

Yay!

Two down, two to go, here is THREE:
Surprises happen when you least expect them (I guess that’s why they’re called surprises). When I open the door for the postman the ritual usually includes a silent, knowing nod. In the sense of, we both know, another cookbook or what not delivery. I order, he delivers (not always, but he’s gotten better at it). Anyway, that morning I must have looked rather puzzled – I couldn’t for the life of it recall any outstanding orders. He handed me a huge package and smiled: “From England!” Which didn’t ring a bell. But the senders address did. Johanna! The package revealed what has to be the most thoughtful chosen (with a culinary theme) and beautifully crafted advent calendar I have ever received in my whole life. I’m in complete awe and can’t wait to open a new little something each morning now for 21 more days :)

Finally, reason FOUR:
I did manage to find some time to whip out one of my favorite Christmas cookies, Brombeerbusserl (blackberry smacks?), an adapted Johann Lafer recipe. Opposed to the original recipe which uses elderberry jam, I prefer blackberry jam. Based on an easy and quick to prepare vanilla-scented shortcrust, very flavorful and coming with a light mouth feel, one of my very few must-have-or-die-cookies each year.

More Busserl...

Preheat the oven to 200°C (392°F). Combine butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla sugar and scraped out vanilla seeds in a large bowl and mix well. Add one egg and at last the ground almonds and flour. Beat until you have a smooth dough.

Cover your baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill the dough in a piping bag with a mid-sized star-tipped nozzle and pipe little cookies on the tray, keeping little space in between. Bake on the middle level of your oven for about 7 to 10 minutes or until light golden (don’t let them get too dark, it makes them bitter). Remove from oven and carefully transfer to a wire rack. Allow to cool down completely.

Meanwhile heat the jam in a small pan, this will make it easier to fill the cookies. Stir occasionally. Either use a small spoon or baking brush to apply some jam to the bottom side of one cookie, then gently press another cookie with its bottom side against it. The challenge is to use enough jam to give them a nice fruity touch, but not let any of the jam run down the cookies’ sides. Let the jam cool for an hour, then dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar and store them in an airtight container.

Florentiner

My second mission – Florentiner - wasn’t crowned by success, the recipe only worked after major adjustments (like sieving off the excessive liquids). While they tasted pretty good, I’m still looking for a better recipe and am all ears in case you’d be willing to share yours!

Brombeerbusserl ("blackberry smacks")

Recipe source: adapted recipe from Johann Lafer, an old magazine clip (Freundin, year unknown)

Prep time: 20-30min., baking: 7-10min.

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Ingredients (yield: ~50 double-cookies):

250g butter, at room-temperature

100g confectioners' sugar

2 tsp vanilla sugar

scraped out seeds of one vanilla pod

1 egg

125g ground almonds

250g flour

~100g blackberry jam, without seeds

confectioners' sugar for dusting

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