Eat Christmas Cookies

“Nose, nose, jolly red nose,
Who gave thee this jolly red nose?†
Nutmegs and ginger, cinnamon and cloves,
And they gave me this jolly red nose”
I’m on a GINGER high, or call it a roll, but my days are full of ginger. It’s a flavour, with sharpness, that I’ve come to love, and am surprised that the kids have taken to it so willingly too. Fresh ginger is far more pronounced in its gingery taste, and since it’s the season for fresh, wonderful young ginger root here, I’m taking full advantage of it!

Ginger has proven medicinal value, and I have been using it as a base for tea, with Indian basil/tulsi, for my flu ridden husband. Have also made a ginger-honey concoction for the family to heal the cough. I’ve really taken a long shot at it of late, and am very much enjoying using it. Winter means all hearty, spicy and full of warm wholesome flavour. This Ginger cake from David Lebovitz promises all this and much more. It satisfies a deep craving for that something which winter demands, as do these cookies I found at BHG Holiday Cookies.

I love the choice of names that Levobitz’s books have. Something entirely charming about them… and different. ‘Room for Dessert, ‘ Sweet Life in Paris, ‘The Perfect Scoop’, ‘Ripe for Dessert’ … This lovely cake recipe from his first book “Room for Dessert” can be found throughout the blogs and on Epicurious.
The author recommends serving it with stewed or poached plums and whipped cream in “Room for Dessert“, but it’s deliciously moist and flavoursome on it’s own and stores well for a few days. Must admit that a dollop of cream, with some candied orange and ginger ups the luxury on this cake!

Fresh Ginger Cake
adapted from recipe by David Lebovitz from “Room for Dessert”

“This is the most often requested recipe in my repertoire, and I’ve passed it on to many, many people. It appears so often on Bay Area menus (sometimes called Dave’s ginger cake, which, I admit, amuses and flatters me) that I sometimes think I’m responsible for too much of a good thing. Then I order it, taste it, and decide not to worry: This simple cake is wonderful…”

4 ounces fresh ginger
1/2 cup mild molasses (or 1 cup molasses, and omit the honey)
1/2 cup honey (I used honey because I had just 1/2 a cup of molasses)
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil, preferably peanut
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves ( I ground whole cloves with a little sugar & sifted them with the flour)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 9 by 3-inch round cake pan or a 9 1/2 inch spring form pan with a circle of parchment paper.

Peel, slice, and chop the ginger very fine with a knife (I used my microplaner). Mix together the molasses, honey, sugar, and oil. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.
Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, and then mix the hot water into the molasses mixture. Stir in the ginger.
Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the batter. Add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour, until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If the top of the cake browns too quickly before the cake is done, drape a piece of foil over it and continue baking.

Cool the cake for at least 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Remove the cake from the pan and peel off the parchment paper.

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥
Onto the ginger cookies for which I used fresh minced ginger instead of ginger powder, and gur / jaggery instead of molasses. These cookies are especially for my sweet friend Susan @ Food Blogga for her Eat Christmas Cookies, Season 3 event. Do stop by here to see the round-up which is updated as the cookies come in..
Jaggery or “Gur” or whole sugar is a pure, wholesome, traditional, unrefined, whole sugar. It contains the natural goodness of minerals and vitamins inherently present in sugarcane juice and this crowns it as one of the most wholesome and healthy sugars in the world. In Mexico and South America, it is also known as panela.

Chocolate Gingerbread Drops
Adapted from BHG Holiday Cookies
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup gur/jaggery (or molasses)
1 tbsp honey (omit if using molasses)
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dried tart red cherries
2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 190C. In large mixing bowl beat butter, brown sugar, baking soda, ginger, allspice, and salt; beat until combined. Beat in jaggery, honey and egg. Beat in as much flour as you can with mixer; stir in any remaining flour with wooden spoon. Stir in cherries and chocolate.
Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake about 8 – 10 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Makes 36 cookies.

The Christmas season is upon us and it is time to think about holiday baking. What better time to check out Cookie Cutters from Ann Clark Ltd.? Ann Clark would like to offer readers of Passionate About Baking a 10% discount at their retail site,

Merry Christmas…and happy baking!

