Gingerbread Trees with Juniper Berry Glaze

by Michelle on December 6, 2009

 

Juniper berry; A juniper berry is the female seed cone produced by the various species of junipers. It is not a true berry but a cone with unusually fleshy and merged scales, which give it a berry-like appearance. The cones from a handful of species, especially Juniperus communis, are used as a spice, particularly in European cuisine, and also give gin its distinguishing flavour. According to one Food and Agriculture Organization (FOA)document, juniper berries are the only spice derived from conifers.

The flavor profile of young, green berries is dominated by pinene; as they mature this piney, resinous backdrop is joined by what is describes as “green-fresh” and citrus notes. The outer scales of the berries are relatively flavourless, so the berries are almost always at least lightly crushed before being used as a spice. They are used both fresh and dried, but their flavor and odor is at their strongest immediately after harvest and decline during drying and storage.

Juniper berries are used in northern European and particularly Scandinavian cuisine to “impart a sharp, clear flavour” to meat dishes, especially wild birds and game meats. They also season pork, cabbage, and sauerkraut dishes. Traditional recipes for choucroute garnie, an Alsatian dish of sauerkraut and meats, universally include juniper berries. Besides Norwegian and Swedish dishes, juniper berries are also sometimes used in German, Austrian, Czech and Hungarian cuisine, often with roasts.

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There are many reasons I chose the Gingerbread Trees with Juniper Berry Glaze as my sixth cookie for the 12-Days of Christmas Cookies Extravaganza. I happen to love Gingerbread, so much so that I can remember the first time my Mom made it. We were living in Cuyahoga Falls, OH and I was about 10 years old. I remember the chunk of dark, luscious Gingerbread sitting in front of me, topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with Nutmeg. With my first bite I knew it would always be a favorite of mine and it still is!

I discovered Juniper Berries were used in cooking several years ago and I’ve wanted to do something with them ever since. The berries have a gentle odor of evergreen and smell so fresh and clean. On the other hand, my childhood memories of Juniper Berries were as a much sought after weapon. We used to pick the berries off our evergreens and wing ’em at each other all the time!

I’ve been very good about not changing any of the recipes so far for the Christmas Cookie Extravaganza but from now on I’m busting out! It’s difficult for me to bake when I know I can make the recipe better or at least better for us. So, yes I did change this recipe. Since I wanted to enhance the Juniper Berry taste I increased the Juniper Berries to 1/2 cup. And for the cookies I added 1 egg and cut down the Molasses to 2 TBL and eliminated the Allspice.

I loved these cookies and they are my favorite so far!! They were not easy to roll out even with chilling the dough overnight in the refrigerator. So once again I just took a small amount of dough and patted it down with my hands to about 1/4″ and cut the cookies. The Juniper Berry was not as pronounced as I would have liked, in fact it was barely detectable at all which was a disappointment. But I was very happy with the cookie overall and I will try and find some fresher Juniper Berries for future experimentation.

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Gingerbread Trees with Juniper Berry Glaze
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit’s Holiday Cookie-a-Day Collection

2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice (I skipped)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses (I used 2 TBL)

My addition: 1 egg, slightly whipped

Glaze and decoration:
3/4 cup half and half
1/3 cup (1 ounce) juniper berries, lightly crushed (I used 1/2 c.)
1 pound powdered sugar
Assorted decorations (colored sugars, nonpareils, and dragées)

For the cookies:

Whisk first 6 ingredients in medium bowl. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in molasses. Beat in dry ingredients. Gather dough; divide into 4 pieces. Shape into disks. Wrap; chill at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Roll out 1 dough disk to 1/8-inch thickness. Using 3 1/2-inch cutter, cut out cookies. Transfer to sheet. Gather scraps; chill.

Bake cookies until almost firm in center, 12 minutes. Cool on sheets 2 minutes, then cool on racks. Repeat, using all dough. DO AHEAD Store airtight at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.

