Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories

I have seen several explanations of Zimsterne (German cinnamon star cookies), the most common being that almonds and cinnamon were very dear in seventeenth century Germany, so these cookies were served only at Christmas as a special treat.

My favorite story is that these cookies are hung on Christmas trees to distract children who cannot keep their hands off of the ornaments.

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories

I wish I could tell you a story about my family's ties to these holiday cookies from the old country, but the only memory I have of Christmas cookies is eating the heads, arms, and legs off of gingerbread men. That's tradition!

Now that I think of it, there was the one year where my grandmother gave me an elaborate gingerbread house, and a neighbor boy snuck into our house and ate most of it. Very traumatic.

Back to the Zimsterne......

The traditional Zimsterne is made of sugar, ground almonds, and egg whites. and tastes like a cross between a meringue and a French macaron, but with a much more dense texture.

This recipe contains flour, whole eggs, and baking powder in addition to the ground almonds and cinnamon, making it immensely easier to roll out and cut. The cookies still puff up like macarons, and are crispy-chewy, like meringue cookies. The kids totally loved the cinnamon almond flavor.

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories

These are perfect with coffee or tea. Plus, they are so cute!!

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories

The Creative Cookie Exchange group is making international holiday cookies! Check out all of our members' links to international cookies after the recipe.

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories

Zimsterne Cookie Recipe
Makes about 60 cookies


4 T (2 ounces) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 C (4 ounces) powdered sugar
1/2 C (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 1/4 C (9 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 C (3 1/4 ounces) almond meal
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg white
Pinch of salt
Granulated or sanding sugar


  1. In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and the sugars until smooth. 
  2. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.
  3. Mix in the extracts. 
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, almond meal, and salt together. Add it to the butter mixture and mix until combined.
  5. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  7. Whisk the egg white with the pinch of salt
  8. Roll the dough out between two sheets of wax or parchment paper to 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. 
  9. Cut the dough with a 2 inch star shaped cookie cutter and place the cut dough onto the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. 
  10. Brush the tops of the stars with the egg wash, and sprinkle lightly with sugar. 
  11. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 12 minutes. 
  12. To make ornaments, immediately poke a hole in the cookie with a skewer. Cool on a wire rack. 

The theme this month is International Winter Holiday Cookies! If it is a cookie traditionally made somewhere in the world for a holiday traditionally observed near the Winter Solstice you might find it on this list. If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links. You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes--be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lime Meltaways

Lime Meltaways from Karen's Kitchen Stories

These Lime Meltaway cookies are super easy to make. I made the dough in advance, and baked the cookies the next day. You can also make the dough and freeze it, then slice and bake the cookies when "needed," making them the perfect cookie for gifting.

What is a meltaway cookie, you ask? It's a butter cookie made with powdered sugar and cornstarch (you could also use tapioca). The cookie is incredibly crumbly, so when you take a bite, it kind of "disappears" in your mouth, in a tasty "what was that wonderfulness?" sort of way.

Lime Meltaways from Karen's Kitchen Stories

I know there's a bite missing. Someone had to make the sacrifice so you could see the interior of the cookie. It's a tough job.

While these were made with lime, you could substitute lemon. orange, or grapefruit, or any combination of citrus. You could also just go with vanilla or chopped pecans if you prefer. We're flexible around here.

There are many ways to coat the cookies with the powdered sugar. You can place the cookies in a plastic bag with the powdered sugar and shake to coat them, dredge them in the sugar in a bowl, or sift the sugar over the cookies. I ended up dredging the cookies in a bowl, and then sifting more sugar over them.

Lime Meltaways from Karen's Kitchen Stories

If you're wondering about the little cups, I used these.

This post is part of the Secret Recipe Club Cookie Carnival. Sixty (yep, sixty!) of us have been randomly assigned another blog from which to make a cookie recipe (big thank you to Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes for putting this together). I was assigned Grandma Loy's Kitchen.  She has three children and three grandchildren, and has been married to the love of her life for over 50 years. Just like me, she enjoys reading cookbooks like novels. I'm with you, Loy!

After the recipe for this cookie, you will find links to dozens of wonderful cookie recipes.

