Colette's Peony Dress

I'm slowly awakening from my Christmas food coma and seeing as now I probably have to lose a gazillion pounds, baking's out of the question for a little while. But since the past week was actually the first week this year that I was on vacation from all my jobs at the same time, I thought I'd use the time to dust off my sewing machine and practice my (still pretty basic) sewing skills a little.

My fabric box was overflowing anyway, since I had bought at least 15 or 20 different kinds of fabric over the past 9 months or so, each with a specific project in mind at the time....that I had completely forgotten about by the time I opened the box a week ago. The only thing I remembered was that I wanted to finally sew Colette Pattern's Peony dress and I actually even remembered the fabric I had wanted to use for that. So that's what I did.

For my standards, I think it turned out pretty okay. I had some trouble with the instructions (they do some stuff a bit differently than I'm used to doing them, e.g. attach sleeves, and trying it out their way didn't work too well for me unfortunately), but I kind of prevailed at last. There are a few problems here and there (the gathering on the skirt and the sleeves isn't even for example, the fabric puckers between the darts on the bodice), but as I said - for something made by me, it's surprisingly wearable (I'm gonna show you a couple of skirts I've also sewn this week in the next few days where this is very, very different). For some reason, the neckline turned out very high for me, though, which always looks a little bit weird now since the fabric keeps bunching up around the top now. No idea what I did wrong there. But still: something I can live with.

What you can't see on the pictures is how beautiful that fabric actually is. It is extremely light and airy and has a very subtle shimmer to it that looks so pretty in the right light. Unfortunately, it was pretty grey and dark out when I took the pictures, so please excuse the horrible quality.

I'm planning on using the pattern again to make the dress with short sleeves and I have already cut out the fabric for it, however, my sewing machine seems to hate it and eats it the moment I put my foot on the pedal. So yeah, I guess I'm gonna try again with a different needle and yarn, because it'd be a shame to have that beautiful fabric just sitting there gathering dust now.


The 12 days of Christmas...y food: Day 12 - Gingerbread Tiramisu

Hallelujah. I made it to day 12 before Christmas Eve. Never thought that would happen. Heh. Looks like I should set myself goals more often.

A couple of years ago I did some advanced job training and at the facility where they held our seminars, they served us gingerbread tiramisu for dessert one day. And the first thing I thought was "Why haven't I thought of that before?" And really, why hadn't I? Anyway. The tiramisu they served there tasted okay, but I thought I could improve on it a little. Namely, by adding copious amounts of alcohol. And other stuff. Plus, I like my tiramisu a little lighter, so I don't use eggs and I don't like to just use mascarpone, so I usually mix it with quark. If you can't get quark where you live - don't worry, it tastes fine with just mascarpone and cream as well. Just substitute the quark for mascarpone and cream (1:1).

This is going to be my Christmas dessert, by the way (On all three days. Because as usual, I made way, way too much for one person to eat.) So looking back at what I used for the recipe I'd say you're looking at either three very, very big desserts (that I'm gonna have problems finishing after a roast) or six desserts that'll be slightly easier to finish.

Gingerbread Tiramisu

about 10 pieces of gingerbread (and by gingerbread, I actually mean German "Lebkuchen", the normal chocolate covered kind without wafers)
1 cup of freshly brewed, but slightly cooled down coffee
200g mascarpone
200g quark
100g whipped cream
50g sugar
2 p. vanilla sugar (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

about 100-150ml Bailey's (I used the hazelnut flavored Bailey's)
about 50ml hazelnut syrup
cocoa powder or chocolate shavings for decoration

1. Whip the cream with one package of vanilla sugar. (If you use vanilla extract, don't add it to the cream.)

2. Put the mascarpone, quark, sugar, 1 package of vanilla sugar (or alternatively, the vanilla extract), about 100ml of Bailey's and a couple of tablespoons of the hazelnut syrup in a bowl and whip with an electric mixer until well combined (the Bailey's and hazelnut syrup is really to taste - you like it stronger, put in more, you like your flavor very subtle - put in a little less).

3. Fold in the whipped cream.

4. Cut the Lebkuchen into smallish pieces (mine were about 3 to 4cm).

5. Mix the coffee with Bailey's and hazelnut syrup to taste.

6. Start layering the different components into glasses or dessert bowls, starting with a layer of Lebkuchen. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of coffee over the Lebkuchen - just enough to soak it. Add a layer of mascarpone cream. Start over. Depending on the size of your glasses and how thick you make each layer, you should get about two to three layers of each into a glass.

7. Top with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings.

Enjoy and happy holidays!
♥ Nicole


The 12 days of Christmas...y Food: Day 11 - Biscoff Bark

Okay, I've run out of cookies. Bad planning on my part I guess. I thought about just using some cookies I made last year to fill the last two days, but then again - there's more Christmas-y food where the cookies came from, so I decided just to give you that.

This Biscoff Bark is something I've been making for the past three years or so, so I guess it's becoming a bit of a tradition. I've changed the composition around a few times everytime I made it, so I have a favorite combination (milk and white chocolate), but if you want something to set off the sweetness of the white chocolate, you could always use dark chocolate or a mix of dark and milk chocolate instead. I, personally, hate dark chocolate, though (Chocolate has to be sweet. Period.), so I'm gonna stay with the milk chocolate from now on.

I love the biscoff flavor in the chocolate (adding the biscoff also makes for a softer chocolate that basically melts in your mouth, but what gives this bark its finish are the freshly roasted hazelnuts. It's amazing! And if you're willing to share, it makes for a quick last minute gift.

Biscoff Bark

200g milk chocolate
100g white chocolate
50g cookie butter / biscoff spread
100g whole hazelnuts
Speculoos Hagelslag (if you can find some)

1. Put the whole hazelnuts on a baking tray and put them in the oven at 180°C for about 10 minutes. (You'll realize they're roasted when the skin starts coming off).