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“Much Virtue in Herbs, little in Men.”
Benjamin Franklin
Couldn’t resist adding that quotesorry guys!
…I’m beginning to have more fun in the kitchen. That bag of buckwheat flour has done me a world of good. It keeps beckoning to me from the shelf. Was back to Heidi @ 101 Cookbooks to drool over some delicious looking Swedish Rye Cookies, when a note in the middle of her post grabbed my attention. She had let loose some pearls of wisdom about trying the Swedish Cookies in a savoury avatar. Fancy that? Of course I did, & the feet found themselves moving towards the kitchen with a strange sense of excitement. It was like working in the Chemistry lab back in school, when mixing different solutions resulted in magical colours (& smells to faint by). Still fun with experiments ruled nonetheless. Now a parallel fascination continues. I worked like a busy bee throwing in a bit of this & a bit of that, throwing caution to the windhow much can go wrong with substituting flours? It was just the sans sugar factor that bothered me, but I plodded on. The end result, as you can see, turned out to be cracking good! The fact happily endorsed by my ever enthusiastic little official taster! Crackers with herbs, za’atar, to be more specific. Za’atar is a Middle-eastern herb which my hub’s niece got for me from Dubai. She is new to cooking/baking & regularly stops by my blog for ideas, & has now become an expert on adana kebabs, lamb curries, apple crumbles & much more. She plays Santa every few months & religiously gets me a bag of goodies to intrigue me further. This time it was za’atar in a bag of yummy ingredients that caught my eye… as did her poppet of a daughter … all of 2 years old with sea green eyes, a bit like the colour of the za’atar!!
Za’atar is generally prepared using ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, and salt. It is a mixture of herbs and spices used as a condiment with Middle Eastern origins. The name of the condiment shares the Arabic name of the herb used as the main ingredient. Za’atar is used as a seasoning for meats and vegetables. It can be mixed with olive oil to make a spread called za’atarwuzayt as a dip for the sesame bread rings known as ka’ak. Za’atar can also be spread on a dough base and baked as a bread, in which case it is called manaeesh bi zaatar. It can be sprinkled on labneh (yogurt that has been drained until it becomes a tangy, creamy cheese). Za’atar is often sprinkled on hummus or served with olive oil as a spread or dip. It can also be used to spice meat and vegetables and can be mixed with salt, rolled into balls and preserved in oil, or dried in the sun I even pinched a bit of dough & rolled out a petite pastry shell to see if it would make a crust. It did…a perfect & pretty little crust … am now thinking ‘fillings’. Goat cheese & cherry tomatoes, caramelised onions, or maybe broccoli & cauliflower. Any suggestions are most welcome…

HERB CREAM CHEESE CRACKERS with buckwheat, oatmeal & za’atar

An original recipe… inspired by Heidi @ 101 Cookbooks
Buckwheat – 1/2 cup
Oatmeal – 1 cup (I ground a cup of Quaker oats in my coffee grinder)
Flour – 1/2 cup
Butter – 1/2 cup (100gms); chilled & cut into cubes
Za’atar – 1/4 – 1/3 cup (as per taste); you can even substitute this for any other herb of your choice, or then freshly ground black pepper. Do adjust the salt accordingly as za’atar has salt of its own
Freshly ground pepper
Sea salt to taste
Cream cheese – 100 gms
Grated cheddar cheese – 50 gms


  • Toss all the flours + pepper + chilled butter into the food processor & pulse until breadcrumbs like mixture forms.
  • Add the salt & za’atar & briefly pulse until evenly mixed.
  • Turn out into a big mixing bowl, add the cream cheese & grated cheddar & work into a dough till it all comes together. From into 2 balls & chill in cling wrap for about an hour.
  • Roll out thin & cut into shapes of your choice. Sprinkle with sea salt / za’atar/ freshly ground pepper / paprika & bake at 180C for 10-12 minutes till golden brown. Cool on racks & store in an airtight box. Stays well for a week or so in cold weather.
  • Serve as part of your holiday cheeseboard, or better still, sandwiched with some cream cheese!

These savoury cookies are flying westwards to Susan @ Food Blogga for her Eat Christmas Cookies event, to Happy Cook @ My Kitchen Treasures for her Homemade Christmas Gifts event, & also to Lore for her Original Recipes event @ Culinarty. This post featured on

“The unexpected connection is more powerful than one that is obvious.”

