Although I’m generally not that enamoured with clichés, I happily make an exception for those whirling nowadays. Shining Christmas trees, gatherings around the crackling hearth, Christmas cards and carols, advent wreaths, presents and more presents: no objection at all!
Given my fondness for holiday traditions, I also hadn’t the slightest objection when one of my favourite fellow bloggers, Annie from Montgomeryfest, asked me to participate in an initiative with a few fellow bloggers aiming to share our most savoured holiday traditions (#TheExpatHolidays). The end result is a collection of holiday traditions around the world and, as icing on the (Christmas) cake, a deepened camaraderie between the participating bloggers.
The tradition I chose to share is one that stems from my childhood but that has been adjusted and fine-tuned along the way. It’s a recipe for the most delicious cookies I know. It was my teacher at the kindergarten who first taught me the recipe during a cooking class. I still have the recipe, in my good old teacher’s graceful handwriting. It commands me to knead the dough with clean hands, to ask help from mom and dad to get the cookies out of the oven and it comes complete with detailed instructions of what to do in case of burn wounds. We make the cookies almost every year during the holiday period as it’s one of the cosiest, homeliest things to do and the kneading is almost therapeutic (not to mention the entrancing smell that fills the house).
Over the years, as I’ve become more aware of how unhealthy sugar really is, I’ve been trying out healthier adaptations of the original recipe. At first, I reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe to less than half. Later, I discovered you can completely replace the sugar by Xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar substitute with an extremely low glycemic index, which doesn’t have any aftertaste (I tried Stevia but I feel it gives my dishes a subtle but unmistakable dishwashing detergent taste). The taste and texture of Xylitol are very similar to sugar although I think it is somewhat sweeter (so you need less of it). One word of caution however: Xylitol is very poisonous for dogs and cats so make sure you don’t feed them any leftovers!
Here’s the modified recipe!
125 g butter OR (healthier) coconut oil (make sure you take the regular rather than the extra vierge coconut oil, otherwise your cookies will taste like coconut)
50 g (¼ cup) dark brown sugar OR (healthier) 30 to 40 g (1/8 to 1/6 cup) brown sugar substitute made from Xylitol (I make this myself by adding ¾ tablespoon blackstrap molasses to 1 cup of Xylitol and blending with a fork until it is evenly distributed).
100 g self-raising flour and 100 g buckwheat flour, mixed (in principle your can also use 200 g of buckwheat flour and add some baking powder to make the recipe even healthier, but I feel that the cookies taste a little less good and break easily if you don’t use any regular flour at all).
½ to 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder, according to taste
A good pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350°F. Mix the butter/coconut oil with a wooden spoon until the mixture is light and foamy. Add the egg and stir. Add the salt, the cinnamon and the flour and mix with the spoon until you get a dough firm enough to knead. Knead on a surface sprinkled with flour and form cookies (I prefer them very thin as they will be more crunchy that way). Put them on a baking tray covered with butter or with baking parchment. Bake for 20-25 minutes (make sure you check regularly so they don’t burn as each oven has different cooking times!). Revel in the delicious smell that fills the kitchen. When the cookies have cooled down, balance whether festiveness or health are more important to you. If you choose the latter, the cookies are all ready; if you choose the former: decorate the cookies with icing. I did it this time for the sake of the pictures (#bloggerlife) but normally I don’t.
You can store the cookies in an airtight container for a few days. When they have lost their crispness, simply put them in the oven again for a few minutes.
These cookies taste best when consumed in conjunction with another cliché: some classic holiday movies. Enjoy! Just a pity that the weather doesn’t seem to cooperate on one of my other favourite holiday clichés: that of a white Christmas!
I wish you all a wonderful Christmas eve…
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