Lime Meltaways from Karen's Kitchen Stories

Lime Meltaways Recipe

Adapted from Grandma Loy's Kitchen, adapted from Martha Stewart.
Makes 48 cookies


12 T unsalted butter
1 C powdered sugar, divided
Zest from 3 large limes
2 T fresh squeezed lime juice
1 T vanilla
2 Cups minus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer, cream the butter and 1/3 C powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add the zest, juice, and vanilla, and mix until smooth.
  2. Whisk the flour, cornstarch, and salt together, and add to the mixing bowl. 
  3. Mix on low until the flour is just incorporated. 
  4. Divide the dough in half, and shape into two 1 1/4 inch diameter logs. Wrap the logs in wax or parchment paper, and then wrap in plastic wrap (see note above about paper towel holders).
  5. Refrigerate for at least an hour, and up to 24 hours. The dough can also be frozen and used up to two months later.
  6. Preheat the oven and line two baking sheets with parchment.
  7. Slice the logs into 1/4 inch disks and place them on the parchment, about 1 inch apart. 
  8. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 15 minutes.
  9. Let the cookies cool slightly on a wire rack, and then dredge, shake, or dust with the remaining powdered sugar while they are still warm.
  10. Keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef | Wok Wednesdays

Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef | Wok Wednesdays

I almost missed making this Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef from Wok Wednesdays. The post was supposed to be up on December 3rd, which snuck up on me way too fast..... something about the recipe schedule not being posted until after the weekend.... that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Then I saw my friend Cathy's post about how much she loved this dish. I definitely needed to give this dish a try.

This recipe, from Grace Young's book, Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge, is the author's take on a dish her mother used to prepare for Grace and her brother to get them to eat more rice. The sauce is delicious poured over the rice. I served it in a bowl to drench the rice in the delicious liquid. It's kind of like a Chinese gumbo (forgive me Grace!).

The recipe calls for whole canned tomatoes in juice, a serendipitous discovery after Grace Young could not find decent tomatoes in the market to poach and peel. The addition of the juice and the consistency of the canned tomatoes made the dish even more flavorful.

Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef | Wok Wednesdays

This stir-fry was very easy to make. You cut flank steak into small strips and mix it with minced ginger, soy sauce, rice wine, cornstarch, sugar, salt, pepper, and sesame oil. Your mise en place should also include sliced green onions, the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and a small bowl containing dark soy, rice wine, and sesame oil.

Mise en place? Do not attempt stir fry without it. Unless you want your kitchen to look like a hurricane hit it. Cray cray!!

Have your table set and your rice ready, because the total cooking time is about six minutes. Dinner for two!

I was a little nervous about boiling tomatoes and tomato juice in my seasoned wok, so I did stop to rinse my wok before sitting down for dinner.... oh, and I snuck in a couple of photos too =)

Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef | Wok Wednesdays

I think this might be my new favorite from the cookbook.  Get the book, join us on Wok Wednesdays. You won't regret it.

The food editors at the San Francisco Chronicle picked this recipe as one of their favorites from the book. The recipe can be found here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Taleggio Cheese

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Taleggio Cheese

This twice baked sweet potato dish is perfect as a side to any roast. For a beautiful presentation, you can make them in the scooped out peels. I chose to make these in a casserole dish for more flexibility. You can also bake the potatoes in individual ramekins, as pictured above.

This is the perfect make-ahead side dish for a holiday dinner. Once you have baked the potatoes and mixed in the ingredients, you can cover and refrigerate the assembled dish, and then bake it while your roast is resting.

This is a savory sweet potato dish, and the thyme, shallot, and cheese flavors simply shine.

If you can't find Taleggio cheese, Fontina would make a good substitute.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Taleggio Cheese

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Taleggio Cheese

Serves six to 12, depending on the number of sides you plan on serving


3 12 to 14 ounce sized sweet potatoes, washed
5 1/2 T unsalted room temperature butter, cut into pieces
1/2 C minced shallots
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces Taleggio cheese, cut into small pieces


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 
  2. Line a sheet pan with foil and pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork. Place them on the foil lined pan. 
  3. Bake the potatoes for about an hour, until soft when you give them a squeeze.
  4. While the potatoes are baking, saute shallots in 1 1/2 T of the butter for about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the thyme, cook for one minute, and set aside.
  5. Scoop the potato from the skins into a bowl, add the butter, and mash them. 
  6. Add the egg, shallots, cheese, salt, and pepper, and stir until combined. 
  7. Let them cool for a few minutes. Scoop out the potatoes from the skins. 
  8. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

Monday, December 8, 2014

No Knead Quinoa Bread | #BreadBakers

No Knead Quinoa Bread

This Quinoa Bread really surprised me. I'm not at all experienced with this grain and was a bit skeptical because it has been kind of a fad. When the #BreadBakers group decided to use quinoa as a theme this month, I finally broke down and bought a bag of the stuff.

