Episode 54: The Christmas Cookie Scene

Stefin is trying to stay warm during the U.K.’s “arctic blast.” Helping her is Nigella Lawson’s Christmas special on BBC2. If you haven’t read or cooked from a Nigella book, treat yourself this holiday season. Stefin recommends Nigella Christmas for a fun and merry read, and lots of yummy recipes. Stefin’s also wondering how many apple slab pies to bring to her daughter’s upcoming International Night potluck. Fortunately, BBB (Big Batch Baker) Andrea has some helpful advice on pie topping, slicing, serving, and quantity.

It’s December and the Preheated theme is Bon Bons & Bars. Andrea kicks off the month with a festive crowd pleaser, Blizzard Blondies (perfect for those in an arctic blast, or not!) with pistachios, white chocolate chips and dried cranberries. First things first, though: What’s the difference between a blondie and a brownie? They’re vanilla, not chocolate, but still share a chewy texture and bar-cookie quality. Stefin thinks splurging on pre-shelled pistachios for this recipe is a worthwhile holiday indulgence.

Moving on to the Gadget Garage, Andrea recently relied on the wisdom of the Preheated Facebook Group for help identifying a flat whisk — which may prove essential for next episode’s English Toffee recipe. Stefin highlights a few helpful “one-off” gadgets, like cherry pitters, and cupcake and apple corers, and Andrea adds one of her own: Pineapple corer. Warning: Do make sure your safety handle is attached! Before leaving the Garage, both hosts put in a request for Santa to bring them each a longed-for gadget.

Listeners: Have you found a new task for a gadget intended for only one use?

Andrea’s looking forward to her annual holiday cookie decorating weekend, and has several tips for listeners wanting to host their own event. Stock up now on meringue powder for royal icing, buy new cookie cutters at after-Christmas sales, and consider branching out from standard sugar and gingerbread cookies. For a chart of cookies that keep well (and/or even improve with age), turn to Food52‘s helpful suggestions: biscotti (a fun recipe is Dorie Greenspan’s, which we featured in Episode 23), gingerbread people, meringues, Mexican Wedding Cakes, and Pfeffernusse cookies from the Netherlands.

You may be wondering, as Andrea was, what the Christmas cookie “scene” is like in London. (Thanks to the Custom Cookie Co in London for the Beefeater cookie image!) Stefin reports mince pies are the big deal, and has recently put up a large batch of homemade mince in pure Dickensian fashion. Mince pies are bite-size pastries filled with mincemeat — a combination of dried and fresh fruit, citrus juices, spices and, in this case, suet (fat mixed with flour). Stefin used British baker Delia Smith’s recipe. To find out more about why Andrea knows all about Delia, listen back to Episode 25!

Finally, Andrea’s enjoying the Christmas Cookie Challenge on Food Network, and is also inspired by delicious cookies shared by Preheated listeners Joclyn and Michelle. She’s even considering a coconut buckeye inspired by listener Dana, though Stefin fears they will not last long enough to send in a care package to London.


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