2. Wrap the hazelnuts in a towel and rub them together so their skin peels off. (I took mine out of the oven a little too soon this time, so that's why mine still have their skin on the pictures. If you have the same problem, put them back in for a couple of minutes, but make sure you don't burn them!)

3. Use a big knife to chop them up a little (halves are fine). Set aside.

4. Melt both the milk chocolate and the white chocolate in separate bain-maries.

5. Once the white chocolate is melted, add the cookie butter and whisk (with a spoon) until the cookie butter has melted into the chocolate and you get an even consistency.

6. Line a baking tray with baking paper and pour the milk chocolate on top. Spread it a bit either by tilting the tray or using a spatula. Mine is usually about half a centimetre in thickness and gets a little thinner around the edges.

7. Using a spoon, drop dollops of the white biscoff chocolate onto the milk chocolate and swirl with a fork.

8. Immediately add the hazelnuts and, if you can get some where you live, the speculoos hagelslag.

9. Put into the fridge for about an hour to set.

10. Break into big chucks.


♥ Nicole


The 12 days of Christmas Cookies: Day 10 - Buttercream Blondie's Spiked Mint Milanos

Today, I'm gonna cheat a little. I hadn't planned on baking any more cookies after I was done with the first batch, but I saw these last week on Buttercream Blondie's blog and I just had to try them. However, since she only posted them last week, I don't really want to take her recipe and repost it here, so instead I'm just going to send you over to her blog. Her cookies look a lot more appetizing than mine anyway.

I made a couple of alterations to the recipe, though, because for me, the amount of flour in the recipe didn't work. That could be due to the fact that I was a little more generous with the baileys than the recipe stated, though. I had to add at least 100g more to make the dough workable.

I didn't have any mint-flavored baileys at home either, so I used the regular kind and just added a few drops of peppermint aroma, which works fine. You can still taste both the baileys and the mint when you eat the cookies.

I also spiked the ganache with baileys (because you can never have enough baileys in your cookie once you find out you actually can have baileys in your cookie), which also worked fine. So if you like baileys: go for it.

Personally, I have no idea, though, how she got all her trees to look the same. Mine all came from the same cookie cutter, too, but they differ more than a little in size and shape (which made it a bit of a challenge to always find 2 that went mostly together).

And: storing them in the fridge is kind of mandatory if you want the ganache to last for more than a couple of days, but take them out a while before you wanna eat them. I think they taste a lot better and are a lot more flavorful at room temperature than directly out of the fridge.

So, go over there and try them out. You know you want to!

♥ Nicole


The 12 days of Christmas Cookies: Day 9 - After Eight Cookies

Geez, I really need to hurry up this week if I want to get this done before Christmas Eve, don't I? Sorry, but Office Christmas Parties, baking Christmas gift and stuff kind of got in the way. But I'll get it done, I promise. However, as I feared in the beginning: I'm short two types of cookies. But do not fear, I have other Christmasy food to show you on the last two days.

Today's cookies I've made for the past three years or so, usually due to popular request by others. Myself, I always find them a little underwhelming to be honest. Others seem to love them, though. In the three years I've made them, I've also never managed to make them look appealing. The first year, the chocolate kind of fell off. Last year, it was too thick and I had the worst trouble piping it. This year, I went for dipping the cookies in chocolate, but the food coloring really messed the chocolate up. Maybe that's why I don't like them as much, because it's not like they taste bad or anything. So if you're a master decorator (or even a mediocre decorator - you just need to be better at it than I am), you might be able to save them.

After Eight Cookies (a.k.a. "Chocolate Mint Cookies")

For the cookies:

80g After Eight (or any other mint-filled chocolate)
125g softened butter
50g powdered sugar
a pinch of salt
1 egg
250g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp dutch cocoa

For the decoration:
100g white chocolate

1. Chop up the After Eight into small pieces.

2. Mix the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Set aside.

3. Using a handheld mixer, cream the After Eight with the butter, powdered sugar and salt.

4. Add the egg and beat until the mix is nice and fluffy.

5. Slowly add the flour and continue working the dough until it's fairly homogenous.

6. Take it out of the bowl, cover it in clingwrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

7. Preheat your oven to 160°C.

9. Roll out the dough to about half a centimetre thickness and cut out whatever shapes you like. (A word of caution, though: either you need to refrigerate the cut-out cookies for half an hour before baking or you should choose fairly simple shapes, since the dough tends to not keeps its form that well.)

10. Bake for about 12 minutes.

11. Melt the white chocolate in a bain-marie and either dip the cookies in it or pipe some swirls on top of the cookies.

♥ Nicole


The 12 days of Christmas Cookies: Day 8 - Sour Cream Cookies

How is it Sunday already? Didn't the weekend just start?!? Well, at least there's only 5 working days left until my Christmas vacation starts. Hallelujah. And for quite possibly the first time this year, I actually have about 8 days of absolutely nothing to do but lying on my couch ahead of me. No interviews to do (well, until my second week off that is) and I'm definitely not taking home any work from job 1&2 (though I probably should considering that I'm not getting around to doing anything at work lately aside from sitting in meetings). My Christmas wish this year? For my (former) bosses to finally find a replacement for me so I can start concentrating on my new job. Cause right now I kinda feel like I'm not doing either of them justice. And that's exhausting. And frustrating. And sometimes, plain annoying.

So let's talk about less frustrating stuff. Cookies, for example. I made these sour cream cookies for the first time this year and I have to say right away: you probably won't be winning any beauty contests with them. But at least they taste nice. They're moist and creamy and just yummy. So there's that. Just keep them for yourself instead of giving them away and you'll be fine. I was a little concerned at first that they'd go bad after a week because of the sour cream, but they're still fine after three weeks now and I didn't refrigerate them, so don't worry about that.