No Knead Quinoa Bread

Guess what? This bread was great! The nutty flavor of the quinoa, combined with the mild white whole wheat, was earthy and delicious. It makes excellent toast.

This bread is amazingly easy to make. The recipe makes four one pound loaves. You mix all of the ingredients, let the dough rise, and then refrigerate it. You then have 10 days to whip off a one pound piece of the dough and bake up a loaf of bread. How easy, right?

No Knead Quinoa Bread

Quinoa (I think it's pronounced Keen Wah) is supposed to be a super food, and very high in protein and calcium. It's an ancient grain, originally from the South American Andes, and very high in fiber. It comes in multiple colors too! I used whole white quinoa, but you can get it in red or black. You can also get flaked and puffed quinoa.

No Knead Quinoa Bread

No Knead Quinoa Bread

Makes 4 one pound loaves. The dough can be make in advance, and then refrigerated up to 10 days. 


3 C white whole wheat flour
3 1/2 C unbleached all purpose flour
1 C whole quinoa
1 1/2 T instant yeast
1 T kosher salt
1/4 C vital wheat gluten
3 1/4 C water


  1. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large (at least 5 quart) bowl or dough rising bucket.
  2. Add the water and mix with a dough whisk, by hand, or a large wooden spoon. 
  3. Cover, and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours. 
  4. Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, and up to 10 days. 
  5. When you are ready to bake, cut off a 1 pound loaf (1/4 of the dough), and shape it into a ball on a floured work surface. 
  6. Place the dough, seam side down, onto a small piece of parchment paper. Lift the dough, parchment and all, into a soup bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. 
  7. Let rise for about 90 minutes. 
  8. Place a Dutch oven in your oven and preheat it to 450 degrees F. 
  9. When the dough is ready, bring the Dutch oven out of the oven, uncover, and lift the dough, parchment and all, into the Dutch oven. Slash the dough, cover, and place back into the oven. 
  10. Bake for 15 minutes, uncover, and bake for another 10 to 20 more minutes. The bread should reach an internal temperature of about 200 degrees F. 
  11. Cool completely on a wire rack. 
This recipe has been slightly adapted from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients. 

Check out all of these other bread recipes using quinoa from my #BreadBakers friends:
What is Bread Bakers? It’s a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Bread Bakers Pinterest Board. Links are also updated after each event on the Bread Bakers home page.
Bread Bakers
How is the monthly theme determined? We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. Would you like to join in the fun? If you are a food blogger, send an email with your blog name and url to Stacy at foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

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Maple Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Maple Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting from Karen's Kitchen Stories

These maple cupcakes must be pretty spectacular. I took them to work, and they disappeared pretty quickly. Before lunch.

Some of the comments:

"That was one of the best cupcakes I've ever had."

"Amazing frosting. Can I have the recipe?"

"Karen, I had one of your cupcakes. Oh Em Gee!"

"These cupcakes make me want some bacon. They kind of taste like pancakes."

Maple Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting from Karen's Kitchen Stories

This cupcake recipe is laden with maple syrup, which made it kind of fun to tell everyone that they are "sugar free." The maple syrup also gives the cupcakes an amazingly moist texture. They are unlike any other cupcake I have ever tried.

They do make me crave bacon.....

Maple Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting



3 C unbleached all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
2 T vegetable shortening
2 C maple syrup, any grade (real, not artificial)
3 egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/4 C whole milk


3/4 C unsalted butter, softened
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 C powdered sugar, sifted
2 T maple syrup


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Line two 12 cup cupcake pans with paper liners. 
  3. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. 
  4. In a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium high with the paddle attachment until fluffy. 
  5. On low speed, slowly add the maple syrup. Beat on medium high for about 2 to 3 minutes. 
  6. Add the egg yolks and egg, one at a time, until incorporated. 
  7. Add half of the dry ingredient mixture and mix on low until it is mixed in. 
  8. Slowly add the milk while the mixer is on, Turn the mixer off, and add the rest of the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. 
  9. Divide the batter among the 24 cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. 
  10. Bake the cupcakes, one pan at a time, for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. 
  11. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 15 minutes, and then remove them from the pan and continue to cool them on a wire rack. 
  12. To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the butter until smooth. 
  13. Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth. 
  14. Sift the sugar over the bowl (I used a strainer), add the maple syrup, and mix until smooth. 
  15. You can refrigerate the frosting for up to one day, covered. Bring to room temperature before using. 
This recipe has been adapted from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. I have all of their books. They are incredible. To see the original recipe, visit this site

Welcome to Cupcake Day!! I am so excited to be a part of this event. National Cupcake Day is December 15, so we decided to provide you with some fabulous recipes so you can plan ahead. It is a national holiday after all... =)

Check out the fabulous cupcakes baked by some of my favorite bloggers below:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Stollen | #TwelveLoaves

Stollen is the German Christmas bread. According to Peter Reinhart, in the book, Bread Baker's Apprentice, the shape of the stollen symbolizes the blanket of the baby Jesus, and the colored fruits represent the gifts of the Magi. Dresden is considered the home of stollen and even hosts an annual stollen festival where they unveil a giant (huge!) loaf.

