Lemon Snowflakes and Snow Drop Kisses

lemon snowflakes

lemon snowflakes

This might be the coldest winter we've had in Edinburgh since Judson and I moved here in 2013. It's definitely not the snowiest (last year), but it is cold this year and I don't think the temperature has crested the freezing point in two weeks. It's so bad that last week after catching a late showing of Star Wars at a theatre less than one half mile from our flat, we caught a cab home because it was a straight uphill walk and we didn't want to deal with it in the ice late at night. It's so bad that even when we're just running her out into the garden for a quick outing, we still have to bundle Holtzmann up in her tiny tartan jacket so she doesn't get too cold.

All that cold, alas, has not turned into snow. I still love snow with the relish of a child who grew up in Florida, and despite the fact that I get around solely on foot in this city and am not great at negotiating cobblestones disguised by a layer of ice and snow, it's still worth it when the snow falls on the castle and on these adorably cosy streets. Plus, we really want to see Holtzmann to have a chance to play in the snow. Given the refusal of the temperatures to budge, I'm still holding out hope for a white Christmas.

lemon snowflakes

lemon snowflakes

lemon snowflakes

lemon snowflakes

lemon snowflakes

lemon snowflakes

lemon snowflakes

lemon snowflakes

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In the meantime, if it's not snowing outside, at least it can snow indoors... which is how I ended up with a batch of Lemon Snowflakes and Snow Drop Kisses gracing my kitchen this weekend. The Lemon Snowflakes are great- another toasty, nutty cookie that is supposed to be made with pecans and so another chance for me to use pistachios instead (if you're reading this and trying to think of a Christmas gift for me, SEND PECANS!). They're easy and they're supposed to be messy, which takes the pressure off of you if, say, you've spent the last week making intricately decorated wreaths, stars and gingerbreads.

As for the Snow Drop Kisses, these are basically just meringues with fruit mixed in, and the mystifying addition of oatmeal. I'm not very good at making meringues. Probably this is because I had never had one until age 20 when I moved to Paris, but regardless, every time I've tried to make them they've come out tan. Add to this the fact that I'm not really sure what they're supposed to be and you have a recipe for meringues that I enjoy but am too embarrassed to serve to friends. Are they supposed to be crunchy all the way through? Should they have a chewy centre? I don't really know. All I know is that I had a really hard time getting these to be firm on the outside without burning all the fruit in the middle.

Here's where I landed: 15 minutes at 150C/300F gave me a meringue with a soft, marshmallow-y centre with a dry exterior. The meringues were just this side of ivory, but when I bit into one I was pleasantly surprised to find that the oatmeal had become a crisp counterpoint to what otherwise would have been an overpowering soft/sweet mess. The apricots (my supermarket is sold out of mixed candied fruit since everyone is making last minute puddings this week) worked well and added another dimension of flavour, and overall, although these aren't pretty enough to serve to other people, I actually rather like them.

snow drop kisses

snow drop kisses

snow drop kisses

snow drop kisses

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The verdict:
lemon snowflakes:

4 spoons out of five. The frosting really makes these, so don't skimp on it! The heavy amount of cornstarch in the dough gives them a silky crumb, and, paired with a zingy bright frosting to cut through the crunch, they're the perfect addition to any holiday party platter.

Snow drop kisses:

3 spoons out of five. I'm really only deducting spoons for the fact that they're not very pretty. If you like your meringues soft and sticky on the inside, make these for yourself asap.

One year ago: crazy crust apple pie
two years ago: Meltaway Cookies & Hot Cider

The recipe:

Lemon Snowflakes

the directions:

Preheat oven to 175C/350F and butter two cookie sheet.
Cream butter until fluffy.
Gradually beat in ½ c powdered sugar, then the cornstarch and flour.
Chill at least one hour or up to overnight.
Shape into walnut-sized balls.
Spread chopped nuts on waxed or parchment paper.
Place a ball on the chopped nuts and press gently and evenly with the bottom of a glass until a thin disk is formed.
Place cookies, nut side up on prepared cookie sheet.
Bake 12 minutes or until the edges are just beginning to turn light golden.
While cookies cool, make the frosting: beat remaining powdered sugar, melted butter and lemon juice until mixture forms a thick paste.
Line cookies up in rows and pour frosting over the cookies by moving back and forth in quick motions.

the ingredients:

½ c butter, softened
1 ½ c powdered sugar, divided
¾ c cornstarch
1 ½ c flour, sifted
1 c pistachios, very finely chopped
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp lemon juice

The recipe:

Snow Drop Kisses

the directions:

Preheat oven to 150C/300F and grease two large cookie sheets.
In a very clean bowl, beat egg whites until frothy.
Add vinegar and vanilla and beat a few seconds more.
Add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Continue beating until mixture is stiff and glossy and you can no longer feel any grains of sugar in it (this will take at least 10 minutes).
Gently fold in fruit and oatmeal with a spatula.
Using a teaspoon (for firmer meringues) or a tablespoon (for softer ones), drop onto prepared cookie sheets.
Bake 15-18 minutes until the outsides are dry but give slightly when you poke them.

