There are other reasons that Germany came my mind for this week's baking:
1. Our TWD host this week is Ulrike of Küchenlatein, a wonderful baker who lives in Germany.
2. I had some cool cookie cutters that I bought on a 2007 trip to Germany (that I couldn't wait to use).
and finally, and most exciting (to me!):
3. In two days I'm heading to Germany to poke around Northern Germany and visit with my daughter J.D.E., who's studying in Berlin for a year. I'm looking forward to the German Christmas Markets, as well as enjoying torte, grillhaxe, and lebkuchen!!! We'll return home together in time for Christmas.
The cookie cutters I used for this recipe are (1) a church shaped cutter that I bought at the Cologne cathedral shop, and (2) two cutters that replicate the little man (called "Ampelmann") who is featured on traffic crossing signals found in the former East part of Berlin.
Here's a little history of the figural traffic signals, from the Ampelmann shop's website:
The East German pedestrian traffic light symbols, or‚ 'ampel men’ are Berlin born and bred. They came into being on October 13th 1961 when, in response to the growing threat of road traffic accidents, the traffic psychologist, Karl Peglau , introduced the first pedestrian signals to the GDR capital. And so the vehicle traffic light, which had directed traffic alone up to that point, was joined by the pedestrian traffic light. Its design was psychologically conceived, because road-users react more quickly to appealing symbols.
He is appealing, isn't he? No visit to Berlin would be complete without stopping at the very appealing shops filled with a dizzying array of Ampelmann-logo wares, including some specially for Christmas. When we were in Berlin last year I picked up some felt Ampelmann ornaments (red and green, of course) and some Ampelmann cookie cutters.
The cathedral, or "Dom" in Cologne, Germany is a stunning example of Gothic church architecture. It sits on a broad plaza in the center of the city and is home to many artistic and spiritual treasures.
Although Cologne was heavily bombed in the second World War, the cathedral survived relatively intact. There has been some reconstruction, however, and one of the most stunning modern features is the new "pixel" stained-glass window (2007) by German artist Gerhard Richter.
The Cologne cathedral is huge. The cookie cutter of the cathedral is not.
- I didn't weigh my flour this time, and I think I ended up using less. I try to use 4 3/4 oz/cup for Dorie's recipes. A tiny bit more flour might have made these easier to work with.
- The dough is really tasty -- buttery, not too sweet.
- I froze a little over half of the dough for making Christmas cookies later.
- I rolled the dough fairly thin, pretty much out of habit - I'm always trying to squeeze maximum quantity out of my rolled cookies. Mine were closer to 1/8" than 1/4". They cooked in 8 minutes.
- The dough is very soft. I had to keep popping the cookie sheet and the dough back into the fridge. It took me forever to get one filled cookie sheet. Even with lots of extra chilling I had trouble transferring the cookies to the baking sheet. The cathedral's towers kept bending and Ampelmann got pulled out of shape.
- I sprinkled colored sugar and sparkly sugar on the cookies before baking. For the cathedral portal, I used cocoa roast almonds (these are delicious as a snack, btw). On some of the cathedral cookies I tried to suggest stained glass windows with multicolored chocolate covered sunflower seeds. When I pushed in the almonds and little sunflower seeds, the cookies smooshed a bit.
- The cookies were delicate after baking also, which made them a bit difficult to remove from cookie sheet. In particular, the Red Ampelmann kept trying to lose his head.
Warm from the oven, the cookies were soft and chewy, rich and just a bit of vanilla-y sweetness. Yum!! The next day, they were crisper but still with great flavor.
When I roll the rest of these, I think I'll refrigerate/freeze the dough even more than I did for this set. My plan: roll the chilled dough between wax paper, then freeze it flat before cutting the cookies, to see if the cookies kept their shape better when cut. I will also roll the cookies thicker, and undercook them a bit, so they will be chewy rather than crisp.
For years our go-to plain roll cookie was the Rich Roll Cookie from the 1975 Joy of Cooking. Last year we tried a new recipe: the Cook's Illustrated Glazed Butter Cookies (from the 2007 Holiday Baking issue). In typical CI fashion, the test kitchen worked out a dough, with a bit of cream cheese and no leaven, that would be nice and flat (for decorating) when baked and tasty but sturdy enough for rolling. We ended up loving the CI recipe. This year, I plan to do a taste test of Dorie's recipe with the CI recipe. Stay tuned!
I put the cookies in the freezer, (along with the disk of uncooked dough). When I get back from Germany, we'll have some cookies waiting for us, and they will be a good reminder of the trip! Thanks, Ulrike, for choosing this recipe. We all got a chance to add to our holiday cookie supply! If you'd like to bake these, you can find the recipe on Ulrike's post (you can read her post in German or English - just click on the little flag!), or on page 146-147 of Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home to Yours.
This would be a good week to go to the TWD blogroll and click on blogs of some of the 370+ TWD bakers, as I'm sure they've baked some amazing decorated cookies and tasty flavor combinations.
I've baked up most of the December recipes for TWD (with just a few battle scars), and will set up next week's recipe (Buttery Jam Cookies) to post on the correct day (I hope) in my absence. I'll also try to set up a few other posts from my backlog of drafts, so you'll have something to read. You won't be seeing as many (any?) comments from me for the next few weeks, as my time and internet capability will be quite limited. I'll be back in time for Christmas. Wishing you much joy in your holiday preparations!