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The Cookstr Weekly: Holiday Baking

December 15, 2014

Just as the weather drives us to want to hibernate indoors, invitations abound to tree-trimming parties and Hanukkah parties, yuletide fêtes and potluck white elephant swaps. It’s always good policy not to show up to a friend’s home empty-handed, but this time of year, I think it’s even more appreciated to come in from the cold bearing a bottle, a basket, or a baked good.

Even before Christmas cookie season is officially underway, nights in and chilly Sunday afternoons are a great excuse to fire up the oven and try out a new sweet tooth-satisfying treat.

Warmest regards,

Kara Rota
Editorial Director

  by Bill Yosses 

Fiery black pepper adds a little heat and brings the chocolate in these cookies back to its origins in Mexico. Historically, chocolate was always mixed with chile peppers and taken as a drink by the Aztecs. And to this day, in the rural areas of South America, cooks still grind cocoa beans with nuts and spices. The natural oils in the cocoa and nuts hold the mixture together in a disk, which is then scraped and shaved in the mornings to make hot cocoa.

This cookie is reminiscent of that sandy, crumbly disk. I keep the texture somewhat coarse by using whole peppercorns and cinnamon sticks and grinding them at the last minute. Then I add lightly crushed pink peppercorns so you get an overall background heat that’s enlivened with sharper peppery bursts with a slightly floral, piney note. Refrigerating the dough overnight helps it keep its crumbly texture after baking. It’s a pleasant surprise.

More Recipes for Holiday Baking 

What’s New on Cookstr: Baked Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Fondue
  by Todd and Ellen Gray


“TODD: Tomato fondue is basically just tomatoes stewed slowly with aromatics. It’s not a bad idea to make a big batch, because you can put it on just about anything: sandwiches, fish, chicken, or with vegetables for a quick ratatouille.

ELLEN: If we ever had spaghetti squash growing up it was because my mother thought it looked interesting, brought it home, and then

didn’t know what to do with it. At that point it would sit in the fruit drawer of the refrigerator and rot.

TODD: When I saw spaghetti squash for the first time at the Culinary Institute of America, I found it fascinating to rake it and have those noodle-like strands that looked like spaghetti come out of it. It not only looks like pasta, you can treat it similarly–it works so well here with the stewed tomatoes, fresh thyme, and a final sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. It’s rustic, tasty, seasonal, inexpensive, and very easy to prepare. It’s not haute, but it’s still elegant. 

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