Feature

Holiday Sweets

By Christina Ossa

Volume 2 Issue 3

January 14, 2022

Holiday Sweets

Original photography by Christina Ossa

As we continue settling into the New Year, it’s always a good idea to reflect on what made our year and the passing holiday season special. Holiday desserts are a pinnacle of Christmas for me since I bake many different desserts during every winter break for my family to enjoy. Even during a more underwhelming Christmas season (in my opinion at least), I looked forward to baking different varieties of holiday-themed cookies as well as pies and other desserts. Here, I’ll share a couple of my favorite recipes you can enjoy either in passing for the rest of this cold winter season. While these recipes are perfect for the holidays, you could also cook them on a rather cold winter day, or at your leisure when you’re in the mood for something sweet!



Linzer Cookies:


This recipe is one of, if not my favorite cookie recipes since you’d never be able to imagine the perfect combination sweet raspberry jam creates when spread atop a buttery Linzer cookie, sandwiched perfectly between another Linzer cookie. Also referred to as a Linzer Tart, this cookie is made with two components: 2 powdered sugar-coated cookies to be sandwiched atop of each other, holding a homemade raspberry jam in the middle. The cookie itself is almost like a sandwich, its size perfect for one-serving but that slight acidity from the lemons to the raspberry jam offsets the more sweet and rich flavor the cookie itself holds. This variation of Linzer tarts contains poppy seeds which set it apart from many other Linzer cookie recipes, which I find is a beautiful touch to the cookie. When you first bite into it, the cookie is buttery and soft, almost melting in your mouth, and the addition of poppy seeds gives the cookie an extra crunch that isn’t particularly necessary but adds to the overall flavor profile of the cookie. The dough lasts up to 2 weeks when kept in the refrigerator, and can even last 1-2 months if you choose to freeze it, making it a perfect cookie to make in passing for whenever you have a craving for something sweet. Linzer cookies are a perfect, less-complicated treat to enjoy and share with your family during the holidays, and you could even make for your friends to give them a small gift to show your appreciation for them if you can’t think of any gifts to give to them.



Ingredients:


Raspberry Jam:

-2 cups (or 1 large package/2 small packages) raspberries -½ cup sugar

-1 tsp lemon juice -3 tsp lemon zest


Cookie Dough:

-1 cup flour (possibly more needed for kneading) -1 cup almond flour

-½ cup + 2 tbsp (1 stick and ¼ stick) butter -½ cup sugar

-Pinch of salt -1 egg

-½ tsp lemon zest -1 tsp vanilla extract

-4 tsp poppy seeds


Directions:


Raspberry Jam:

-Take the raspberries and wash in a colander (wash your fruit before baking anytime attempting a recipe!)

-Grab a medium-sized saucepan and add the raspberries, sugar, lemon juice and zest to the pot

-Simmer the jam for about 30-45 minutes on medium-low, stirring very occasionally and tilting the top of the pan to ensure heat releases from it (the jam will overflow if the pot is completely covered)

-When the jam is finished (it should be a blood-red type color that sticks to a spoon and is slightly syrupy), transfer it to a glass container and have it chill for 5-10 hours


Cookies:

-Pre-heat your oven to 350°F

-Once the jam is done, grab a small to medium bowl and whisk; add the almond and AP (all-purpose) flour to the sift atop the bowl and carefully sift in the flours; once combined and finely sifted, set aside

-In a large bowl, add the butter and sugar and begin to whisk them together until they’re completely combined

-Once combined add the salt and egg, thoroughly whisking the mixture until combined again

-Add the lemon zest by zesting a lemon with a lemon zester over the mixture, and after add the vanilla extract

-After the wet ingredients are combined, add the flours to the mixture and fold them in with a spatula; after the flour comes together with the wet ingredients, mix the poppy seeds in with a spatula

-Once the dough is completely combined, scrap the dough (which should be slightly thick but also a bit runny) onto enough plastic wrap to cover the dough; after you’ve gathered the dough into the plastic wrap, place it in the fridge to cool for 1-4 hours, overnight, or place it to freeze (if you’d like to preserve the dough for a later time) in your freezer

-Once the dough is chilled, unwrap it and spread flour across a countertop or flat surface large enough to roll out the dough; begin to roll out the dough with a rolling pin to ¼ of an inch thickness

-After the dough is rolled out, take a cookie cutter and begin forming cookie shapes, placing them aside from the dough as you go (take them out from the dough so nothing smushes together, I recommend forming them at the ends of the dough and work toward the middle/top)

-Once you’ve formed your cookies, grease at least two baking sheets and place parchment paper atop them; after placing the parchment, put your cookies on top and spread them out equally so they have enough space to bake without one cookie baking into the other

-Next, if you want the classic Linzer tart look with a hole in the middle of the top cookie, make a small hole with a smaller cookie cutter (I use the hole end of a large icing tip) in the middle of half the number of cookies you’ve formed

-Once completely formed and cut to desired shape, chill the cookies in the freezer for at least 10-15 minutes; after chilling, place the baking sheets in the oven and bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes (you’ll know they’re done once the cookies begin to brown on their surface); store the cookies away if the jam is still not finished chilling

-After your jam is done chilling and your cookies are cooled, place a generous teaspoon (use a small spoon) of jam onto non-hole-cookies (the ones that don’t have the holes in the middle) and top them with the holed-cookies

-Once you’ve finished spooning the jam and constructing the cookies, set a display (optional) and enjoy!