Sour Cream Cookies

For the cookies:
175g softened butter
a pinch of salt
50g sugar
250g flour
200g sour cream

For the decoration:
2tbsp coarse sugar (I used "Kluntinchen", which is a tea sugar)
Sprinkles, if you want them

1. Cream the butter, sugar and salt until light yellow and fluffy.

2. Slowly add the sugar and about 5 tablespoons of the sour cream.

3. Wrap the dough in clingwrap and put into the fridge for at least 2 hours.

4. Line your baking trays with baking paper and preheat your oven to 180°C.

5. Take the dough out of the fridge and knead for a minute.

6. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 7 to 10mm and cut out shapes (best are mostly round shapes).

7. Spread a little bit of sour cream onto every cookie (How much depends on how big your cookies are. They should be completely covered in about 3 to 5mm of sour cream.).

8. Sprinkle the coarse sugar on top (NOT any other kind of sprinkles!)

9. Bake for about 10 minutes. The cookies aren't supposed to change color.

10. If you want to add sprinkles of any kind, add them immediately after taking the cookies out of the oven and gently press them into the cookie a little so they'll stay on.

♥ Nicole


The 12 days of Christmas Cookies: Day 7 - Nutty Cinnamon Meringue Balls

Wow, people - I need to hurry if I want to be done before Christmas with the 12 days countdown that's slowly turning out to be a 20 day countdown. Oops. Sorry about that, but I'm still having laptop trouble that's keeping me awake at night (quite literally), plus I kinda have to fit in Christmas parties and Christmas market visits and whatnot into my evenings (today it's The Hobbit), so let's just say: I'm never short of excuses.

Anyway. I've been making these Nutty Cinnamon Meringue Balls for the past few years and my success rate....differs. The first couple of years these turned out beautiful. Last year: completee disaster. Inedible. This year: nice on the inside, not so nice on the outside. So these are a bit tricky, probably because there's meringue involved. So it meringues, macarons or macaroons are no problem for you: go for it. If you've got an ambivalent relationship with meringue: maaaybe give it a try. Meringue never works for you? Go find different cookies. Seriously. Go.

Nutty Cinnamon Meringue Balls

For the cookies:
3 egg whites
250g powdered sugar
1 p. vanilla sugar
1 tsp cinnamon (Or more. I usually use waaaaay more.)
300g finely ground hazelnuts

For the decoration:
I've tried a few different things here before: whole hazelnuts, almond slivers and (this year) sprinkles. So whatever you like best.

1. Start beating the egg whites (best would be to use a stand mixer). Once they start getting stiff, slowly start adding the powdered sugar and vanilla sugar and keep beating until the sugar is well incorporated and the meringue is fairly stiff (mine never gets completely stiff, so don't worry if yours doesn't either. Or maybe that's my problem and you should worry. Drop me a comment if you have a suggestion there.).

2. Put aside about 5 tbsp of the meringue.

3. Quickly fold the cinnamon and ground hazelnuts into the meringue.

4. With your hands, form small, walnut-sized balls (it helps if your hands are wet, since the mix is pretty sticky and your wet hands help form very smooth balls) and put them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Make sure to leave some space between them, since they will rise a bit during baking.

5. Use the back-end of a wooden spoon or a chopstick and make a small dent in the middle of each ball (about 1cm deep).

6. Fill the leftover meringue (that we set aside earlier) into a piping bag and pipe a little dollop into the dent and around it. Make sure it's not too much if your meringue isn't completely stiff, because it will get runny during baking (Don't I know it.) and that's it's as centered as possible.

7. Put your choice of decoration (nuts, sprinkles etc.) on top.

8. Preheat your oven to 125°C and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. The tricky thing (as with every meringue-based cookie it seems) is to find the point when the inside is done and before the outside starts to crack.

I didn't succeed this year - the insides were fine, but the outsides had started cracking already (as you can see on the pictures). But with me, it's usually all about the taste, so whatever. :)

♥ Nicole


The 12 days of Christmas Cookies: Day 6 - Angel Eyes

I know, I know, we should be on day 10 or something already, but I've been having computer trouble for the past week or so (namely: whenever I try to update this blog and open photobucket, my graphic card crashes), so I've spent the past few nights trying to install my new laptop. I guess I need to hurry up a little, though, if anybody still wants to try any of these cookies in time for Christmas (though they all work throughout the year as well, so don't you worry.)

Anyway. These are one of my all time favorites. They go by about 39,827,423 different names here in Germany, but I call them Angel Eyes. These are the cookie I'm mostly likely to bake again once the first batch has been eaten and whenever I give away cookies, I'm really stingy with these, cause I'd much rather eat them myself. So this year I compromised: I filled them with two different kinds of jam - one I really like, one I don't like as much myself. Then I gave away the ones I didn't really like anyway and I didn't feel bad about having to share.

They originally go with redcurrant jelly, but you can substitute that with whatever flavor you want. I've used raspberry and apricot before (the latter being the one I myself don't like as much) - so use whatever flavor suits you best.

Angel Eyes

For the cookies:
200g all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk
60g white sugar
1 p. vanilla sugar (alternatively: 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract)
a pinch of salt
1/2 tsp lemon zest
125g softened butter

For the filling:
100g redcurrant jelly (or any flavor you like, just make sure it's not jam, because we don't want fruity bits)
30g powdered sugar

1. Sift the flour onto your workspace (I usually work right on my kitchen counter) and make a hole in the middle of the flour. The sugar, salt, egg yolk, lemon zest and the vanilla sugar go in there.

