For the third year in a row now I put together an advent calendar for Esther and Sebastiaan.
It was a little bitter-sweet this time since I find myself continually thinking about time passing and my children growing up quickly and I wonder whether they will still enjoy a home-made advent calendar next year?
So even though November was a very busy month, I did not want that to be an excuse for not doing it. Some brainstorming with my husband about what we could include and fun things we could do with the kids in December and then two evenings of crafting and we made it happen.
There are a few treats in there and some of the packages contain Christmas related stuff that we’ve had for a long time (a favorite Christmas story by Astrid Lindgren that we’ve had for 10 years and always reread during advent, a candle holder…), but for most days there is an envelope with an activity. On Saturday it was going to our local Farmer’s market (the kids got a few Euros each to spend there – Sebastiaan bought mustard) and on Sunday it was baking gingerbread cookies. Gingerbread cookies are always the first Christmas cookies we bake because they get better if stored for a few weeks before eating. On Saturday evening I made the dough so that everything would be ready.
But on Sunday morning Remco and Sebastiaan went ice-skating (Sebastiaan got new skates from Sinterklaas and could not wait to try them out) and there was an accident and they spent most of the afternoon in ER and now Sebastiaan has a seasonally red cast and cannot use his left hand.
Not quite the peaceful advent Sunday I had in mind but in the end we did bake the cookies and even Sebastiaan participated and one-handedly cut out some of his favorite shapes.
There’ll be a lot more Christmas cookie baking in our house in the coming two weeks and hopefully in yours too, so I thought this would be a good moment to update my Christmas Cookie Hall of Fame. I hope you’ll find some inspiration here!
Linzer cookies – a classic that is best not messed with. My father’s and my daughter’s all time favorite cookies – Esther even baked them in the middle of the summer this year because she couldn’t wait.
Christmas spice cookies with lemon glaze – loosely based on the German ‘”pfeffernüsse”, with all the right spices, orange and lemon zest, tiny currants marinated in brandy, chocolate and lemon glaze on top and decorated with tiny pieces of candied peel.
Snowflake cookies – these are as christmassy looking cookies as you can get. With ground almonds and lemon zest in the dough and a lemon glaze on top, they also taste great. I make them around the same time as the gingerbread cookies, so that I can use one batch of icing to ice both.
Chocolate almond sticks with cardamom ganache – chocolate, butter, almonds and sugar dough sandwiched together with cardamom and cinnamon scented ganache, then dipped in more chocolate. They are probably my favorite Christmas cookies.
Star tower cookies – I started making these two years ago upon a request from my husband and they have become one of my favorites. The dough is spiced with mace (such a great, underused spice!) and coffee and sandwiched together with a firm ganache with more spices (cinnamon, cloves and cardamom). They look like miniature snow-dusted Christmas trees.
Crispy cane cookies – there are oats in these cookies – oats that are first caramelized in sugar. That’s what makes the cookies crunchy. They are also fun to shape, a break from the rolling out of dough most cookie recipes require. Also, they’re dipped in chocolate (always a good thing).
Peanut butter and mocha checkerboards – coffee and peanut butter are my husband’s favorite food groups so this pretty cookie was catering to his preferences. But I’m sure there are more people who will appreciate this flavor combination, especially when it comes in a pretty parcel with a chocolate ribbon.
Chcocolate pretzel cookies – a recipe I found in my grandma’s Christmas cookbook and one I like for the intense chocolate taste and the pretty shape.
Cranberry walnut biscotti – the dough is made with butter so these don’t need to be dipped in coffee first like the rock-hard Italian version of biscotti. Studded with walnuts and dried cranberries and spiced with cinnamon and ginger and with a dash of brandy for good measure.
And finally: Parmesan poppy biscuits (above right) – for those of you who prefer cheesy biscuits to sugary cookies.