December 30, 2005

christmas cookie quartet, with teas

Now it's the last Thursday night (okay, Friday morning to be precise) of the year, and exact a week ago I was being busy making cookies for Christmas. Christmas was just a few days away when I suddenly made up my mind and started making cookies for the holiday, like I had done for last Christmas as well as the one before the last.

I didn't have much time, but I managed to make four kinds - pistachio & lemon snowball cookies, szechuan pepper biscotti with pistachios & cranberries, pistachio & pomegranate florentines, and honey, cinnamon & lemon oatmeal cookies. You may probably notice the ingredients are heavily overlapped (pistachios in three out of four, cranberries, citrus, and honey any more?), but I guess the cookies themselves managed to differentiate themselves from each other, thanks to the varying shapes, textures, and flavors.

These biscotti were what drew my attention the first in the latest issue of Waitrose Food Illustrated (December 2005). It was called Pistachio & Szechuan Pepper Biscotti and the recipe can be find here. I love Szechuan Pepper, usually in cooking but in baking as well. The recipe uses caraway seeds, but I skipped that part (did I ever tell you I hate anise flavors?) and instead added ground ginger. I also added some dried cranberries to give a bit of Christmas touch to the cookies with their color combined with green from pistachios. I tried them with sweet white wine in a traditional style, but let me tell you that I liked them better paired with white peach-flavored oolong tea.

Snowball cookies are definitely the cookie of my choice for Christmas. It wasn't a very long time ago that I tried this very combination of pistachio and lemon in snowball cookies and forgot to put lemon, and I was glad I got myself a chance for revenge so soon. This time I simply followed the recipe in donna hay magazine (Issue #22, 2005), and it worked fine. I liked pistachio and lemon together, but I'd boost the amount of lemon zest if I make them again.

These oatmeal cookies were also from Waitrose Food Illustrated (December 2005), with recipe also available here. These sugar- and wheat-free cookies (they use honey as a sweetner and steel-cut oats in place of flour) reminded me of American homemade granola a bit, except these are in the form of cookies. Sesame seeds added an extra crunch, while my addition of dried cranberries gave soft and tart fruitiness.

The least easy and quick-to-make among the four, possibly, was these Florentines. This was found in book In The Sweet Kitchen: The Definitive Baker's Companion by Regan Daley (Artisan, 2001), called Pistachio-Cranberry Florentines with White Chocolate and Orange. The list of ingredients was as long as the name of the cookies, but once you've got them ready, making the dough (or more like a lumpy mixture) was a breeze. For the record, I used homemade candied peel of Japanese summer-orange instead of orange, and zest of yuzu rather than orange, and pomegranate seeds in place of dried cranberries. Loaded with fruits and nuts, these cookies tasted as gorgeous as they looked - really sweet but tart, chewy but not overy so, although I have to say they got a bit limply on the next day.

To match the cookie assortment, I had assorted Christmas teas, too;

A holiday assortment of blend teas from Lupicia, a Japanese tea shop formerly known as L'epicier. These were called Cache-cache (assorted fruits), Jingle Bells (yogurt & citrus), Christmas Wreath (apple, cranberry, & spices), White Christmas (white chocolate & apricot), and Carol (Straberry & vanilla), respectively, coming in a box along with three other teas. I wouldn't daresay Lupicia is the best tea shop around, but they certainly know how to attract tea shoppers with their selections of seasonal flavors packaged in limited-edition pretty tins.

I guess I said we were having another warm winter last month, but the weather suddenly turned to the opposite as we entered into December; lots of places had a record snow for December, and while Tokyo hasn't seen real snow cover yet, we are having cold evenings so far.

This was up in the mountain, by the way... we'd rarely see this much snow in Tokyo. Stay warm if you're having a cold weather, and if not, well, enjoy the warmth of the sun!


Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos. And, the cookies look amazing, of course. Best wishes for the New Year! 

Posted by Josh

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous pics! I especially like the tea picture. Have a safe and happy new year! 

Posted by Kathy

Anonymous said...

あなたの ブロッぐが だい好き! I love biscotti! Italians usually soak them into a sweet wine called "Vin Santo" ^_^ Happy New Year! ^_^ 

Posted by aoi

Anonymous said...

I haven't been to Japan in over a year! L'Epicier has always been one of my favorite stores to visit. When did they change their name? Why did they change their name, has anything else changed? 

Posted by christina

Chocopie said...

Hi, chika
Your blog is always still amazing and fantastic. You are one of what I like the most among blogs. As I was very busy, I couldn't well take care of my own blog. As new year's resolution, I came back to home. I'm very happy to meet you again. I hope to see you very often in your and my blogs.
Happy new year.

* How can I take picture like you ? 

Posted by Chocopie

chika said...

Hi everyone, thanks a lot for the comments!

aoi - yeah the recipe does suggest that the biscotti be served with sweet wine for soaking, but I liked these particular cookies better with peach tea. Yummy either way!

christina - I don't konw why they changed the name, but let's face it, L'epicier, meaning "the grocer" in French, doesn't exactly represent what they are, don't you think? It happened sometime early last year, and they seemingly have the same product lines (which are every expanding, though).

Posted by chika