2. Cut the butter into small pieces and evenly distribute around the sides.

3. With your hands, start kneading everything until you have a smooth dough.

4. Cover the dough in clingwrap and put it in the fridge for an hour.

5. Line your baking trays with baking paper and preheat your oven to 200°C.

6. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out to about 3 to 5 mm in thickness.

7. Choose cookie cutters in whatever size and shape you want and start cutting out shapes (squares and circles are easiest and make sure you always have an even number of each shape you cut out). Put one half of the cookies on your baking tray like that (those will be the bottom cookies), and use a smaller cookie cutter to cut another, smaller shape out of the other half of the cookies. Those will be the top.

8. Bake for about 8 minutes.

9. After the cookies have completely cooled down, stir the jelly a little, so it's less jelly-like in consistency and easier to spread on the cookies. Spread a little jelly on the bottom cookies (how much depends on the size of your cookies and how much you like), but make sure it doesn't reach the edge.

10. Lightly press one of the cookies with the cut-out shape on top.

11. Dust with powdered sugar.

♥ Nicole


The 12 days of Christmas Cookies: Day 5 - Alfajores

So today, we have one of my favorites this year. I've never made these before, but I saw them on Cooking Classy last year around Christmas and I've been wanting to try them ever since. I think the reason I didn't until now was that they're filled with Dulce de Leche, and it's practically impossible to get that stuff around here. And until last week, I was too chicken to make some myself. But hey, turns out this sh*t is easier than I thought! I see a lot more dulce de leche in my future now.

Anyway. Alfajores! These actually get better the longer you have them lying around, so try to restrain yourself and don't eat them all at once, ok?


For the cookies:
150g cornstarch
120g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
125g butter
60g white sugar
2 tsp lemon zest
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp lemon juice

For the filling:
about 300g (1 small can) dulce de leche

For the decoration:
Any type of sprinkle you like

1. Mix the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

2. Cream butter and sugar until the mix turns light yellow. Add the lemon zest and egg yolks one at a time and beat for about 20 seconds after each addition.

3. Last, add the vanilla extract and lemon juice and mix until well combined.

4. Wrap the dough in clingwrap and put into the fridge for at least an hour.

5. Preheat your oven to 175°C.

6. Roll out the dough to about half a centimetre in thickness and cut out round shapes.

7. Bake for about 10 minutes.

8. Once the cookies have completely cooled down, spread a little dulce the leche in the middle of one cookie and top with another cookie.

9. Spread a little dulce de leche around the side of the cookies (yes, it's gonna be a bit of a mess) and roll in any type of sprinkle.

♥ Nicole


The 12 days of Christmas Cookies: Day 4 - Lemon Wreaths

So, last night the storm that was supposed to hit yesterday finally hit us. It got nowhere as bad as they said it would be, but this morning I made it exactly as far as my subway stop and then turned back. So, unplanned extra-long weekend. I'll take it. Of course, I didn't get anything done yesterday or today (now that I finally had the chance to actually get something done for once), but eh. Whatever.

So day 4 today and it's a simple but really tasty cutout cookie. It's lemony, the icing works for me for once and I could finally use some of my about 40 different types of sprinkles that I seem to have amassed over the last year or so.

Lemon Wreaths

For the cookies:
120g all-purpose flour
90g cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
125g softened butter
110g white sugar
2 egg yolks
5 tsp lemon peel

For the icing:
250g powdered sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk

1. Mix the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

2. With a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a day, beating each one for about a minute. Then add the lemon peel and the flour mixture. Mix until well combined.

3. After the dough has come together, knead it for a minute with your hands until it's not sticky anymore.

4. Cover in clingwrap and put into the fridge for at least an hour.

5. Preheat your oven to 175°C. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out very thinly, about half a centimeter in thickness. Cut out wreaths.

6. Bake for about 12 minutes.

7. While the cookies cool down, mix the lemon juice, vanilla and milk with the powdered sugar. If the mixture is too thick add a little more milk at a time.

8. Dip the upper side of each cookie into the icing and decorate as desired while the icing is still soft.


♥ Nicole


The 12 days of Christmas Cookies: Day 3 - Vanillekipferl

I know, I know, I skipped a day. Believe me, that wasn't the last time this is gonna happen. Last night was due to laptop issues, though, meaning I give that thing another couple of weeks at most and then it's off to the trash bin. So instead of giving myself a shiny new lens for my DSLR for Christmas, as planned, I'm probably gonna have to give myself a laptop that'll set me back more than twice as much. Great. Merry Christmas to me.

Plus, we have a big storm coming in today (apparently the worst one since 1962), so my bosses told everybody to stay home from work just to be safe, so cross your fingers for me that everybody's completely exaggerating and it won't turn out as bad as the weather service says it will.

Anyway. On to better things. Vanillekipferl, for example. These are typical German Christmas cookies and no matter how often I make them, they will never not be delicious. You can taste the vanilla bean (Really, don't use a substitute on these, use the real thing. You'll thank me later.) and the powdered sugar gives them just the right sweetness. Mine always turn out huge (just as any other type of cookie I attempt), so the original recipe says it's for 140 cookies and I always end up with about...80 maybe? So plan accordingly. If you're completely capable of forming small cookies and you don't want to end up with 140, then maybe divide the recipe by half.


300g all-purpose flour
140g white sugar
a pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean (scrape out the insides and discard the bean)
300g almond meal
300g softened butter
powdered sugar for dusting

1. Sift the flour onto your workspace (I usually work right on my kitchen counter) and make a hole in the middle of the flour. The sugar, salt, egg yolks and the vanilla bean paste go in there.

2. Evenly distribute the almond meal on the side of the flour as well as the butter, cut into small pieces. (Yes, it's a lot of butter. Yes, it's probably gonna cover the outside of your flour volcano almost completely when you're done. That's fine.)