My connection to buckwheat goes back many many years. It was in the year 1996 when the daughter was 6 months old that I had my first encounter with the grain. Didn’t know it existed before that. We were visiting friends in Moscow (the same ones we were with in Sydney last month), & Meher was just beginning to eat semi-solids. We had landed in Moscow airport on a grey, rainy day, the place full of strapping tall Russians with stern expressions & a ‘cold world’ charm. The city was like it was out of a film…babushkas lined up at bread stalls, swanky SUVs zipping down roads, Ladas honking madly, designer stores, roadside stalls, & astonishingly, prices at most stores displayed in US dollars! We’d been transported to a different era altogether!! It was the era when we had to carry passports/ID on ourselves each time we stepped out of the house, & had to report to the police station each week. The Red Square with the onion domes is very clear in my memory to this day, with the church next to it & a beautiful mall alongside. Since we arrived via via London we carried supplies of Gerber baby food, cereal etc. Uliana then suggested a buckwheat cereal for Meher as it was a locally available one. Of course we tried, & met with some success, since the daughter was the most fussy person on the face of this earth at the time. She used to make me weep with every bite I gave her… but thankfully buckwheat had better luck! A native of Russia, buckwheat is thought of as a cereal, but is actually an herb of the genus Fagopyrum. The triangular seeds of this plant are used to make buckwheat flour, which has an assertive flavor and is used for pancakes and as an addition to some baked goods. The famous Russian blini are made with buckwheat flour. Buckwheat groats are the hulled, crushed kernels, which are usually cooked in a manner similar to rice. Groats come in coarse, medium and fine grinds. Kasha, which is roasted buckwheat groats, has a toastier, more nutty flavor.
From then to a month ago buckwheat had no meaning in my life. Until recently…Circa 2008, while walking towards Echo point in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Uliana & I began talking food. The conversation veered to buckwheat & we had a good laugh about the days of cereal & baby Meher. Then Uliana mentioned that you can only pick up buckwheat from a Polish store in Sydney, & we had to make sure we stopped by the store, for old times sake! That was not to be with the drama that followed.

Then the other day, back home, I stopped by a lovely store called Fab India, & was looking for some stuff to mail to a friend. Sadly enough, what I came for was out of stock, so I searched each & every shelf for something else … only to find bags of buckwheat staring back at me! HAPPINESS IS … grabbed a bag with both hands & wanted to call Uliana. Turns out that it’s been available in India for years by the name ‘kuttu ka aata’, a locally available flour, especially used in the fasting season. I don’t fast, so I obviously don’t know!!

Literally galloped home in glee & googled for buckwheat cookies … got a match that couldn’t keep me out of the kitchen for long. It was at Heidi’s blog 101 Cookbooks& I knew I could follow that with my eyes closed. She has a wealth of stunning recipes, & I’ve made her peach galette before. This particular recipe, the ‘Nibby Buckwheat Butter Cookies’ is an Alice Medrich recipe, which is a twist on the traditional butter cookie, or maybe on shortbread. Mine spun off some more since cacao nibs are unheard of here, & my elder sis in Dallas would shoot me if I asked for stuff like cacao nibs, matcha powder, lemon myrtle, dried lavender amongst other ‘silly stuff’ … ‘you can’t get this sorta stuff at regular Target, Walmart etc’…she thinks I’ve lost it!!
So, I made the cookies with mini chocolate chips, that I roughly beat up in a bag to break up randomly. GREAT COOKIES…yum & different, & got me many thumbs up from the kids. As Heidi says, you can roll ’em or slice ’em; she rolled hers out & so did I. There’s something inhenrently romantic & elegant about scalloped edges; I stamped out scalloped circles & hearts!I love the use of alternative flours, & was thrilled to use buckwheat here. About the cookie…crisp, wholesome in every bite, great texture & every bit full of Alice Medrich’s brilliance. Her book Pure Desserts is not available here, but it’s on my list of books to own one day! I’ve tried a Citrus Olive Oil Cake of hers…signature style & outstanding. Do stop by at 101 Cookbooks & check out the review of Alice Medrich’s book & much more. Thank you for posting this cookie recipe Heidi. It’s a beautifully written post.

as adapted from ‘Nibby Buckwheat Butter Cookies’ from 101 Cookbooks
1 1/4 cups (5.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (3 ounces) buckwheat flour
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate-chips (the original has 1/3 cup cacao nibs)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Whisk the all-purpose and buckwheat flours together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, with the back of a large spoon or with an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar and salt for about 1 minute, until smooth and creamy but not fluffy.
Mix in the chocolate chips and vanilla. Add the flours and mix just until incorporated.
Scrape the dough into a mass and, if necessary, knead it with your hands a few times, just until smooth.
Form the the dough into two flat patties & chill for at least 2 hours. It is quite cold here, so 1 hour was good enough.
Lightly grease 4 baking sheets, & preheat the oven to 180C.
Roll out with a floured rolling pin and cut out shapes with cookie cutter. Place the cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheets.
Bake until the cookie are just beginning to color at the edges, 12 to 14 minutes.
Cool the cookies in the pans on a rack or a minute, & then onto racks until completely cool.
As Heidi rightly says…The cookies are delicious fresh but even better the next day.

They can be stored in an airtight container for at least one month….(wishful thinking..mine disappeared in 2 days)
Makes forty-eight 2 1/2-inch cookies. ( I got more than 2 dozen 2 1/2″ circles, & as many smaller hearts).

There’s a bunch of events these lovely cookies are going off to over the holiday season. These would make nice gifts over Christmas. I would have loved to send then to Weekend Herb Blogging too, since buckwheat is a pseudocereal/almost a herb, but sadly the rules don’t allow clubbing of events. So the nibblies are en route to…


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