Peppermint Lime Kaleidoscope Cookies

Gift Bags of Peppermint Lime Kaleidoscope Cookies

What a whirlwind it’s been in the OtherWorldly Kitchen. Flour, flour everywhere–along with nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, cookie cutters, baking sheets, and cooling racks. And of course the ever ready digital camera. I’m not quite ready to end the madness, so I’ve actually started developing cookies for next year. Two down, ten to go

Coconut Vanilla Lime Shortbread

Christmas Cookies: Coconut Vanilla Lime Shortbread Stacks

To my palate, coconut and lime are a pairing made in heaven. Coconut on its own is subtle and seductive, like a lazy summer afternoon. Add lime, and it’s party time.

I admit I may be biased on this, as I love lime with almost everything. It is definitely my favorite citrus fruit and our frig is always well stocked. Not a panic if I run out of lemon, but let the lime stash dwindle to almost zero, and it’s Costco-run time. (Thank God for Costco, by the way, as limes are often super expensive elsewhere.)

Toasted Pecan Gems

Toasted Pecan Gems

Have you ever been in a kitchenware store and upon spying a new piece of equipment, baking pan, or whatever, think, “Ohhh, I really NEED that?” But then if the person with you asks what you need it FOR, you mumble something incomprehensible under your breath. Because the truth is you have no idea what you need it for, but you need it nonetheless.

Peanut Butter Ginger Shortbread

Peanut Butter Ginger Shortbread with Chopped Peanuts and Melted Chocolate

This cookie started out innocently enough. I have never put peanut butter in a Christmas cookie and the thought occurred, “Why not?’ But I definitely didn’t want a chewy peanut butter cookie, even though I love them to distraction. To my way of thinking, Christmas cookies must keep for weeks, and that means they need to be nearly moisture-free after baking. Chewy cookies are almost always best on the day they are baked.

Moon over Tunisia (Baharat) Butter Cookies

Moon over Tunisia Butter Cookies

The flavor of these intensely buttery cookies is definitely exotic. It conjures up scenes of ancient ruins, mysterious night, and distant moon. With a generous dose of fragrant spices—sweet paprika, black pepper, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg—these cookies are likely to be like none you have ever experienced.

Lemon Gingerbread Caramel Bars

Lemon Gingerbread Caramel Bars

The idea for this cookie popped into my head after seeing a picture of that classic combination, gingerbread with lemon icing. Could I get those flavors into a cookie?

On the first attempt, I under baked the shortbread and put too much molasses in the caramel. It wasn’t that the caramel was bad per se, but it definitely overwhelmed the more delicate flavor of the shortbread. So I cut the molasses by half, but then for some ungodly reason decided to double the ginger. Wrong move; way too much ginger.

Chocolate & Warm Winter Spice Butter Crisps

Chocolate & Warm Winter Spice Butter Crisps Tied with Ribbon

Just as no Christmas cookie collection is complete without at least one ginger spice cookie, there must also be at least one chocolate cookie in the mix. For this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Silver Bells collection, there are two chocolate cookies. They are similar in construction (at least for the shortbread component) but the spicing and shaping is different for each. For the Chocolate Toasted Coconut Bars, the shortbread dough is spread into a baking pan and the depth is close to ½-inch. For these cookies, you want to roll the dough very thinly and cut with a simple cookie cutter of your choice.

Mary’s Christmas Quilt Cookies (Cinnamon Hot & Orange Shortbread)

Mary's Christmas Quilt Cookies (Cinnamon Hot & Orange Shortbread)

Long ago, in a far away world called the University of Washington School of Art, there was a lone fiber artist who unapologetically extolled the power and deep meaning of color to her comrades who believed with all their hearts that any color other than gray was an indication of naiveté and gross pandering to the unenlightened masses, for whom beauty was—GASP—a virtue.

Ginger Spice Stars

Ginger Spice Stars

Just because a cookie contains what I call Gingerbread Spice, a blend of ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves, with perhaps a little cardamom thrown in for good measure, that doesn’t mean it has to taste like every other gingerbread cookie you’ve ever eaten. There’s a long history behind this the gingerbread cookie, but there is also a lot of latitude and surely many new approaches that have yet to be tried.

Naughty & Nice: Chocolate Toasted Coconut Bars

Closeup of Chocolate Toasted Coconut Bars

You know the cookie-confection called a Nanaimo Bar? Well, that’s where this exploration began. But somewhere along the way, it lost the middle layer of custard icing, moved the chocolate topping to the middle layer, and picked up a topping of toasted coconut instead.

Espresso Orange Butter Cookies

Espresso Orange Butter Cookies

A twist of lemon peel with espresso is a classic pairing, but for supreme indulgence, I prefer orange peel and a spot of chocolate with a tiny pot of French press coffee.

