PISTACHIO + BLACK SESAME SNOWBALLS

 
snowballs for gifting
 

Snowballs. Swedish Heirloom Cookies. Russian Tea Cakes. Mexican Wedding Cookies. Different names for the same cookie.

These snowballs are based off the traditional recipe my grandmother used for her Christmas cookies when I was growing up, but instead of almonds, I've used roasted pistachios, and also added some black sesame paste. The result is a sweet, nutty, earthy cookie that ends up being a bit more intriguing than the original (though, don't get me wrong, I still love the traditional cookie!)

Pro tip: when eating snowballs, do not inhale while you eat lest you end up coughing up a cloud of powdered sugar.

Anyway, it's food gift packaging week!

If you're like me, you're probably about to start a whole lot of holiday baking, most of which will get wrapped up and gifted to friends, family, coworkers, your mail carrier, kids' teachers, your hair stylist, etc. Baking is a pretty economical way to give gifts. You can throw a huge batch of cookies together for a very small amount of money, divide them up, and end up with gifts for more than a few people. Food-related gifts are the best...they're useful, they don't result in more unnecessary trinkets/junk on the receiving end, and because they're homemade, it's obvious that you put legit time and energy into something. When I get homemade food gifts, I feel loved (even if I'm not crazy about the actual food item gifted). 

Over the course of this week, I'll show you a few different simple ways to package up those food gifts with the hope of giving you some new ideas to use this holiday season. And I'll throw in a few recipes, too, of course. 

Back to the snowballs. I like them best piled in a mason jar tied with a ribbon, as shown above. It helps protect them (they can be fragile), and it keeps the powdered sugar insanity contained. Mason jars are pretty cheap when you buy them in boxes of 12-16 (you can even get them at the hardware store), and I found this pretty twill ribbon on sale last year at Target.  I love giving these out, in any variation, as gifts during the holidays. They're festive -- I mean, they actually look like little snowballs -- and super simple to make.

Pistachio + Black Sesame Snowballs

recipe makes 18-24 cookies (can be easily doubled or tripled!)

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar, plus extra for tossing
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3.5 oz shelled dry roasted unsalted pistachios (I found mine, shelled, at Trader Joe's)
1 TB vanilla extract
a little less than 1/3 cup black sesame paste (found at specialty and asian grocery stores, or make your own)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment.

  2. Grind up pistachios in your blender or food processor. You can go for whatever texture you'd like here - I prefer them to be roughly ground so the cookies have a crunchier texture.
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy.
  4. Add in the rest of the ingredients, and mix until combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice to make sure you're incorporating everything.
  5. Scoop into tablespoon-size chunks, and roll each chunk between your hands to create a smooth sphere. place 2 inches apart on your cookie sheets.
  6. Bake at 325F for 18-24 minutes. The bottoms of the cookies should be golden, and the tops should only have the slightest touch of color. You don't want them to dry out too much.
  7. Pour extra powdered sugar into a bowl. Roll hot/warm cookies in the powdered sugar, and place them on a rack, or on a different (cool) cookie sheet to finish cooling. Lightly dust cookies with more powdered sugar, if desired.
  8. Eat!
  9. These last a while -- if they're sealed airtight, you can get away with about a week or so.

FOODJAMS Vol. 5: COFFEE CARAMEL

 
 

Coffee + caramel...I can't even believe how good this stuff is. But first...

It's FoodJams Volume 5!  As always, we've (Brandon and I) chosen a food-related song to share, and a recipe to go along with it. This week's pick is:

 
 

Per usual, click the album art above to head on over to Black Porridge to read Brandon's post and listen to the song.

I'm not sure I've ever publicly admitted how much I love coffee. I'm just a hot beverage lover in general, but coffee always takes the cake. It's not even about the caffeine...I'm pretty sure caffeine does nothing for me unless I've had maybe 3 or 4 cups of coffee in a row (this almost never happens, but when it does, I go from zero to 60 pretty quickly and then, if there were such thing as negative speed, crash right back down to -20 within a couple hours). I love coffee because there are so many things you can do with it. It's lovely to drink in all variations, but it's also fun to cook and bake with. Coffee-rubbed meat is a very real, and very delicious thing. Coffee in baked goods...yes. Coffee WITH baked goods....double yes. This is also serving as a reminder that I need to share a recipe for Espresso Muffins with you soon. That said...

I don't think you're ready for this jelly...well, actually, caramel.

 
 

If you've never had it before, coffee caramel is the business. It's a marvelous balance between bitter and sweet, and in this recipe, you have total control over how much coffee flavor you want. It's smooth and creamy, with a little added crunch from the coffee grounds (if you choose to leave them in!) Coffee caramel makes the best ice cream topping, too. I'm a rainbow sprinkles kind of girl, actually, so for me this is a close 2nd place to rainbow sprinkles (and closely followed by marshmallows and mochi), but you catch my drift. Drizzle it over ice cream or cupcakes, add some to your latte, eat it by the spoonful...it's entirely up to you.

 
 

Coffee Caramel

makes about 1 1/4 cups

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup cream (I used light cream, which is 18% milk fat, but you could use heavy cream too)
1/2 TB unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 TB fresh coffee grounds
1 tsp espresso powder (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan or milk warmer, steep coffee grounds with the cream for 15 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat once finished steeping. You can strain the grounds from the cream if you'd like, or you can leave the grounds in to add a little texture to your caramel.
  2. If you want extra intense coffee flavor, this is where you'd want to stir in the espresso powder until dissolved.
  3. Add in the vanilla, too.
  4. Set coffee/cream mixture aside.
  5. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine sugar and water. Cook over medium to medium high heat, swirling occasionally (NOT stirring!), until your sugar/water mixture reach a deep amber color. This could take up to 10-15 minutes (maybe even a little more), but don't walk away -- burnt sugar is no fun to clean out of a pan.
  6. Once your deep amber color is reached, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the butter and salt, followed by the coffee cream mixture. Stir carefully, but thoroughly, until everything is combined.
  7. Pour your caramel into a heat-proof glass bowl and set on counter to cool. Alternatively, you can pour directly into a mason jar and leave that out (lid off!) to cool to room temp.
  8. Store in an airtight container or mason jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. You may need to heat it for a few seconds in the microwave to loosen it up before using.