‘Tis the season for sharing home-baked treats! This year we partnered with some of our favorite bakers to create the ultimate holiday cookie swap. See them all here, then follow along and show us your own holiday cookies on Instagram @williamssonoma with the hashtag #wscookieswap.
Kristin Rosenau was studying to be an astroparticle physicist when she started her blog, Pastry Affair, as a creative side project. Since then, it’s blossomed into a rich source of recipes and inspiration for home bakers — featuring cakes, cookies, breads, brunch dishes and more. Here, Kristin tells us all about baking with her family during the holidays, her favorite holiday cookies, and best presentation ideas. She also shares her recipe for crunchy, decadent Chocolate Almond Biscotti — perfect for Christmas morning.
What are some of your favorite holiday baking traditions?
Growing up, my grandmother made a large batch of honey cookies with anise frosting to share with the entire family when the holidays arrived. It was a favorite of my grandfather’s and quickly grew to be a favorite of everyone else. Even after a large dinner, it was not unusual to spot a cousin sneaking a handful from the cookie plate. Recently, the honey cookie tradition has been passed on to my mother and me. We ensure the family never has to go without the cookies or the memories that come with them.
What flavors are best for baking this time of year?
In the midst of cold and snow of winter, I reach for classic, comforting flavors. Cinnamon, vanilla beans, and fresh ginger get plenty of use in sweet treats. I keep the cupboards stocked so I never need to fear going without.
Let’s talk cookies. What are your top tips for making the best batch every time?
For cut-out cookies, I chill the dough before rolling and right before the cut-out cookies go into the oven. Chilling the dough a second time solidifies the butter and prevents the dough from spreading once it hits the heat from the oven. The cookies keep their perfect shapes, which gives them a more impressive appearance and makes them easier to decorate. It may take a little extra time in the kitchen, but the results are worth the wait.
Any creative cookie decorating ideas?
Royal icing can go a long way with cookie decorating. The icing can be dyed any color to add vibrant designs to any cookies, but I often prefer the brilliant white to outline snowflakes, draw in snow-covered trees, or add silly faces to gingerbread men. A sprinkling of silver or gold sprinkles can add a sophisticated touch for the fancy parties that pop up during this time of year.
When it comes to holiday cookies, do you stick to tradition or try to experiment?
The holidays are one of the few occasions where I stick to the classics. No holiday would seem complete without a batch of sugar cookies, a plate of honey cookies, and a small army of gingerbread men. I experiment in the kitchen throughout the rest of the year, but the holidays are the time to come back to the desserts that remind me of home.
Any memorable cookie baking disasters?
A few years ago, my sister and I tried a new sugar cookie recipe for the holidays. Instead of baking up flat and smooth for decorating, they puffed in the oven, becoming awkward and three dimensional. The cookies may not have been what we intended, but Santa did look a little more realistic with his bulging belly.
What’s in your ideal cookie tin?
My grandmother’s honey cookies, a stack of sweetly decorated sugar cookies, a couple biscotti (to sneak for breakfast) and stolen peanut butter blossoms from my aunt who can do them no wrong.
Can you share any fun presentation/gift wrapping ideas for cookies?
Craft stores often carry small, square treat boxes with a clear lid. I like to stack the cookies, wrap the box in twine, and leave a sweet message for the recipient. The little peek inside is irresistible.
Tell us about the recipe we’re sharing, Chocolate Almond Biscotti. What was your inspiration? What’s special about the recipe?
On the weekends, I love to spend time brewing the perfect cup of French press coffee. As a baker, it seemed natural to find the right cookie to enjoy it with. This recipe combines two of my favorite flavors—chocolate and almond. The crunchy cookie is my excuse to enjoy a little decadence for breakfast or a morning coffee break. When dunked in hot coffee, the chocolate drizzle melts which gives each bite an extra special touch.
Any tips for people making these cookies? Creative twists or other ideas?
Use a sharp serrated knife when cutting the cookies from the log. A dull knife can cause the cookies to crumble. There are also many interesting ways to play around with the basic recipe. Instead of semi-sweet chocolate, you can opt for dark or white chocolate in the cookie (or for the drizzle). The cookie can also be made with hazelnuts or macadamia nuts for a different, but equally delicious flavor. This crunchy cookie is great to gift because it can keep fresh for weeks in a sealed container without worry of going stale.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?
I enjoy them dunked into a hot fresh cup of coffee, but I have a friend who claims the only way to eat them is with a tall glass of milk.