For glaze and decoration:

Bring first 2 ingredients to simmer. Cover; chill 5 hours. Strain. Place powdered sugar in bowl. Whisk in half and half by spoonfuls until glaze is spreadable. Frost cookies; decorate. Let stand until glaze sets. DO AHEAD Store between sheets of waxed paper in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

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Susan @ Thoughts from Over the Rainbow is having a Deck the Halls Party and I’m entering my Gingerbread Trees with Juniper Berry Glaze. Please visit Thoughts from Over the Rainbow and see some more wonderful holiday ideas, I know you will enjoy it!

Please visit the rest of our 12-DaysofCookies Crew and see what they’ve baked today!

Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes.(honorary member and our founder but not participating this year)
Claire of The Barefoot Kitchen
Courtney of Coco Cooks <–Glamorous Courtney
Di of Di’s Kitchen Notebook
Judy of No Fear Entertaining
Kelly of Sass & Veracity<–Sweet Kelly
Michelle of BigBlackDog <–Hey that’s ME!
RJ of Flamingo Musings <–Feathered Friend Renee
Sandy of At the Baker’s Bench
Tiffany of The Nesting Project

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Comments

  • Pam December 6, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Beautiful cookies! I don’t know how you have time for everything you do!!

  • Nancy - TheSensitivePantry.com December 6, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Sweet! These are beautiful. And, I bet they taste delicious. Love the snowflake “jimmies”.

  • marty (A Stroll Thru Life) December 6, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    They look gorgeous and the recipe sounds wonderful. I have to add this to my recipes too. Thanks. Hugs, Marty

  • YankeeQuilter December 6, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Those look wonderful. It just wouldn’t be the holiday without Gingerbread. A small restaurant near my Moms serves warm gingerbread with spiced peaches and fresh whipped cream.

  • Kayte December 6, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    I wondered how long it would be before you would “bust out” of following the recipes! LOL. You always know how to make something better or different or unique…I love seeing all your tweaks on things. These cookies are so pretty…you even decorate cookies uniquely…my favorite is the one with green sprinkles and snowflakes…so perfect! But, to it’s friends: I love you all, each one of you is fun!

  • Kat December 6, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    What a small world! I grew up (first 18 years of my life) in Aurora, Ohio. I know and have been to Cuyahoga Falls many times back then!
    This cookie looks so festive. Where did you get those pretty little snowflakes on them?
    I used to make gingerbread houses when my kids were home. I might try these for my give away boxes since they are so pretty.
    BTW, are you freezing all these cookies, or what?

  • Di December 6, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Wow, those look wonderful! I love the way you decorated the cookies and the winter backdrop is perfect. =)

  • Joanne December 6, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    I am constantly changing up recipes to better suit my tastes (and often to make them healthier haha). I like your changes to these.

    I’ve actually never had a juniper berry before but the idea of them in icing is a really good one!

  • theUngourmet December 6, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Darling cookies! I love reading about the juniper berry. Gingerbread is one of my most favorites. I love that spicy, yummy goodness!

  • Heather in SF aka @ HeatherHAL December 6, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    What a pretty forest you have! And a creative use of juniper, I have never heard of it used in a sweet before!

  • Cheryl B. December 6, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Well Michelle, I am now yet again caught up on both of your blogs. I chuckled while reading one of your postings on this blog, when you stated you never thought you’d have a scheduling problem with your blogs. Oh can I relate!!! I have ever so many things that I either want to write about, or have promised to tell more details about, but actually getting them done keeps being challenging. I honestly thought that by this stage of my life I’d be in better control. Aw well …

    I too often have a hard time with sticking to printed recipies. We prefer soft products, whether it be meat or cookies, so sometimes I increase this or that to get the desired results. Or sometimes the overall recipe includes ingredients that we don’t particularly like, but the base of the recipe is such that I decide to go with it, only substitue this for that, etc.

    I read your recipe for sausage stuffed mushrooms. When I worked for the caterer I must have made a gazillion of those!!! They were one of the top appetizer picks, espically for Christmas parties. At the time he used white mushrooms, and didn’t save the stems. While I don’t care for mushrooms, my husband sure does, so I’d bring home instatutional sour cream sized buckets of stems. Added them to soups, and omelettes, and sauteed them with butter, garlic powder and worchestershire sauce as a side dish, etc..

    One thing we added to our sausage stuffing that you didn’t list, but yet I think you might like, is orange rind. We called it our ‘secret ingredient’. It added a zest to the flavor that most people couldn’t quite figure out what it was, but declared them amazingly good.

