Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Homemade Lucky Marzipan Pigs for the New Year

The tradition is believed to come from the idea that families who had a pig to eat over the winter time were considered to be lucky. A saying often heard in Germany is "ich habe Schwein gehabt," meaning, "I have had pig", which means "I've been lucky." 

When perusing European food shops between Christmas and New Year's Day, these little pigs are everywhere in many shapes and styles. I love this German and Austrian tradition of giving out marzipan pigs or Glücksschwein, as a gesture of good luck for a New Year's tradition. Glücksschwein are a lovely surprise to give out to guests at a New Year's party or to coworkers.

There are several methods to make them. You can use a single sided mold, a double sided mold for a 3D pig or just sculpt the marzipan with your hands like I did here. 

To economize your time even further, you can purchase ready made marzipan but I like to make my own, starting with making homemade almond paste.

I used disco dust to embellish these but most people prefer them plain, I can't help myself. I need to end the year with sparkle.

2014 has brought a lot of changes to my life. New jobs, new friends, new opportunities. All of them good. I am so thankful. 

Wishing you all a guten rutsch, as the Germans say, which means a good slide into the New Year!
Homemade Lucky Marzipan Pigs
Prep Time: 20 minutes 
Cook Time: 1 minutes 
Yield: 10 pieces

3/4 cup *blanched ground almonds
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon rosewater
1 tablespoon egg white
Light corn syrup and extra powdered sugar to adjust consistency if needed Pink food coloring
Black food coloring

If you are using almond flour, skip the next two steps.
  • *To blanch raw almonds, boil them in water for one minute, rinse immediately in a colander with cold water and squeeze the skins off with your fingers. They will slip off easily. 
  • Pulse the blanched almonds and a tablespoon of powdered sugar in a food processor until they are completely pulverized. The powdered sugar will prevent the almonds from becoming a paste. 
  • Add the powdered sugar to the food processor and pulse until the almond meal and powdered sugar are combined. I like to take out the blade and use a whisk to break up any lumps that have formed and then replace the blade and pulse a few more times. 
  • Add the pure almond extract and the rosewater and pulse until combined. Add the egg white and pulse until the mixture becomes smooth. 
  • Remove the mixture from the processor and knead in the pink color. If the mixture is too wet and sticky, sprinkle powdered sugar over the mixture a bit at a time to knead it in and make the marzipan stiffer. If the mixture is too dry, knead in a few drops of the light corn syrup. 
  • When the mixture is the right consistency and color, use plastic molds to form the pigs or sculpt them by hand. 
  • I used a tooth pick dipped in black food coloring to make the eyes and accentuate the nostrils on the snouts. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Macaron Monday: Champagne French Macarons for New Year's Eve

You can't go wrong with Champagne flavored French Macarons for your New Year's Eve festival.

These look so festive. I used a few drops of champagne flavored oil in the shells. For the champagne buttercream, I swapped out the usual addition for milk for champagne.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Rum Glazed Pretzel Shaped Cookies

Pretzel cookies always add a bit of visual fun to a cookie platter. These were on my Christmas dinner dessert table last night.

The cookies are made from a plain butter vanilla bean studded cookie dough. The rum glaze has lemon juice added to spike it with bright citrus flavor. when rolling out the cookies, if the dough comes apart, wet your hands with water when handling it and it should behave. 

Service these cookies to children  I leave up to your discretion as there is a significant amount of rum in the glaze. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Glühwein Linzer Hazelnut Cookies

This is my nod to missing all the German Christmas markets as we are in the States this  year for the holidays. 

The plan is be be back there for Christmas next year and I can't wait. I am already planning out all the Markets I would like to visit but as of yet haven't.

Glühwein (roughly translated to "glow wine") is hot mulled German wine served at Christmas markets and restaurants throughout Germany during the holiday season.One of the things I miss most, is taking a break from Christmas shopping to stand at a glühwein hut with friends sipping this lovely spiced hot drink.
These are Linzer style cookies with homemade spiced wine jelly. Use two different size star cutter to create the cookies. The bottom is a solid star cookie, the top has a cutout from a smaller sized star cutter. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Macaron Monday: Gingerbread Spice French Macarons with Molasses Buttercream Filling

What's more Christmassy than Gingerbread? this is a creative way to add the flavor to French Macarons.

I used gingerbread spices in the shells and whipped up a molasses flavored buttercream.

The spicy, homey aroma that came out of my oven when these were baking were enough to put me in a holiday mood.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

White Poinsettia Christmas Cookie Platter

I made a red version of this last year. It was such a hit, I had to make another. And of course I had to experiment with colors.