And that combo, folks, is the inspiration for this very adult cookie. I simply couldn’t resist putting three of my favorite flavors together in one delicious morsel. I’m actually surprised that I didn’t think of it years ago. Nevertheless, better late than never, as the saying goes.

Silver Bells (Chinese Five Spice Butter Cookies)

Silver Bells (Chinese Five Spice Cookies)

I have always loved bells, both looking at them and listening to them. Whenever I’m at the New Renaissance Bookstore in Portland Oregon, I rush over to the wonderful bells selection and play them all, slowly, first one, then another. I’m sure the staff loves to see me coming through their door.

In certain meditation CDs, a single bell is sometimes used to signify the beginning or ending of a section. It has the effect of both grounding and silencing the mind. For a brief second, or maybe it’s a split second, the mind is empty and the most exquisite silence takes the place of the usual dirge. It’s like a reminder to come home to oneself.

Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Silver Bells

Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Silver Bells

Welcome to LunaCafe’s 3rd annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies celebration. I’m so excited to share this year’s Silver Bells collection with you. The song by the same name puts me in a festive mood, especially when sung by this crooner.

The symbol of the bell is rich is meaning across almost all cultures. Ringing of bells is said to bring good fortune and bliss, and I hope these fragrant, buttery, spicy, crisp, and hopefully surprising cookies will bring the same to you and yours this holiday season.

Cornmeal, Black Pepper & Rosemary Butter Cookies

Cornmeal, Black Pepper & Rosemary Cookies in Cookie Tin

After several weeks of nearly non-stop, high-intensity cookie baking, I present you with the final cookie of this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night bake-a-thon. TA DA!

In the kick off post, I set the stage for this completely new collection of cookies, most of which break rather dramatically from the traditional holiday cookies of my childhood. I really wanted to push my understanding of what makes a remarkable and thus memorable Christmas cookie. I wanted to try new and exciting flavor and texture combinations. I wanted to stretch myself as a baker. As I say in the Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night kick off post, I intended to throw tradition to the proverbial wind this holiday season.

Brown Butter, Toasted Almond & Toffee Shortbread

Bron Butter, Toasted Almond & Toffee Shortbread

Well, folks, we are almost to the end of LunaCafe’s second annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night bake-a-thon. After this post, only one more cookie, and then it’s time to put away all the cutters, stencils, sprinkles, and other holiday cookie baking paraphernalia; plus wipe the flour from every surface in the OtherWorldly Kitchen. And then carefully and lovingly repackage the many large tins of cookies for their final destinations.

But please be assured that I have saved the absolute BEST two cookies for last. We will end this adventure creating the most memorable holiday cookies ever with a bang.

Garam Masala & Candied Ginger Cookies

Group 3

If you have been following along on this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night bake-a-thon, you know this is my year for putting tradition aside and pushing the holiday cookie flavor envelope. Perhaps this particular cookie pushes the envelope to its most extreme so far. I don’t imagine that these cookies will ring everyone’s Christmas bells, but I must tell you I am already nearly addicted to them. If you’re like me, on the first bite you might think, “What the @#$%^$!” Then on the second bite, the thought shifts to, “Wait a minute, this is Interesting.” Then by the third bite, you are full on IN LOVE. Actually this also describes my first encounters with MauiJim, but I digress. :-)

Trim the Christmas Tree & Eat It Too Cookies

Douglas Fir & Orange Blossom Butter Cookies

That’s right! You can eat the tree! Over the past year, I encountered a fair number of Northwest restaurant dishes and cocktails featuring Clear Creek Distillery’s Douglas Fir Eau de Vie. This pale green brandy is an infusion of hand-picked spring buds of the Douglas fir tree. This intriguing liqueur got me thinking about incorporating Douglas fir buds in my own dishes–especially since I live much of the time in the Cascade foothills surrounded by these incredibly fragrant trees.

Heavenly Brown Butter, Lavender & Lime Cookies

Box of Heavenly Brown Butter, Lavender & Lime Cookies

If you have been reading this blog over the 15 months of its existence, you probably know by know that I am very fond of two flavors to an inordinate degree: lavender and lime. You may even remember the Blueberry Lavender Limeade I created this past summer. That inspired flavor combination still lingers in my mind.

Cranberry, Pistachio & Candied Ginger Shortbread

Cranberry, Pistachio & Candied Ginger Cookies in a Stack

If there is one cookie in this year’s Starry Night collection that positively shouts CHRISTMAS, it has to be this one. If you don’t overbrown the cookies, the sparkling red cranberries, green pistachios, and yellow lemon zest and candied ginger will glow like little jewels. To enhance this jewel-like effect, I like to keep the surface embellishment to just a light dusting of fine, clear sanding sugar, which lends sparkle but doesn’t detract from the colorful bits studding each cookie.

