How to Make Orange Blossom Star Cookies


One of our favorite Christmas time rituals is the making of the cookies. And one of our favorite recipes is for stelline d’oro (little golden star cookies) which comes as a bonus in Tomie dePaolo’s children’s book, Clown of God. If you have young children, I highly recommend you buy the book (or any by dePaola).

I wanted to share the stelline d’oro cookie recipe with you, but because it is copyrighted, I can’t include it here. So instead, I offer you my adaptation. The orange blossom water (available in gourmet shops, or Italian or Indian groceries) gives the flowers a unique delicately floral flavor. The original recipe contains saffron, which adds a warm earthy flavor. I recommend you check it out. Anyway, here is my recipe:

The cookie dough:
2 cups unbleached organic flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 cup organic butter*
1 cup fair trade evaporated sugar
1 cage-free organic egg
2 tablespoon orange juice

The glaze:
1 tablespoon warm water
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 cup fair trade confectioners’ sugar
Natural vegetable coloring (optional)

Colored sugar (optional)

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) together. In a separate bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and the orange juice to the butter/sugar and mix well. Add the dry ingredients a bit at a time, mixing well. Wrap the dough in wax paper and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Divide the dough into 4 sections. Roll out each section until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Cut with a star shaped cookie cutter (sometimes we use different sized stars to make it look like the night sky). Place cookies on a baking sheet that is either lightly greased, or covered in parchment paper (my preference). Bake at 375-degrees for about 6 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly brown on the edges.

Cool on a cookie rack. Once cooled, glaze the cookies, using the following recipe:

Mix the glaze ingredients together until all lumps are gone. You can tint the glaze with food coloring (I use India Tree natural vegetable colors).

Glaze the cookies and, if you want, sprinkle with coarse colored sugar (I use Joby and Marty’s Amazing Colored Sugar, which I buy at Whole Foods).

Voila!

*Make sure you use real butter, as butter substitutes will keep the cookies from holding their shape

How to Make An Old-Timey Popcorn Garland

photo copyright Cherry Hill Farmhouse and Barn

This weekend, my husband surprised me with high tea at Cherry Hill Farmhouse, a historic property managed by Falls Church parks and rec. Cherry Hill hosts reenactments, concerts, readings, lectures, and teas, and this past Sunday, the tea included a presentation by a costumed interpreter who told us about Christmas celebrations in Northern Virginia the late 1800s. We sat in the parlor of the farmhouse, and learned about the decorations used on a typical Christmas tree. There were small candles clipped to the branches, handmade paper ornaments and a garland made of popcorn and cranberries was wound around the tree.

This reminded me of how much I enjoyed making popcorn garlands when I was a child. So I decided to make one for the little live Christmas tree we bought this year. Making the garlands is pretty simple, but in case you haven’t tried it before, here’s how you do it.

You will need the following materials:

  • popped popcorn (unbuttered, of course!)
  • fresh cranberries
  • embroidery floss or other heavy thread
  • needle
  • Place the cranberries and popcorn into bowls to make it easy to access them as you string.

    Cut the embroidery floss into 5-foot lengths. This makes it easy to manage. You can connect them later for longer garlands. Thread the needle with the embroidery floss (I used 3 strands), then thread one cranberry down to the end and knot the thread around it to make an anchor.


    Thread the popcorn and cranberries in a pattern until thread is full (I did 1 cranberry, 3 popcorns, 1 cranberry, 2 popcorns, etc., but you can do whatever pleases you), avoiding any squishy cranberries.


    Leave enough of an end to tie another cranberry-knot when you’re done. If you would like a garland longer than 5 feet, leave a length of thread beyond the cranberry knot, which you can tie to the next garland.

    This garland looks lovely and when you are ready to toss out/plant/put away your Christmas tree, the garland can go outside where the birds and squirrels will make good use of it!

    Join Us at the BUST Magazine Craftacular: Holiday 2010!

    Herban Lifestyle is thrilled to announce that we will be vending at the Holiday 2010 BUST Magazine Craftacular! It’s being held on December 12 at The Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 W 18th Street, New York, NY, from 10am to 6pm.

    Admission is just $2 and the first 500 attendees get a free goodie bag. I have heard from past attendees that it is well worth getting up early on a Sunday morning for a chance at one of these!

    The show will feature over 300 amazing crafters, along with DJs, beverages, snacks, and DIY demos. Plus, Amy Sedaris will be selling and signing her wickedly funny craftish books!

    I will be at booth #47 on the first floor. I hope to see you there!

    Hope to see you there!

    How to Host a Cookie Exchange Party

    a photo of the lavender sugar cookies I made for last year's exchange

    My friend, Meg, and I have held a holiday cookie exchange for a small group of our friends. It’s a fun, low-key way to get into the holiday spirit. And it has become an eagerly anticipated tradition amongst our regular attendees.

    It is not an elaborate event, just a simple gathering, with good food, great company, and a wonderful assortment of cookies, which we in turn give to our friends and family as gifts.

    If you are interested in throwing a cookie exchange, here’s how we go about it. We send out an invitation asking guests to bring two dozen homemade cookies to trade with other guests. We promise our guests that they will walk away with an amazing array of home baked treats that will make them look like a domestic rock star, as if they have spent hours in the kitchen :)

    We hold it in the early evening on a weeknight in order to minimize its competition people’s holiday social commitments. It is scheduled so that it is not too close to Christmas, but not too far away, so that the cookies will still be fresh for the holidays (however, if you need to, you can freeze most cookies). Sparkling cider, sparkling water and wine are offered along with hearty appetizers, and a backdrop of Christmas music sets the stage for a holiday state of mind.

    While the piece de resistance is the gathering of the cookies, the party is also a great way to just relax in the company of good friends. And it’s a lot of fun to see what types of cookies people will bring. I never ask ahead of time, and interestingly, there have never been duplicates. The cookies have ranged from classic (gingerbread), to fun (candy cane), to unusual (organic lavender sugar*). Guests are asked to bring containers to transport their cookie conquests, but if they forget, I always have extras.

    I’ve been to cookie exchange parties where the hostess asks guests to bring a copy of their recipe to share, but we skip that part. We feel that it is enough to ask people to make cookies and make time for yet another event during the busy holiday season. If anyone really wants a particular recipe, they can always ask the cookie cook to email it to them. However, we’ve found that our group is quite happy to just bake one type of cookie! I have also see websites that offer elaborate rules around cookie exchanges, but we tend to be fairly lax. All we ask is that our guests bring cookies they’ve made, and if they absolutely don’t have time, they can bring store bought. Again, this is about enjoying time with friends, and the last thing we want to do is add more pressure to our friend’s lives!

    If you decide to host a cookie exchange, please let me know how it goes. And if you’ve come up with a creative or fun addition to the tradition, I’d love to hear about it!

    *I buy Fair Trade cane sugar (which ensures that sugar cane farmers receive a fair price for their harvest), both for my home baking as well as for my sugar scrubs. My favorite brand is Wholesome Sweeteners, which is available at Whole Foods. I also learned recently that many brands of sugar are not vegetarian! They use bone char (usually from cows) to whiten their product (ew!). For more information on this topic, you can visit the Whole Foods blog.