The bread is generously dusted with powdered sugar, and also often filled with a rope of marzipan, a sweet almond paste (I used slivered almonds instead).

The dough is shaped by folding it over a layer of almonds (or marzipan) and then folded again, in a "Z" pattern. Then it is shaped like a crescent to symbolize a blanket in a manger.

Don't let the "drunken" fruit in the bread scare you away. It is not the dreaded fruitcake. Not even close. I loved this version of stollen, especially toasted and buttered for breakfast.

The original recipe calls for a mixture of dried and candied fruit, I substituted all dried fruit, including golden raisins, cranberries, cherries, apricots, and currants, which I soaked in rum.

There are billions of iterations of stollen, but this one is my favorite (don't ask me about the failed loaf that looked like biscotti before it's sliced that I initially made for this #TwelveLoaves post. I will deny it ever existed). I first made this version while baking every recipe in Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. It was great to revisit the floury, tattered, and much loved pages of the book to bake this bread again.

Stollen Bread Recipe



1/2 C whole milk
1/2 C (2 1/4 oz) unbleached all purpose flour
4 tsp instant yeast


1 C golden raisins
1 C mixture of dried fruits such as cherries, apricots, apples, cranberries, and currants
1/4 C rum
1 tsp orange extract


2 1/4 C (10 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
1 T sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp cinnamon
1 large egg
5 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 C water
1/2 C slivered blanched almonds
Melted butter
Powdered sugar


  1. Warm the milk to 100 degrees F and add the flour and yeast. Stir and cover with plastic and let sit for one hour, until very bubbly.
  2. In a bowl, mix the fruit, rum, and orange extract, and let sit while you are making the dough.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, sugar, salt, zests, and cinnamon and whisk to combine. 
  4. Add the sponge, egg, butter, and water (enough to create a soft but sticky dough. Mix on low with the paddle attachment for about 2 minutes to fully combine. 
  5. Cover the bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes. 
  6. Drain the fruit, and add it to the bowl. Use your hands to mix it into the dough.
  7. Using the dough hook, knead for about four minutes, adjusting with flour and water to achieve a tacky but not sticky dough. 
  8. Form the dough into a ball and place it into an oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for about 45 minutes. 
  9. On a lightly floured counter, press the dough into a 8 inch by 4 inch rectangle. Sprinkle with the half of the almonds over the top. 
  10. With a small floured rolling pin, press in the center of the dough the long way and roll the middle out to 1/2 inch thick, but not all of the way to the sides. Leave the long sides thick. 
  11. Lift one long side, and fold it over the other side, leaving some overlap. Tuck the rest of the almonds inside the fold, and then pick up the overlap and fold it back. The shape sort of resembles a "Z." 
  12. Place the loaf onto a parchment lined baking sheet, gently press the layers together, and shape it into a crescent. Spray the loaf with spray oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for about an hour.
  13. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan, and bake for another 35 to 50 minutes, until the interior reaches about 190 degrees F. 
  14. After removing the loaf from the oven, place it on a wire rack. Immediately brush it with melted butter, and generously sift powdered sugar over it. 
  15. Cool completely before slicing. 

#TwelveLoaves is a monthly bread baking party created by Lora from Cake Duchess and run with the help of Heather of girlichef, which operates smoothly with the help of our bakers. Our host this month is Liz from That Skinny Chick Can Bake, and our theme is Holiday Breads. For more bread recipes, visit the #TwelveLoaves Pinterest board, or check out last month’s mouthwatering selection of #TwelveLoaves Pumpkin Breads.
If you’d like to add your bread to this month's #TwelveLoaves collection, here’s what you need to do:
  1. Post your Twelve Loaves bread on your blog, making sure to mention the Twelve Loaves challenge in your blog post (this helps us to get more members as well as share everyone's posts).
  2. Please link your post to the linky tool at the bottom of this blog. The bread MUST meet the Twelve Loaves theme (enter theme). 
  3. Share your Twelve Loaves bread (must be baked and posted this month) on your blog by enter the last day of the month.
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