Christmas powder cookies

polovorones, traditional Spanish powder cookies
polovorones, traditional Spanish powder cookies

For anyone who enjoys a little baking, making holiday treats is one of the best traditions of this time of the year. Making that special cookie or sweet for our loved ones can be very fulfilling and fun. But it can also be tricky: lots of people I know have special dietary requirements, so sometimes I have to consider gluten-free or vegan options as well as allergy issues when I’m choosing a recipe.

A Christmas favorite of mine from Spain (of course!) can be vegan, with just a few minor ingredient adjustments. A traditional cookie, “polvorones” get their name from their fragile, powdery consistency (“polvo” means “powder” in Spanish). Versions made with lard (“manteca”) are called “mantecados,” but this traditional recipe calls for olive oil, so these cookies would be called polvorones. For these cookies, you only need a few ingredients, just flour, olive oil, sugar, cinnamon, sesame seeds, and lemon zest.

In Spain, these cookies are usually made a little thicker, but I decided to go thinner for the American version.

Polvorones

Ingredients

2 cups flour

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon mixed together
  • sesame seeds to taste (about 1/4 cup)

Instructions

First of all you must bake the flour to dry it–probably something that you have never done before. For this you’re going to place the flour in a sheet pan and put it in the oven at 300° for 25 minutes. Let it cool down completely before moving on.

Mix the sugar, olive oil and lemon zest until smooth and creamy.

Then add the flour slowly, just until is mixed in. Don’t overwork it. And that is it–your dough is complete!

You can let it rest in the fridge for a few minutes or work with it very quickly, while the dough is cold. As the dough gets warm, it becomes soft and hard to work with.

Roll out the dough to a half-inch thickness and using a cookie cutter, cut the dough in all kinds of fun shapes and put it on a baking tray. Mix sesame seeds with cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle thickly on top of the cookies. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 400°. Watch them carefully to be sure they don’t get too dark. How long you bake them depends on the thickness of the cookie. Let them cool down on the tray. You won’t be able to pick them up until they have cooled down.

This can be a delicate and very tasty Christmas addition to your cookie tray.

Buen provecho!

toasting the flour
toasting the flour
polvorones call for just a few ingredients
polvorones call for just a few ingredients
Mix just until combined--don't overwork the dough!
Mix just until combined--don't overwork the dough!
polvorone cookie dough
Here you see the consistency of the polvorone cookie dough.
making polvorone with a cookie cutter
Choosing which cookie cutter shapes to use is part of the fun. Cut quickly--try to keep the dough as cool as possible and work it as little as possible.
polvorone cookies on the baking sheet
Polvorone cookies on the baking sheet. You can top with sesame seeds alone, with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar, or with a mixture of all three!

going commando (“recipe free”) in the kitchen

It’s December and gardening season is well over here in Pennsylvania. But the collard greens and lettuce in my garden are still going. And for a chilly fall day like today, a bowl of creamy collard greens sounds pretty good to me.

soup and grilled cheese
Creamy green soup and a grilled cheese sandwich--a perfect cold weather lunch!

It’s always good to have a few “recipe-free” dishes as part of your repertoire. And this creamy soup is one of those. When I cook this dish, I don’t work from a recipe, nor am I really sure what ingredients I’m going to use. I only know that I have the greens, and whatever’s available in my kitchen on that given day will suggest the other ingredients I’ll use. An open-ended recipe like this gives you the freedom to add different spices depending on what you feel like eating. If you feel like an Indian-inspired dish, you could lean towards the curry spices. But on this occasion I stayed pretty mellow with the flavors.

I picked a large amount of collard greens from the garden to begin. You can use other greens like spinach if you don’t have collard greens. After I washed them and gave them a quick blanch, they were ready as my foundation for the recipe.

I sautéed a diced onion until it was translucent. I added a diced potato to the onion to give the soup a little extra body, but you might not even need this ingredient if you add a little extra cream towards the end.

I mixed the greens into the onion and potato and covered them all with vegetable stock. Then just simmered until the potato was soft. I mixed in a little goat cheese and a pinch of nutmeg. This is where you could add sour cream or just plain heavy cream to thicken the soup. And add any other spice you would like.

Blend until it’s very smooth. If it’s a little too thick you can add a little milk or heavy cream. Add salt and pepper to suit your taste. And there you have it. A bowl of this soup and a grilled cheese sandwich makes for a great meal.

Buen Provecho!

blanched greens
The soup starts out with blanched greens: collard greens, spinach, or whatever greens you have.
potatoes and onions
Sauté a diced onion until it becomes translucent. If you like, you can add a diced potato, too. This will help thicken the soup.
Cover the ingredients with vegetable stock and simmer
The soup has simmered long enough when the potatoes are soft
The soup has simmered long enough when the potatoes are soft
adding goat cheese
I opted to add goat cheese for flavor and texture
adding spices
Now you can really express yourself and give personality to the soup with your choice of spices. You could use Indian spices to evoke Palak Paneer, or go for a milder mix of nutmeg, salt, and pepper like I did.
blending the ingredients with an immersion mixer
After you add your choice of spices, it's time to blend. This soup is one of many, many dishes that showcases one of my favorite kitchen tools, the immersion mixer.
creamy collard soup
Look at that brilliant green color. Packed with flavor and all the nutrients of fresh ingredients, minimally cooked and taken straight to the table. Mmm, my mouth is watering just looking at this! What is homier than freshly made soup from your own garden greens?