Blueberry Pie:


Pie is another holiday classic dessert, as many families across the world enjoy many different varieties and flavors of pie. Each year, I make this recipe for my family and myself, and each year it’s always gone in only a matter of days - even hours if my extended family is over. This pie highlights the tartness of blueberries yet that same tartness is offset by the sweetness that’s brought out of the blueberries once the pie is left to cool. This pie contains a beautifully rich and sweet blueberry filling, mixing components like acidity from lemons and accentuating the sweetness that’s hidden in blueberries with sugar and spices. It also has a buttery crust that melts in the mouth, the same crust from one of my other pie recipes (Fresh Pumpkin Pie vs. Canned Pumpkin Pie: Is it Worth the Time?) which only adds to and supports the sweet and sour blueberry pie filling. It’s almost like combining a sugar cookie base with blueberry jam, and in theory that sounds very sweet, but when the acidity and spice level is controlled it amounts to a perfect combination of both sugar and tart flavors that mesh beautifully on the tongue. This pie recipe is a dish any family member would be ecstatic to try when it’s placed out on the dinner table or with the other desserts many others brought. The crust is beautifully browned, and the blueberry filling is perfectly set once the pie cools, creating an elegant display of blueberry pie. So, if you enjoy pie and sweets that are not too sweet and just a little tart, then you and your family or even friends will surely enjoy this recipe.



Ingredients:


Filling:

-¾ cup sugar -¼ cup cornstarch

-1 tsp vanilla extract - ½ tsp cinnamon

-¼ tsp allspice -2 pinches of salt

-Zest of 1 Lemon -Half a lemon, juiced

-2 lbs blueberries -1 egg whisked (for brushing)

-2 tbsp butter -Cane sugar (dusting)


Pie Crust:

-2 cups all-purpose flour (more needed for kneading) -2 tbsp granulated sugar

-Pinch (about ½ tsp) kosher/fine salt -1 ½ egg yolks

-4 tbsp ice water



Directions:


Crust:

-First add the dry ingredients, whisking the flour, sugar, and salt together

-Make sure your butter is COLD or frozen and chop it into cubes

-Combine the butter with your dry mixture and rub the butter into your flour mixture with your fingertips (the coldest part of your hand)

-Once combined, pour about a tablespoon at a time into your dough and combine it with a fork until it forms clumps in your hand when you squeeze a piece of the dough

-Turn this mixture into a ball and put saran wrap over it and let it chill for 2-3 hours (or until hardened)

-Once hardened, flour a counter/surface and a rolling pin, cut the dough in half (you’ll need half the dough for the base and half for the top), and roll out your dough to ¼ in thick

-Lightly fold your dough over 4 times and place the tip, lined in the middle of your pie pan

-Unfold the dough and make sure it’s lined up with the pie pan correctly

-Optional: once lined up, make a design of your choice for the edges of the pie shell

-Once done, put in the fridge to chill until your filling is ready


OR


-Use a pre-bought pie shell (you’ll need the one you roll out though, I recommend Pillsbury pie crusts)


Filling:

-Grab the blueberries and wash in a colander (wash your fruit before baking/cooking anytime attempting a recipe!); once washed, add the blueberries to a large bowl

-To the bowl, add the sugar, cornstarch, salt, spices, and vanilla extract

-Zest and juice the lemon as necessary, combine all ingredients with a rubber spatula

-Grab your chilled, lined dough add the blueberries inside

-Preheat oven to 350°F


Preparation of the Pie:

-Once the filling is evenly spread across the pie, roll out the other half of the dough and begin slicing into even, long, horizontal, medium-sized slices

-Take each slice and carefully lay it onto the top of the pie, place the horizontal (or vertical) ones first if you’d like to crochet the top of the pie

-(Option 1: Crocheted): Once the vertical/horizontal pieces are placed, one by one place the opposing pieces along the top of the pie

-Act as if you are braiding the pie, crocheting the strip over one part of the opposing slice then putting it under the next one; continue this process for each slice, if you need further clarification look up Pie Braiding/Latticing on YouTube (it’s hard to explain the technique when you see it it’s easier to figure it out)

-(Option 2: Non-Crocheted): Once the vertical/horizontal pieces are placed, drape the opposing pieces atop the vertical/horizontal pieces, making sure they are evenly spaced

-Once you have the top of your pie situated and covered, place the pie pan atop a baking sheet to prevent overflow staining your oven

-After placing the pie on a baking sheet, whisk 1-2 eggs, grab a pastry brush or spoon, and spread with your hands the egg wash onto the edges and top of the pie shell; sprinkle cane sugar (optional but tastes very good and adds to the flavor of the crust) atop the pie shell

-Put the pie in the oven for 20-25 minutes until you notice the edges of the pie beginning to brown, take it out and place onto the stove; take either silicone pie crust shields or aluminum foil and wrap it around the edges of the pie (carefully, though, you don’t want to burn yourself!)

-Once the shields/aluminum foil is wrapped around the edges, egg wash the top of the pie again and add another light dusting of cane sugar (the cane sugar part is optional)

-Place the pie back in the oven for another 25-30 minutes, or until you notice the pie crust has browned in the middle and the filling is bubbling

-Once you see the pie is done, remove it from the oven, allow to cool for 1 to 1 ½ hour (allows the filling to set and enhances the sugars in the blueberries), and enjoy!



If you enjoy desserts during the holidays and overall during the wintertime as much as I do, these two recipes would be perfect to attempt if you have a craving for something both sweet and tart. The holidays are a time for giving and sharing, and though they may have passed, it’s never too early to start thinking about the next holiday season and how you would like to give back to those whom you care about. Even as a late holiday gift, these cookies or even a slice or whole pie would be a perfect late gift that no one would mind (and would even be happy about) receiving. So, though these two recipes are time-consuming and may not be for everyone, these desserts are delicious and if you’re looking to give late holiday gifts would be perfect to give to a family member or friend!