3. With your hands, start kneading everything until you have a smooth dough. At first, it might seem like it won't come together and the egg yolk will stick more to your hands than to the dough, but after about 5 minutes, you should have a really workable dough.

4. Divide the dough into 4 parts and form 4 logs, about 4cm in diameter. Cover them in clingwrap (individually) and put them in the fridge for at least half an hour (an hour's better, though).

5. Line your baking trays with baking paper and preheat your oven to 200°C.

6. Take one of the logs out of the fridge and cut it into slices about a centimetre wide. Roll each slice into a small log (make sure the ends of the log are about as thick as the middle part of the cookies will burn on the sides) and then form a U-shape.

7. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes (depending on how big your cookies turned out). The cookies aren't supposed to turn brown, so keep a close eye on them!

8. Once they've cooled down, dust with powdered sugar.


♥ Nicole


The 12 days of Christmas Cookies: Day 2 - Praline Coins

Another one of those things that I have a real sweet tooth for is what we Germans call nougat and what everyone else seems to call hazelnut praline (but to be honest, there's hardly anything sugary that I don't have a sweet tooth for.) For some reason, though, you only seem to be able to get the good stuff around Christmas and Easter, while throughout the year, most nougat-y goodness seems to vanish from the stores. So I always need to stock up around Christmas. Unfortunately, this results in stocking up on body fat as well, but hey - it's winter and I freeze easily, so there. Two birds, one stone.

So this year (after a somewhat botched attempt last year that I don't wanna talk about), I decided to actually make some cookies incorporating my beloved nougat-slash-praline and this is how it turned out.

Praline Coins

For the cookies:
250g all-purpose flour
50g sugar
50g dutch processed cocoa
1 egg
125g softened butter
50g dark chocolate

For the filling:

100g hazelnut praline

1. Melt the dark chocolate

2. Mix the sugar with the cocoa and, with an electric mixer, whisk together with the butter until well combined.

3. Add the melted chocolate and the egg and whisk for a minute or so.

4. Add the flour and mix until you have smooth dough (if you started mixing with your , you should switch to the dough hook before adding the flour). If it doesn't come together completely, knead with your hands for a couple of minutes.

5. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

6. Roll out the dough thinly and cut out circles (mine are about 5 or 6cm in diameter). Take one half of the cookies and cut out a star in the middle. Those are gonna be the cookies that go on top.

7. Bake for about 20 minutes at 175°C

8. Once the cookies have cooled down, melt the hazelnut praline in a bain marie.

9. Spread a dollop (a little less than a teaspoon) on each bottom cookie, but make sure it doesn't completely cover the cookie, but leave a little space around the outer edges.

10. Take a top cookie and press it lightly onto the praline mixture. Now the praline will spread to the outer edges (which is why it's important to leave a little space when spreading the praline).

11. Voilá!


♥ Nicole


The 12 days of Christmas Cookies: Day 1 - Peanut Sighs

I love Christmas. People who know me know this is very unusual for me, because usually I'm not one for holidays and traditions and all that sappy stuff that comes with it. However, when it comes to Christmas, I make an exception. There's nothing better than decorating your apartment (which I usually do come November 1), going Christmas shopping (which I'm usually done with by November 2), finally being allowed to listen to your extensive collection of Christmas songs without people looking at you weirdly (which I do as soon as the temperature drops below 5°C) and going for a walk in the snow while everything's lit up festively around you (yes, even I get sappy then). And baking Christmas cookies of course. I rarely ever bake cookies throughout the year, so I usually go all out around Christmas time.

This year, however, Christmas is stressing me out. Since I'm working seven days a week lately, I didn't have time to decorate until last Saturday and though I usually make my Christmas wreath from scratch, by last weekend I still hadn't gotten around to it, so I caved and bought a ready-made one (well, at least I "improved" it afterwards). I also had to decide whether to go Christmas shopping or bake cookies, because I simply don't have time to do both. So I did all my Christmas shopping online one night last week and decided to go for the cookies. Especially since I don't really get around to baking at all lately.

I was aiming for 12 different ones, but alas, I failed. One turned out horribly and went into the trash. One still sits unfinished in my kitchen (well, we might rescue those still. We'll see.). And after the other nine were done, I was done as well and simply had no patience or energy or time to do more. So instead of doing the twelve days of cookies, right now it looks like it we might only get up to 9. We'll see how it goes.

Anyway. Day 1 is one of my all-time favorites. As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I love peanut butter. So what better way to start this countdown than with peanut butter cookies that are quick, easy and delicious?

Peanut Sighs

For the cookies:
100g roasted, salted peanuts
150g all-purpose flour
100g softened butter
50g peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, as you like it)
50g white sugar
3 tsp vanilla sugar (if you can't get vanilla sugar where you live, use 1 tsp of vanilla extract)

For the decoration:
about 40 whole roasted, salted peanuts for decoration
about 50g dark chocolate, melted

1. Preheat your oven to 150°C

2. Grind the peanuts in a food processor or blender. (It's best to grind only small portions at a time, because the peanuts will form a solid mass once they're ground that can jam the knives in your processor). Mix the ground peanuts with the flour.

3. Combine the softened butter, peanut butter and sugar and whisk with an electric mixer until well combined.

4. Add the flour mixture (all at once) and whisk quickly until you get a homogenous mass.

5. Take a bit of dough and, with your hands, form small balls (for some reasons, mine always turn out at least 4cm in diameter - if you want bite-sized cookies, try to make smaller balls than I do.) and put them on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

6. Bake for about 20 minutes (the cookies aren't supposed to change their color or turn dark!).

7. Once the cookies are cooled, melt some dark chocolate, fill it into a piping bag and pipe a small dollop of chocolate onto each cookie. Lightly press a whole peanut into the chocolate.