    Wishing you well on the rest of your cookie experimenting.

    I just remembered another tip I wanted to share. When the fridge’s are full, use coolers. If it’s cold enough outside, you don’t have to ice them, just fill and close out on the porch – they then are varment (and pet) proof :-}

  • SavoringTime in the Kitchen December 6, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    I normally don’t like iced cookies but with the addition of the Juniper Berry flavor I think I could change my mind! Your gingerbread trees are adorable, Michelle!

  • Kim December 7, 2009 at 1:33 am

    Those cookies are beautiful! How did you get them to stand up like that? They just look so great.

    Nice to hear you lived in Cuyahoga Falls when you were younger. I’m actually from Elyria, Ohio about 20 minutes away from there.

  • glamah16 December 7, 2009 at 3:08 am

    Yur presentation is outstanding! I have juniper berries for savory dishes but not for dessert before.

  • RJ Flamingo December 7, 2009 at 3:13 am

    I was born & raised in Dayton, OH, and like you, it never occurred to me that those things are edible – we used to chuck ’em at each other, too! 😀 Looked like you had a good time with these. :-)

  • girlichef December 7, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever used Juniper berries in anything but a brine or sauce. I can almost taste these…they sound amazing! Gingerbread is my fave, so I’m definitely going to have to try with some juniper!

  • Ju (The Little Teochew) December 7, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Michelle!!! They are so very pretty! And festive! Every single one of them. If I had to buy them, I’d buy them all! You’re truly an amazing, talented lady :)

    Ju

  • Tracy December 7, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    How pretty! Love these!

  • Glenda/MidSouth December 7, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Your cookies are so pretty!! Thanks for sharing the recipes.

  • Cindy (Applestone Cottage) December 7, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    Wow! Those look fabulous! Thanks for sharing, too bad I can’t reach through the computer and sample them! Cindy

  • Kammy December 8, 2009 at 12:27 am

    Yummy and what a wonderful photo shoot ! I love that cookie backdrop and those cookies look delish !
    Kammy

  • Sue (Someone's Mom) December 8, 2009 at 12:52 am

    The cookies are really pretty. I didn’t know you could eat juniper berries…and I can’t even imagine the taste. This was not only a pretty post…it was very interesting.

    Sue

  • Sandy December 8, 2009 at 2:01 am

    Your cookies are beautiful, I bet they taste as good as they look. Thanks for sharing.
    Sandy

  • katrina December 8, 2009 at 2:17 am

    Such a lovely forest of cookies! And I agree – the scent of juniper is so sharp and fresh, it always makes me think of snow! I can’t wait to try the glaze, as well as your gingerbread – YUM!

  • Danielle December 8, 2009 at 3:43 am

    im just lovin all your cookies! they’re beautiful!

  • susan December 8, 2009 at 3:54 am

    Michelle-I LOVE them! I have to admit that I am not a real gingerbread fan, but the juniper berries make me want to try again. Besides, mine was never topped with whipped cream :) Your trees are decorated to perfection! Thanks for bringing your cookies to the “party” :)

  • Jeanette December 8, 2009 at 5:03 am

    So beautiful! Your photography is just lovely.

  • Sandy December 8, 2009 at 6:22 am

    Look good enough to eat!! 😀 YUM

  • Cristie December 8, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    MIchelle, thank you for introducing me to the Juniper Berry. I had no idea they could be eaten! My experience was like yours as a child- only a weapon. Your trees are darling and I can’t wait to search for berries and make some of my own. You are AMAZING!

  • Kim December 8, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    These turned out so beautifully. It almost makes me want to make some…

  • Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction December 9, 2009 at 3:33 am

    Beautiful cookies… I love gingerbread! The juniper berry glaze sounds interesting.

  • Lori E December 9, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    A fail, you? Nah. Obviously their fault. Your instincts were right on.
    I would have broken up the failed giant cookie and fed it to my guys. They would have eaten it for sure.
    I love the way you decorated these trees.

  • Fresh Local and Best December 13, 2009 at 10:15 am

    I adore juniper berries, it has such a nice piney Christmassy flavor!

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