The idea comes from the brilliant Sweet SugarBelle. It's so simple to make but the wow effect is big. This cookie platter is a perfect homemade seasonal gift or a centerpiece for your holiday dessert table.  

You just use your favorite roll out cookie dough. I used a sugar cooke recipe but gingerbread or chocolate spice versions are also great flavors for the holidays.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

German Almond Fruitcake

Over the years, Christmas fruitcakes have been revered and reviled. However, this mandel früchtekuchen, or Almond Fruitcake, version lives up to classic German baking standards and tastes just like Christmas.

The final result takes a bit of waiting time. The cake contains heavy cream which must be infused overnight with a mixture of spices. 

Consequently, this is not a recipe you can whip together on a whim. Once that is done, the cake comes together rather quickly the next day.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Macaron Monday: Anise French Macarons with Lingonberry Filling

I don't know why but I find these macarons Christmasy.

Maybe it's the spicy shells and the beautiful red lingonberry preserves. 

This Scandinavian cousin to the American cranberry tastes both tart and sweet.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Market in Beautiful Maastricht, Holland

Maastricht is a beautiful Dutch city, not as famous as Amsterdam or The Hague, but still it contains much Beauty, history and charm to offer visitors.

My husband first took me here several years ago right after Christmas and I was surprised to find the Christmas market in full swing. This is how I found out many Christmas markets in neighboring cities in Holland and Belgium remain open, some as late as January 5th. 

In Germany almost all Christmas markets close on December 23rd. So when prioritizing which ones to hit at Christmastime I opt for the ones I want to see in Germany first knowing that if I don't get to the ones in the neighboring countries I have another shot after Christmas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Egg Free Baked Apple Cookies

These Baked Apple cookies or Bratapfel Kekse are the perfect addition to your holiday cookie platter. I love this German recipe. Who doesn't love the concept of a baked apple in a cookie?  The raisins are soaked in a rum sugar mixture for several hours before adding them to the batter. 

The recipe contains no eggs, a perfect fit for those who are allergic. 

I used gala apples in this recipe, which are very sweet. If you would like the result to have a more tart flavor, I would suggest a more sour apple variety such as Winesap or Granny Smith.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Macaron Monday: Chocolate Marshmallow French Macarons with Candy Cane Frosting Filling

'Tis the season for Christmas flavored macarons. I got it covered with these three flavored beauties.

It's always fun to figure out how to pack more than tow flavors info a French macarons. For these. I used both cacao powder and marshmallow flavored oil in the shells. Then I added peppermint extract and crushed candy canes to the frosting filling

Friday, December 5, 2014

Christmas Market in the Caves in Valkenburg, Holland

Last December, we returned to our home in Germany to spend the holidays with our family. Like every magical Christmas spent in Germany, I visit as many Christkindlmarkts or Christmas Markets as I can. Some are the same, some are same same but different and some are just unique, like this one.

Singing Christmas Tree on the Left

Our home is very close to the Dutch and Belgian borders, especially Holland, so hopping back and forth between the two countries is easy and doable on a bicycle in good weather.

The beautiful little town of Valkenburg, clustered around the only hilltop castle (ruins) in The Netherlands is the self proclaimed "Christmas Center" of Holland. This charming excursion is an hour train ride away from where we live in Germany. Valkenburg means "Falcon Mountain". The town showcases live falconry exhibitions in milder weather.

Over the years, I've made several visits here in summer and spring but had never been in the dead of Winter. It had been on my list forever to check out Kerstmarkt Fluweelengrot, a most unusual Christmas market nestled in the caves beneath the castle ruins. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Apple Pie Spice French Macarons with Caramel Filling

Yesterday's Diary of a Mad Hausfrau's post space was dedicated to World AIDS Day so Macaron Monday was pushed to Tuesday.  

You didn't think I would let a week go by with out a new French Macaron flavor, did you?

Didn't think so.

So. As we say goodbye to Fall and head into Winter, here is one last Fall inspired French macaron creation to share before carrying on with the Christmasukah posts.

Let start with the Apple Pie Spice. What is it? Most of the time it is a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and sometimes ginger and cardamon. Fragrant clove powder is also been known to find it's way in there. You can make your own or buy ready made. More fun to mix your own because you can customize it to your liking. Obvi.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Red Velvet Chocolate Truffles World AIDS Day 2014

Today is World AIDS Day and the official theme for 2014 is Focus, Partner, Achieve.

So, Instead of Macaron Monday,  the blog is red today with these delicious, sparkly Red Velvet Truffles that are perfect for the upcoming holiday season.

To read why I am so passionate about this cause, go here.

If you would like or need to get tested for the HIV virus,  The government has created a locator enabling anyone can find the  nearest location.

I made a donation today to AIDS Life Cycle.