♥ Nicole


Raspberry Cream Cheese Braid

Argh, it's been over a month again since I posted. I'm sorry. But yeah, my three jobs are really keeping me busy lately. So I was actually really glad when I got the chance to bake something last week when a good friend of mine visited.

I saw this braid quite a while back on Toxo Bread (in the original recipe, it's a blueberry braid) and at first, I was a little put off, because there are quite a few steps involved and the dough has to rise four times. Yes, you read right. FOUR times. So definitely not something you're gonna do at the drop of a hat. There's gotta be some planning involved. But it looked so yummy that I broke down eventually and boy, am I glad I did.

Now let me tell you, yeast and I - we're not the best of friends, so usually I don't expect much when I start working with it. But I've made this braid about half a dozen times now and it's turned out beautifully every single time. I've tried different fillings (blueberry, raspberry, peanut butter, thinly sliced apples) and they've all been delicious (well, the peanut butter was a bit of a letdown, but all the fruity fillings were great), so you definitely can play around with that depending on what you like best. If you want to make it a little lighter, you can use quark instead of cream cheese; if you don't have fresh fruit, I'm sure you can use jams instead. So seriously, if you want something really, really great for breakfast (And dessert. And coffee. And maybe a little slice after dinner.) - try this. I know it's a little time-consuming, but you will not be disappointed. I'm kinda tempted to use this yeast recipe for everything now. I think I'll try cinnamon rolls next.

Raspberry Cream Cheese Braid

For the sponge:
1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 tbsp white sugar
180ml warm milk
120g all-purpose flour

For the dough:
1 egg
3/4 tbsp salt
40g white sugar
200-250g all-purpose flour
65g butter, softened

For the fruit filling:
150-200g raspberries (frozen ones are fine)
25g white sugar
15g cornstarch
1 tbsp lemon juice

For the egg glaze:
1 egg
1 tbsp milk

For the cream cheese filling:
200g cream cheese
2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp egg glaze

For the decoration:
50g sliced almonds
powdered sugar

1. For the sponge, mix the sugar, yeast and flour and pour the warm (not hot) milk over it. Mix with a spoon until you have a fairly smooth mixture. Let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.

2. Add the egg, salt, sugar and about half of the flour for the dough to the sponge and mix with an electric mixer (dough hook) until you have a smooth dough. Add the butter in small pieces and keep mixing with the dough hook until it's well incorporated. Keep adding flour until you have a working dough that's not sticky anymore, about five minutes (well, it can be a little sticky, but it should be workable).

3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let it rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

4. In the meantime, put your raspberries in a saucepan and add the sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch. Bring it to a boil and then let the mixture cook on medium heat for about five minutes. I don't mind having the seeds in there and having a bit of texture to the filling, so I don't bother with pureeing the raspberries and putting them through a sieve. If you don't like that, do those things before you add the cornstarch to your berry mixture. The mixture will start to thicken while it cooks. Once you take it off the stove, put it in a bowl and cover it with clingwrap, so no skin will be forming on top. Put in the fridge until use after it has cooled down a little.

5. For the egg glaze, simply mix an egg with a tablespoon of milk (mixing it with a fork will suffice). Put in the fridge until use.

6. For the cream cheese filling, just mix all of the ingredients together with an electric mixer. Put in the fridge until use.

7. Once your dough has risen for about 2 hours, deflate it, cover the bowl with clingwrap and put it into the fridge overnight.

8. The next morning, take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm up for about half an hour before taking it out of the bowl and kneading it for a couple of minutes.

9. Roll out the dough to a rectangle of about 20x40cm, about 1cm thick.

10. Spread first the cream cheese, then the raspberry filling on top of the dough - but be careful: we still need to braid the dough, so don't go overboard with the filling and only put it in the very center of the dough, taking up about 8 to 10cm in width!

11. Now slice the left and right side of the dough at an angle so you get tabs about 2 to 3cm wide. Start braiding the dough by folding over the tabs, alternating from side to side. (You can find a great photo of this step at The Fresh Loaf!)

12. When you're done, glaze the braid with the egg wash and let it rise for about 45 minutes in a warm place until it has about doubled in size.

13. Once it's risen, glaze again with egg wash and top with sliced almonds.

14. Bake on 175°C for about 35 to 40 minutes until it's golden brown.

15. Let the braid cool down for at least 30 minutes before slicing it. Dust with powdered sugar.


♥ Nicole


Coffee Toffee Cheesecake

Wow, I am really neglecting this blog, aren’t I? I’m sorry guys. But lately, I’ve had two jobs to deal with (and from next week on it’s kind of going to be three for a while) and so my free time is extremely limited. And it’s not even high season yet. So it’s only going to get worse. Had an extra-long weekend last week and I actually got my sewing machine out of its case on Saturday and after ruining three of the three things I was attempting to make, I gave up and put it back where I found it. So nothing new to look at on that front. Half-finished handbag (which is going to stay unfinished until Christmas at the rate I’m going) and two wonky pillow cases. Nothing to write home about. Or write a blog post about. My next free weekend will be sometime at the end of November I think (and that might change at the drop of a hat and be even later), so I expect to be tired, bleary-eyed and generally exhausted for the rest of the year. Plus, still trying to lose weight so I finally fit into my pants again, so baking isn’t really very conductive to that goal.

Nevertheless, I baked something this week, because it was a colleague’s birthday. As usual, I had to take crappy 7am pictures in the dark before I left for work that not even my shiny new toy (yes, I finally got a DSLR…that I’ve had no time to play around with or figure out yet) could really salvage. But you’re all used to that by now, so – whatever.