Best eaten fresh. May also be served with whipped cream like mini pavlovas.

the ingredients:

3 egg whites
½ tsp cider vinegar
½ tsp vanilla
1 c sugar
½ c diced mixed candied fruit, or dried apricots
½ c oats

Battle of the Snowballs

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I know I talk a lot around here about being an expat, but it's pretty central to the whole, you know, Recipe Box Project, and it's also pretty central to my life these days. When you first move to a new country, everything is new, so you end up making a lot of major assumptions that inevitably turn out to be wrong. It's been four years and 4 months since we made that fateful move, and at least once a month I still find myself flummoxed by something Scottish. Luckily I've gotten a lot better at thinking on my feet and covering up my confusion. The three most recent times this has happened are as follows:

I went to the doctor to see if I could get medicine to kick a wicked cold before taking a long-haul flight to the US back in October. The doctor prescribed some antibiotics and then entreated me to make sure I was 'using my old bus oil.'

'My what?'
'Old bus oil.'
'Uh... I think I'm fresh out of that. Do you think they have any in the pharmacy? And also, how do you prefer to use it? Just, you know... always looking for new ways to utilise my... old... bus oil.'
'O L D B U S O I L.'

As much as I thought I was doing a kickass job pretending to have a masterful hold on the conversation, she clearly didn't believe me, because she finally wrote down 'Olbas Oil' on the corner of my scrip. Turns out it's basically just Vicks VapoRub in oil form so it's easier to dispense. Who knew?

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Yesterday I got called for a customer satisfaction survey by my bank. But the whole survey was about Pride of Britain and how much my feelings about my bank had improved based on my knowledge that the bank was sponsoring Pride of Britain. The only problem? I have no idea what Pride of Britain is. The surveyor was pretty devastated at my super non-committal answers and I couldn't really find a way to say 'I have NO IDEA what you're talking about' without sounding like a jerk, so I just kept answering the questions and hoping that my completely blasé responses don't mess up their data too much.

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Last month I was walking Holtzmann when an older man and his 4-ish year old grandson stopped me with an adorable request: 'may I touch your dog?' While the 4-year-old petted Holtzmann, the grandfather asked me how much she cost.

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'Excuse me?' I asked, hoping I had misheard.
'How much does a dog like that cost?' he repeated, making the international sign for money with his thumb and first two fingers.
'Oh, well, I mean, we got her from a friend-of-a-friend, and we've had her so long I don't really remember what we paid for her, it was the cost of her shots and food, you know...' I prattled on because I didn't want to be having the 'how much is your dog worth?' conversation, and eventually he cut me off, laughing heartily.

'No, no, not cost- how much does she cost?'
I looked at him blankly, when his grandson finally looked up.
'Cast, miss! Like how much fur does she leave around?'

Finally I figured out this was a Scoticism (I guess?) for shedding. Luckily it wasn't the first time I've caused a Scotsman to burst into hysterical laughter at my misunderstandings, so I wasn't nearly as embarrassed as I would have been a few years back. (Although by now I guess I really have no excuse).

So on the brink of our fifth Christmas in Scotland (how did that happen?), here are two more biscuit recipes for you, perfect for this wintry weather we've been having lately. While both recipes are called snowballs, they come from different sources in the Recipe Box, and, since my supermarket has stopped selling pecans less than two weeks before Christmas, the one that calls for them is made with pistachios, giving them a festive green colour. Also, the recipe for the pistachio version doesn't include instructions to roll them in powdered sugar, but, like, why else would they be called Snow Balls? So I rolled them and I regret nothing- without it, they were pretty much just shortbread balls anyway.

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The verdict:
Snow Balls 1: pistachio shortbread balls

2 spoons out of five. The dough for these was so beyond dry I had to add extra moisture to it and mix it like crazy to get it to stick together, and all that extra handling made them tougher than I wanted them to be. But the flavour of the pistachios really came through and they were pretty similar in texture to Italian Wedding Cookies, so if you love those, these are gonna be a treat for you.

snowballs 2: soft walnut cookies

4 spoons out of five. They're the perfect balance of chewy and cakey, and the toasty nut flavour really makes it perfect for this time of year.  

One year ago: crazy crust apple pie
two years ago: Christmas tree cakes

the recipe:

Pistachio Shortbread Balls

the directions:

Preheat oven to 165C/325F.
Beat butter until fluffy.
Add all other ingredients except water, beating until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Taking a spoonful of the dough, form a walnut-sized ball.
If mixture does not stick together, add water a few drops at a time, stirring frequently JUST until dough comes together enough to barely hold together as a ball.
Place balls ½-inch apart on cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes until light golden.
Once balls have cooled completely, roll them in powdered sugar and serve.

the ingredients:

1 c butter
2 tbsp vanilla
8 tbsp sugar
4 c pecans or pistachios, chopped fine
4 c flour
1-2 tbsp warm water as needed
Approx ½ c powdered sugar for rolling

The recipe:

Soft Walnut Cookies

the directions:

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Sift together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt, then set aside.
Cream butter until very light and fluffy.
Add powdered sugar gradually and cream until fluffy.
Add egg and vanilla, scraping sides and mixing until incorporated.
Add sifted dry ingredients and mix just until it comes together.
Add walnuts and mix until uniform texture.
Chill 30 minutes.
Roll dough into balls the size of walnuts.
Bake 7-9 minutes until golden at edges.
While cookies are baking, prepare a small bowl of powdered sugar.
As soon as cookies come out of oven, dip the tops in powdered sugar. 
Tap off any excess and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
Once cool, dredge in powdered sugar again.

the ingredients:

2 ½ c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp salt
1 c butter
1 ½ c powdered sugar, sifted, plus more for rolling
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 ½ c walnuts, ground or chopped fine