We are so happy to have Rosa sharing her recipe all the way from her beautiful Geneva countryside village situated in the French speaking part of Switzerland. Her blog is filled with delicious eats as well as beautiful photography of nature. Some of her loves include music, nature, cats, books and films which can all be found on her blog Rosa’s Yummy Yums. We’re so glad to have her join us at our table! ~Chris Ann & Kristin
For me Christmas is synonymous with cookies, cocooning, good food and birthday bashes. Having been brought up in a non-religious family which believes were more Pagan-based than god-fearing this time of the year had a totally different significance for me than for the pious people…
“Noël” has always been about the celebration of Yule, the winter solstice which doesn’t involve Jesus or angels (those heathen traditions were absorbed by the Christians much later and their iconography was replaced by that of the men of God), but rather the reverence of the cycle of life (“Yule” meaning wheel in Germanic – wheel of life represented by the changing of seasons, the cycle of light and darkness, death and birth). It is then that we are reminded that it is the darkest period of the year, yet it also marks the rebirth of light. This reawakening of the sun who is the giver of warmth, life and light represents an important turning point symbolized by hope and joy, hence the festivities.
Unfortunately, my birthday has to fall exactly on Christmas day/Yule and I have to share it with Jesus, so that means presents only once a year and a day which isn’t entirely dedicated to me. Quite a tragedy for a kid. As you grow older it becomes less of a calamity, although it still sucks big time. Anyway, I nonetheless had a wonderful time even if we spent the holidays at home and had no big get-togethers as my grandparents lived in England, my Swiss grandparents were too old to come and as we had no contact with most of our relatives. I would lie if I told you that I didn’t feel a little lonely and was envious of others who had crowded parties, but it was all I ever had known. Rarely did we gather with our family and friends to enjoy a festive meal and exchange gifts. Loud cheers and laughter were quite a rare thing at home…
Once though, when I was about six we traveled to England to visit my grandparents who lived in a youth hostel in the Stratford-Upon-Avon area (birthplace of Shakespear), Warwickshire. They were the wardens at Hemmingford House, a splendid Georgian mansion which is set in over three acres of grounds in the tranquil and quaint village of Alveston. During the end of year celebrations, the hostel was not open to the public and I was free to wander through the beautifully tiled long corridors of the dormitories, ride my bike through the rural village, visit the multiple annexes and roam in the immense property garden that was populated by many wild rabbits as well as hedgehogs. The perfect place for a kid.
That very Christmas was magical and just like the ones you see in glossy English lifestyle magazines. Everything was covered with a thick coat of snow, the air was crisp, silence was omnipresent and the postcard-like countryside looked so secretive and peaceful. On the 24th we had a fantastic 100% homemade British meal (my grandmother is an extremely good cook/baker and a great source of inspiration) with turkey, sage and onion stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, buttered Brussel sprouts, luscious gravy, lush trifle and tantalizingly moist & versatile fruit cake (the kind that was made months in advance, soaked with brandy and topped with marzipan). Then we attended Christmas mass at St. Helens church for the sheer beauty of the moment (choir & mystic atmosphere) and then went to bed.
That night, before saying night-night, I had put a few biscuits in a plate and filled a glass with sherry that I placed on the living room table next to the settee. This ritual made me very feverish. Like most kids of a certain age I believed that Santa would come in person to put the presents under the tree and sit down a for a short moment while enjoying my food gifts. Aaahhh, those times of innocence are so beautiful and priceless!
As I tried to find sleep, I remember hearing a big thud against the apartment door that led to the dorms and with much excitement thought to myself “That must be Santa, he is here!!!” (a few years later I learnt that on this very evening both my father and grandfather were the ones who had “played” Santa LOL). You can imagine that after this episode it was very difficult to close my eyes, so after a few hours of lying awake I finally fell asleep from exhaustion. The next morning I was the first to get up. The prospect of seeing the imprint on the couch where Santa had sat while drinking his sherry and eating his cookies and the sheer idea of opening my presents was just unbearable and sent shivers down my spine. Once everybody had come out of bed and had washed, time had come to discover what was hiding behind the shiny paper wrappers. I always loved that delightful moment when you rip the paper of and uncover it’s content. What a dazzling feeling!
Magnificent memories that cannot be washed away with the years.
Without a doubt, “Coffee Kisses” are the cookies that come to mind when thinking of England and my grandparents. As a child, every time I visited them I begged my grandmother to bake those irresistible cookies with me. She accepted very reluctantly as she hated having people “in her legs” while she was busy in the kitchen and was not to hot at the thought of baking with a messy and energy-ladden kid. Anyway, for my greatest pleasure I always won after a few hours of supplicating and haggling!
The recipe we used came from one of her old 60’s Be-Ro cookbooks (she nearly had the whole collection since the 50’s). Those little brochures are chock-a-block full of classic British pastry recipes that are all excellent. Some years ago, my grandparents sent me my very own copy. Really thoughtful of them. I am so glad to be the proud owner of that leaflet as it is very handy as I am constantly using it.
Even-though we never made those “Coffee Kisses” specifically for Christmas I now love to add them to my selection of baked goodies as they are just heavenly and so festive. They have such an exhilarating coffee aroma and are blissfully delicious. It is impossible not to fall in love with those whoopie pies-like sandwich cookies and be totally addicted to their crisp crust, softish interior and lipsmackingly buttercream filling. Little bites of heaven.
Recipe adapted from Be-Ro.
Ingredients for the “Cookies”:
180g (6 oz or 12 Tbs) All-purpose flour
3/4 Tsp Baking powder
75g (5 Tbs) Castor sugar
1/4 Tsp Sea salt
75g (5 Tbs) Unsalted butter
1 Medium egg, lightly beaten
1/2 Tsp Pure Vanilla extract
2 1/2 Tsp Instant coffee
l Tbs Hot water
Ingredients for the “Coffee Buttercream”:
50g (2.7 oz) Unsalted butter
100g (3.5 oz) Icing/powder sugar, sieved
2 Tsp instant coffee
1 Tsp Hot water
Method for the “Cookies”:
1. Heat the oven to 180º C (350ºF).
2. Dissolve the instant coffee in the hot water and set aside.
3. Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together.
4. Rub in the margarine in order top obtain a sand-like consistency.
5. Mix the egg, vanilla extract and the coffee essence together and add to the flour mixture, mix well until it comes together.
6. Divide the pastry into balls the size of a walnut.
7. Place them on a baking sheet lined with sulfurized paper and bake for about 15 minutes.
8. Remove from the baking sheet and let cool on a rack.
Method for the “Coffee Buttercream”:
1. Meanwhile make the coffee buttercream by creaming the butter and gradually adding the icing sugar. Mix until fluffy and light.
2. Dissolve the instant coffee in the hot water and add to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix well.
3. Sandwich the cookie shells in pairs with the coffee buttercream and serve immediately (otherwise the cookies will get soft).
NOTE: I recommend that you use a stand mixer for making this recipe.
Thank you to Rosa from Rosa’s Yummy Yums for joining us at the table! ~Chris Ann & Kristin