ISTANBUL: When it is time to deck the halls and the kids are giddy to join in the festive cheer, you’re sure to feel a bit peckish. While it is no doubt fun to cut the 20th snowflake in a row out of paper, you may want to have something to snack on – and that’s where our little list comes in:
Christmas bauble pancakes
It is morning and breakfast is an essential start to the day, but going super heavy is not the best option. So let’s whip up some easy pancakes, adding some cream cheese and festive vegetables to make them look like baubles! The recipe I give here for pancakes veers a bit more toward the crepe side, but don’t feel limited to that! A ready-mix is an option as well, or make the recipe completely savory by using soft tortilla shells, or lavaş, the soft Turkish flatbread. Cut them into smaller circles if needed and make it more fun. Leftovers can and should be used while making the bauble pancakes if you decide to give this a try.
- 6 tbsp flour
- 250 milliliters milk
- 2 eggs
- a pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar (add more or less to taste)
- vegetable oil
Whisk all the ingredients together except the oil and don’t be afraid to add more flour if you want to have them thicker. Add a bit of the oil to a pan and add as much or as little batter as you like. Cook until brown on both sides and place them first on some paper towels to get rid off excess oil and enjoy decorating them!
For a white background and the savory way of doing this, having a variety of cream cheeses is the way to go. Personally, I love labne because it is not too heavy and goes well with both sweet and savory. Cut peppers, carrots, some very thin slices of onions and see what shapes can be made. Some parsley or dill could make for some nice – and yummy – greenery.
Peanut butter or other nut spreads make for a beige background, and paired with an artistic spread of jams and fruits they make for stunning pieces.
Christmas Tree Pizza
A true classic. As you might want to go heavy on Christmas dinner, the lunch before could be a small pizza in the shape of a Christmas tree. Just like the pancake version, you can use the toppings to decorate your pizza in any way you want. I’m giving you the recipe to make the pizza dough from scratch, but let’s be real – it can be real busy around the holidays, so feel free to buy some dough, either frozen or from your local bakery. Usually, the bakeries in Turkey sell you the dough for the same price as the baked version and it tastes pretty good.
- 1 cube of yeast or 2 packets of instant yeast
- 500 grams flour
- 125 milliliters milk or water
- 80 milliliters olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 300 milliliters crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- a wide variety of spices such as thyme, cumin, salt, pepper
- cheese plus toppings of your choice
No matter which fluid you want to work with it needs to be a tad warm to dissolve the yeast in it. Add the sugar to this as well and leave the yeast to activate. It’ll get bubbly or at the very least form a few bubbles on top. Now you’ll just put all the flour, oil, salt and the yeast mix in a bowl and knead until it is a non-sticky dough. Yeasted dough loves to be kneaded, so no need to worry about if you overworked it or not. Cover it with a damp towel and let it rest for an hour in a warm place.
While the dough is resting, chop the garlic as finely as possible. If you have garlic powder, you can use that as well. Add garlic to the crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce and add spices to your liking. Thyme is an absolute must, but other spices will enhance the flavor. Do not be afraid to taste the sauce. If it seems like the sauce is just a bit too thick, you can add a bit of water to thin it out.
Roll out the dough and put it onto the baking tray of your choice on top of some baking paper. Carefully cut out the Christmas tree shape without scratching your tray. If you space it out right you can probably even fit three trees on there. One would have to be upside down, but that should be fine. Spread the sauce and the cheese and go nuts with the toppings. Bake at 200 degrees (390 degrees Fahrenheit) for about half an hour or until you see that your cheese as molten and the dough is getting a nice golden brown color on the edges. Let it cool off a bit and serve!
Cookie Christmas Tree
This one is a true classic, judging from the many pictures that can be seen on the internet. The only downside for this recipe is you need to have different sized star cookie cutters. I personally have way too many because I’m a sucker for cookies, but that shouldn’t discourage you. You can always freehand them, which gives them more character anyways, or even print out some templates and use them as guides for the cookies.
The recipe I’m giving for the cookies here is the best sugar cookie recipe ever and they keep their shape beautifully. Save it for whenever you want to make such cookies, no matter the occasion!
- 120 grams butter
- 150 grams sugar
- 2 eggs
- vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 330 grams flour
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and knead them until they are all incorporated. Roll the dough out, preferably between two sheets of baking paper. Or you can dust your surface with some flour and use one sheet to roll it out that way. This will prevent tears and give you a nice and smooth surface to cut the cookies out from. Now you can need to cut out as many star cookies as you like.
If I want to make sure I have enough for several such trees I cut the cookies out in the order I need them: first the biggest, then a tad smaller until I get to the smallest. If I can fit another of the biggest stars on that rolled out dough I go for that and work my way through the sizes again. Bake these for about 15-20 minutes at 170 degrees Celsius (340 degrees Fahrenheit).
If you make a lot you should most definitely try to have the cookies in similar sizes go together. The bigger ones will need longer than the smallest ones and you wouldn’t want to burn those small ones!
In case you don’t want to do that much just grab a spatula and get the smaller ones out and let the big ones bake for another 2-3 minutes depending on your oven. But do be careful while doing this. You don’t want to burn yourself!
Once all is done you can get yourself a bit of your favorite chocolate – my personal favorite is dark or semisweet – melt that and use it to glue together the cookies with just a dab of chocolate in the very middle. One popular way to decorate these cookie trees is to dust them in powdered sugar but I’d say go crazy!
If you have sprinkles, again use some chocolate, this time in white though, and use that to glue the sprinkles in place. If you don’t like white chocolate, you can make yourself some icing with powdered sugar and just a few drops of water.
Or you can go the non-traditional way of making this lovely tree by making it with chocolate cookies. Just add one or two tablespoons of cacao powder and prepare it the very same manner. With the dark cookies, the white powdered sugar or sprinkles will pop even more!
Other color options, such as green Christmas trees, can be done as well. Just a few drops of food coloring will do the trick! Let your imagination run wild!
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