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I have extremely fond memories of shared winter holiday meals, but many actually took place before or after or in between the official Christmas and New Year’s festivities. They weren’t the fanciest nor the best prepared meals, and to be honest, many were whipped up at the last minute. And yet I remember them more fondly, perhaps because of the magic of that spontaneity or the stressless ease of enjoying simple things … simply.

It may seem unusual that someone like me, who likes taking his time preparing things, and who doesn’t hesitate to complicate (but I prefer to use the term “complexify”) preparations, so that they become almost exactly what I imagine them and want them to become, can show great appreciation for the simpler, spontaneous, less fussy meals with just a few people, as opposed to larger gatherings. 

It isn’t always about what you eat but more about how and in what spirit it was prepared and doing the best you can with what you have and sharing it with people you feel comfortable enough with to just be simple.

I often ask my mom for her childhood Christmas stories, back in her cute little village back in Greece, located in a valley at the foot of Mount Olympus. If you’re wondering if it snowed, the answer is YES. Her stories are filled with little pearls of wisdom and gems of happiness. They didn’t have much, but they had just what they needed. They all appreciated everything they had and the efforts everyone contributed to make it wonderful and memorable for all. My mom sometimes chokes up when remembering the “good old days” which were so much simpler and basic than what we’ve all gotten used to or expect today.

What I’m trying to say is that even though the 2020 holiday season coming up may not be as overboard, as festive nor as crowded as the other years, there’s no reason for it to not be magical and perhaps even more memorable than the other years. It all depends on you and your frame of mind.

Do the best that you can. As hosts, take the time (if you can) to make something simple from scratch or something more complex, if you’re comfortable with that and be thankful you have guests. As guests, enjoy something simpler as much as you would something more complex prepared for you and be thankful to be invited. 

A gratifying and memorable event, no matter how simple or complex, long-lasting or fleeting, is a team effort, with roles played by everyone who happens to be there at that moment, to participate and contribute.

I’ll be making these cookies and sharing them with my loved ones, as usual, but also with a few of my neighbors, because during these past 9 months of restrictions and lockdowns, I’ve bumped into, spent more time with and exchanged more with these fine folks who live so close by, than most of my family and friends I’ve known for so long but have been unable to see and spend quality time with recently.

Happy holiday preparations to all because it’s going to be fine and it’s going to be great, so don’t you worry your pretty little Santa Claus hat-wearing heads … :)

spiced orange & hazelnut christmas cookies


30 small cookies x 26 grams each or 45 mini cookies x 17 grams each


cookie dough :

  • 175 grams (¾ cup) soft butter 
  • 175 grams (1 1/3 cups) icing sugar 
  • 60 grams (1 large) whole egg
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) orange juice (from 1 medium orange)
  • 5 grams (3 tsp) grated orange zest (from 1 medium orange)
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) vanilla extract 
  • 2,5 ml (½ tsp) hazelnut extract
  • 250 grams (2 cups) white all-purpose flour 
  • 125 grams (1 ½ cups) ground hazelnut powder 
  • 2 grams (¾ tsp) ground cinnamon powder
  • 0,5 gram (¼ tsp) ground nutmeg powder
  • 0,5 gram (¼ tsp) ground cloves powder
  • 0,5 gram (¼ tsp) ground allspice powder
  • 0,5 gram (¼ tsp) ground ginger powder
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) fine sea salt
  • 50 grams (¼ cup) oven-roasted & coarsely chopped hazelnuts (for extra crunch & flavor) 
  • 30 grams (2 tbsp) finely diced candied orange peel

glazing :

  • 130 grams (1 cup) icing sugar 
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) orange juice 
  • 1 ml (¼ tsp) artificial clear vanilla (not dark) extract 
  • optional : 0,5 ml (1/8 tsp) orange extract + 0,5 ml (1/8 tsp) hazelnut extract

decorative garnish : 

  • 10 grams (2 tbsp) gold or silver pearl candy decorations or sprinkles


  • prepare the hazelnuts preparations first if you don’t have roasted hazelnuts or ground hazelnut powder by roasting the hazelnuts in a 200°C preheated oven for 5 minutes, then let them cool down, rub between your palms to get rid of the skins, then reserve 50 grams of whole hazelnuts to coarsely crush them and set aside and place the remaining 125 grams in a food-processor and grind them into a powder and reserve 
  • combine the dry ingredients : flour, hazelnut powder, salt, ground spices and baking powder in a separate bowl and add in the candied citrus peel and coarsely crushed hazelnuts
  • in another bowl, beat the butter with the icing sugar for 2 minutes until paler, then add in the eggs, the orange juice, extracts and zests and mix well
  • combine both bowls of ingredients together and form a dense dough, wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least 60 minutes
  • if making little round balls by hand and not using a mold for mini cookies or cakes to bake them (my silicone molds measure  30 cm x 18 cm with 15 cavities each measuring 4 cm in diameter and 2 cm high) chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 60 minutes until firmer then shape the round balls and refrigerate them again for at least 60 minutes before baking (so they spread less) or if using a mold like I did, separate the chilled dough into little balls, press them into your molds and chill again for 15 minutes before baking
  • *note : you can 30 small cookies with 30 grams of dough each or 45 mini cookies with 20 grams of dough each, or anything else in between …
  • preheat the oven to 180°C and bake the cookies for 18-20 minutes until slightly golden, then remove, let cool down completely and remove from the molds (if using)
  • prepare the glazing with icing sugar, orange juice and extracts and mix until smooth
  • dip the tops of all the cooled and baked cookies in the glaze once, let them slightly dry and then dip again for a thicker glaze and sprinkle with a few decorations and set aside until completely dry
  • keep the cookies in a tin for up to 1 week or refrigerate for several weeks in a non-airtight container (with a piece of stale bread to absorb any built-up moisture from the refrigeration).