Sweet Parmesan Almond Cookies

Platter shot 7

I’ve never seen a recipe for SWEET parmesan cookies. Recipes for SAVORY parmesan cookies abound, as any Bing Search will reveal. But why not a sweet parmesan cookie?

The inspiration for this unusual cookie comes from executive chef, Gregory Denton, of Portland, Oregon’s Metrovino restaurant. Chef Denton recently shared with me his recipe for MetroVino’s Parmesan Pound Cake, which I fell in love with at the restaurant and will share with you in the very near future.

Comfort & Joy Spice Cookies

Comfort & Joy Spice Cookies

No Christmas cookie collection is complete without at least one old world spice cookie. The smell of these cookies baking in the oven is one of the joys of the holiday season. Thus, every December, I make a triple batch of my favorite spice cookie in the world, Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor.

But, remember, this year I challenged myself to come up with an all new collection. So no Pepparkakor, unless the Bradley troops revolt at the last minute (when they discover there are no Pepparkakor), and I am cajoled back into the OtherWorldly Kitchen for a final round of baking.

Merry Maraschino Cherry Cookies

Maraschino Cherry Butter Cookies with Ribbon

Okay, I have a confession to make. I LOVE maraschino cherries. They make me happy. There. I’ve said it.

They’re kitschy, cheeky, and not one bit sophisticated; all perfect reasons, in my book, to adore them. Especially during the kitschy, cheeky, magical holiday season.

Christmas in Provence Cookies

Christmas in Provence Cookies

In Provence, the heart of the Christmas festivities extends over three days (December 24-26), during which time the table is never cleared, thus allowing the angels to partake of the festivities and seasonal delicacies. I kid you not! When I am an angel, this seasonal French celebration is going to be high on my list of earthly visitations. I hope reservations are not required.

Mocha Java Hazelnut Cookies

Mocha Hazelnut Cookies in Box

On the second day of Christmas … my true love gave to me … Mocha Java Hazelnut Cookies.

Every Christmas cookie bake-a-thon should include at least one amazing chocolate cookie. Not only does chocolate add a festive and luxurious note to any celebration, it actually elevates mood and feelings of good cheer. As if this were not enough advantage for a single food source, chocolate is also the richest source of antioxidants known. Imagine! Cookies that bless the mind AND the body.

Rosalyn’s Midwinter Night’s Dream Cookies

Rosalyn's Midwinter's Night Dream Cookies

On the first day of Christmas … my true love gave to me … Rosalyn’s Midwinter Night’s Dream Cookies.

My dearest friend, Rosalyn, and I have danced with a good many wondrous topics over the years, but almost every conversation of ours gets to food at some point. Don’t ask me how the subject of the Lindt Excellence White Coconut bar came up.

I think it started with me saying something about trying to create the world’s best Coconut Cream Pie. As I recall, Rosalyn said I had to get white chocolate into that somehow. Then she told me about the Lindt White Coconut bar and insisted that I get some. And finally there were those 3-4 e-mails asking me if I had tried it yet. I didn’t have a chance.

Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night

Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night

Last year, LunaCafe’s first annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Deck the Halls marathon was all about tradition. Over a few weeks, I baked my way through most of the cookies I have baked every year for the holidays for the greater part of my life. I did, however, up the ante for myself a bit by exploring royal icing techniques for the first time, which added a colorful new dimension to two of the cookies. And I explored a few new-to-me cookie ingredients, such as powdered green tea, rose petal extract, and crushed peppermint sticks. But for the most part, last year’s cookie collection was tried, true, and traditional.

Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor

Ellen's Swedish Pepparkakor

This Swedish cookie is just enough different from all other Scandinavian “gingersnaps” to make it definitely special: delicate, spicy, and hot!

Candy Cane Butter Cookies

Candy Cane Butter Cookies

These candy-cane shaped cookies have gone through a lot of hemming, hawing, and testing over the years. I love the idea, but the final result is never quite perfection. Last year, the texture was not tender enough and the peppermint flavor not pronounced enough. They looked pretty, but well…

Lemon Orange Pecan Thumbprint Cookies

Lemon Orange Pecan Thumbprint Cookies

There are many versions of this particular cookie, but none quite so tender and rich as this one. The addition of orange and lemon juice ensures a tender dough and adds a flavor nuance that is very appealing.

Almond Butter Poinsettia Cookies

Butter Almond Poinsettia cookies

This is a delicious rolled cookie, tender, buttery, and not too sweet—which is tinted and shaped to look like a pink poinsettia. No matter how many types of beautiful cookies festoon a holiday gathering, this one always causes the most buzz. It also disappears first.