Anyway. Cake. As I’ve said before – I love cheesecake. Easy, quick, delicious, no matter what you do with it. I would’ve loved to make a peanut butter cheesecake, but since this particular colleague is allergic to nuts, I had to improvise a little. The result? Coffee Toffee Cheesecake. Which worked surprisingly well. The sweetness of the toffee was nicely set off by the not-too-sweet coffee flavor of the cake. I mainly used toffee because I still had it at home and wanted to use it up; alternatively, you can just as easily use caramel sauce and syrup instead of toffee sauce and syrup.

Coffee Toffee Cheesecake

For the crust
1 package of caramel cookies (I use Lotus Caramel Cookies, about 30 to 40 cookies; if you can’t find caramel, use Oreos and about 20 to 30 cookies)
about 50g butter, melted
100g toffee bread spread or syrup

For the cheesecake
600g cream cheese
200g sour cream
4 eggs
2 tps. vanilla extract
75g sugar
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp instant coffee
1 tsp cinnamon
100ml toffee syrup

1. Line the bottom of a spring pan with parchment paper. Melt the butter and pour over the finely crushed cookies. Mix together with a fork or spoon until the cookie crumbs are really moist. [You can check if the crumbs have the right consistency by pressing some to the side of the bowl with the spoon or fork. If they stick easily, they're fine, if they fall right back down, add a little more butter]. Press the crumbs evenly to the bottom of the spring pan and put the pan into the fridge for 15 minutes.

2. Warm the toffee bread spread or syrup until it gets quite liquid and pour it over the cookie base. While the toffee cools down again, prepare the filling.

3. Dissolve the instant coffee in about 1-2 tbsp of hot water.

4. Put all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl and mix until smooth. Really, don’t worry about a right order or anything, just mix it all up. Pour the batter over the cookie crust.

4. Bake on 160°C for 75 minutes, then turn off the oven, open the door slightly and leave in the oven for another half hour or so.

5. Decorate as desired. (I piped some cream and drizzled toffee syrup on top.)

(Managed to snap a picture of the last piece at least)

♥ Nicole


Viennese Whirls

Just once when I go into my kitchen, I'd like things to go completely according to plan from start to finish. Really, just once. I'm not greedy. I have no idea how other people do it. I just know I seem to be completely incapable of producing something edible without some kind of drama while making it. Seriously, I know no one who has as much go wrong in the kitchen as I do all the time. What’s up with that?

Enter these little drunk soldiers beauties. I saw the recipe a few weeks ago here and they immediately ended up on my "try asap" list. I've been looking for an excuse a reason to make them ever since. Fortunately, it's September. And September means a sh*t-ton of my friends have birthdays. Excuse found. Especially since I saw the friends I made them for only before their actual birthdays, so for obvious superstitious luck reasons, I couldn't make them cakes, so the cookies were perfect.

I’m pretty sure the moment I had that thought, Mr. Murphy was already rubbing his hands in anticipation. It all started out innocent enough, though. The recipe looked easy. I did everything it asked (which wasn't a lot), only when my dough was done, it looked nothing like it did in the original recipe, but it still looked alright-ish. So I decided to give it a try anyway and stuck it in my fancy new cookie press that I'd been dying to try out for a while. End result? Each cookie got stuck on the press and there was no way to get it off without completely squishing it to death. Seems like I had to modify the dough a little. I added more flour until it roughly seemed to resemble the dough in the original recipe. Put it back in the press, tried again - didn't really detach from the press either, but now if you tried, the cookie just fell completely apart and instead of a beautiful little flower, I had five separate petals.

I admit, by then, I was already pretty fed up, but I had to find a way to get the stupid cookies on the baking tray, so I ended up piping them with one of my real old piping tips (that is actually for making little dough baskets to be filled). Now at least they ended up where they were supposed to, but...well....let's just say "even" and "straight" they weren't. I baked them anyway because I really didn't have the patience to redo them again.

Fortunately, after the incident I call "melting moment-gate", I've learned to actually let cookies with a high flour ratio cool completely on the baking tray before I even look at them, so at least they all turned out alright and didn't fall apart after I took them out of the oven.

But when I started filling them, the problem with them being not very even and straight came back to haunt me. Because they were so lop-sided, they just slipped right back apart when I put them down. So I had to device a clever little plan of propping them all up against each other to try to keep them all mostly straight while the buttercream hardened. Which kind of worked. However, what was supposed to look like some sophisticated little British desert actually looked like a row of drunk soldiers.

So what do you do when your cookies look like drunk soldiers? Exactly, you deflect.

Look at the pretty flowers! And the colorful wrappers. LOOK!!!

Anyway. They tasted really nice, though. Crumbly and sweet and they just melted in your mouth. So let's not dwell on how they looked. At least they were a success taste-wise! And that's all that matters, right?

Viennese Whirls

Recipe adapted from Five Euro Food

For the cookies:
250g soft butter
350g flour
50g icing sugar
1 p. vanilla sugar

For the filling:
100g soft butter
100g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbsp jam (original calls for raspberry, I just redcurrant)


1. Preheat your oven to 190°C

2. Put all the ingredients for the cookie dough in a bowl and mix with a hand mixer (you don't need a dough hook) until you get a smooth dough (take a bit and roll it to a ball - if it doesn't stick to your hands, it's fine).

3. Try your luck with a cookie press (flower inset). If that doesn't work out for you, welcome to the club put the dough in a piping bag and - using a tip with a large opening (e.g. a big star tip) - pipe circles of about 3cm in diameter on a baking tray. You only need to leave a little space between the cookies, they'll stay pretty much the size you piped them.

4. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the cookies start to slightly brown at the edges. Let them cool completely before removing them from the baking tray.

Vanilla Buttercream

1. Mix the butter, icing sugar and vanilla extract together using an electric whip until the ingredients are well-combined and the sugar has dissolved.


1. Try to always match two cookies that are the same size.

2. Pipe a bit of buttercream on one cookie and a little dollop of jam in the middle of the other (not too much, though, or it will all come out on the sides when you put the cookies together).

3. Press them together slightly.

4. Let the buttercream harden and dust with icing sugar before serving.


♥ Nicole


The Most Unprofessional Professional Cake Ever (or: how Nicole totally overestimated her skills)

So at my old workplace I was known for the birthday cakes I made for colleagues at least a couple of times a month. So when the company's 60th anniversary rolled around, they asked me whether I'd feel up to making the cake for the anniversary party - with 350+ guests, even though I don't even work there anymore. And totally floored by the honor of being asked I was like "Sure, no problem at all. Cake for 350 people? Coming right up."

(c) Nina Stiller (edited by me)

To give you a bit of a frame of reference here: until last Wednesday, I had worked with fondant exactly twice. Both times on cakes smaller than an average spring pan. I had never made a tiered cake. And the biggest cake I had ever made was probably my former boss's birthday cake, which had 4 layers, but was still the size of a normal spring pan.

You see where I'm going with this, right?

The party was Friday night, so I went shopping on Tuesday (and seriously, the looks you get at the grocery store when you buy 150 eggs and 8kg of butter - I mean, it's not that uncommon), was planning to bake on Wednesday and fill and decorate the cakes Thursday and Friday. I was totally convinced I had bought way too much stuff for the cake.

First mistake.

(c) Nina Stiller

Wednesday night I had my first mini-breakdown, because of course I had way too little cake for the size I had planned for. Plus, my go-to-chocolate cake recipe that even has "perfect for layer cakes!" scribbled in the margins of my recipe book failed me for the first time ever. Seriously, "Murphy" should be my middle name. So around midnight I finally had a plan worked out on how to rescue the cake...which I discarded again around 7am the next morning. I finally decided on losing a tier and just making the bottom tier out of two different cakes to give it some height. Then I got my ganaches out of the fridge to start filling the first cakes.

Any my white ganache had totally curdled. Again. (This always happens!! What am I doing wrong?!) So two hours of chopping chocolate all for nothing and no plan B in sight. About 5 pounds of emergency buttercream and 6 hours later I had finally filled all the cakes and crumbcoated them. Of course since all my cakes were totally falling apart, I had to completely scale back on my cream fillings and up the buttercream/ganache portion in the hopes that that stuff would basically glue them together.By this point, everything non-cake-essential (meaning: all my normal groceries) had to leave the fridge because there wasn't any space left.

So sometime that afternoon I started covering the first cakes in fondant and - as I had pretty much expected by that point - that didn't go as smoothly as I had planned either. I was using Satin Ice instead of Wilton fondant for the first time and first found it very sticky only for it to completely crack when I covered the cake with it. I'm pretty sure it was me doing something wrong, I just have no idea what it was. Did I knead too long? Not long enough? Should I have used some GumTex to make it more pliable? No idea.

Anyway. Since my crumbcoating skills leave something to be desired as well, the fondant was anything but smooth, but by that point I honestly didn't care anymore (okay, that's a total lie, but I couldn't do anything about it, so I had to move on). After I had covered three of the layers, I wanted to color a bit of fondant green for the decoration and let me tell you, I used almost an entire bottle of gel coloring, but do you think the silly stuff turned the green I wanted? Of course not. It stayed a minty pastel instead of turning a nice dark green. I could have lived with that, but when I started rolling the fondant out and cutting strips to cover the cake with, suddenly the fondant wasn't all cracking and sticky anymore - noooo, now it had the consistency of chewing gum. So instead of a nice even strip of green around the cake, I had a completely uneven...something. I attached the fondant paper anyway and just hoped everyone would be drunk enough at the party so they wouldn't actually see it.

(c) Nina Stiller

When I got up Friday morning, I felt like someone had run me over. Holy sh..., I've never been this sore from baking a cake. It felt like I'd built a house, not a cake. I still had to cover the bottom layer with fondant and finish my decorations, though, so I had to get up anyway....only to realize that I had no space anywhere to roll out the fondant as big as I needed to cover the whole layer (not too mention: how do you roll out fondant to that size (about 100x80cm) while keeping it even? And how do you move it after you've managed to roll it out?) In the end I decided to cover the two cakes separately, also because they would fit back into the fridge until the caterer picked them up that way, which was a plus considering the temparatures (but also looked very, very amateurish).

Shortly before the caterer came by to pick up the cake I arranged the bottom layer on the cake board we had made - only to realize when we wanted to bring the cake outside that the board didn't fit through my kitchen door. Let me tell you, I was dying inside when we had to start tilting the board to get it through the door, but alas, we made it without the cake ending on the floor.

I will spare you the story of how the caterer transported my poor cake. Let me just say, I refused to be left behind and insisted on him taking me with him, because I didn't trust him with the cake after I'd seen the vehicle it was transported in (not to mention that he ripped of half of my specially printed fondant paper while putting the cake in the car - thank you very much). I'll also spare you the story of what happened when we got to the party. Let's just say I was pretty close to a complete meltdown before the cake was finally assembled and found it's rightful place on the dessert buffet.

In the end, I was happy the cake arrived (mostly) safe and sound and people seem to have liked it (it even ended up being featured in the trade press as part of the anniversary coverage), so all's good. I still think I should have done a lot better, though, and I'm still kind of embarrassed by all the flaws the cake had.

So the next time someone asks me to make a cake for 300+ people and I'm tempted to say yes? Please someone whack me with a baking tray.

♥ Nicole