I guess you can tell by my lack of posts, things have been a little busy around here! Between a few big projects at work and getting ready for Christmas, there has not been time to photograph and write as routinely as I like.
I love to bake. I do not bake often as neither my husband nor I need piles of treats around! When I do bake, it is to share and Christmas is my favorite time of the year for sharing treats with my friends and family. This year was no different from years past, when I stated, “I am just going to do a couple of things”. As you can see, that did not happen. As soon as the calendar hits November 1st, the magazines, and blog posts, and emails all feature a NEW sugary concoctions that MUST be tried! Our kitchen has been coated with a light dusting of flour for over three weeks. The dining room table is covered in containers and sheet pans and sugar. Once again, I got a little carried away, but I had a lot of help!
I always start with fudge. My Grandmother and my Mom always made fudge at the holiday’s. I have a couple of friends that start calling the first week of December, wondering if it has been made yet! I use the basic Kraft marshmallow cream fudge recipe. However, I use very good quality chocolate and nuts to make it special. (I triple the recipe to fill a 2″ hotel pan, which is 12″ x 20″)
Butter a 9″ square pan. Bring sugar, butter and evaporated milk to full rolling boil in 3-qt. saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook 4 min. or until candy thermometer reaches 234°F, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Warm the chocolate in a small glass bowl in the microwave, for about 30 seconds. Add the chocolate and marshmallow creme; stir until melted. Mix and mix and mix some more with an electric beater! Add nuts and vanilla; mix well.
Pour into prepared pan; spread to cover bottom of pan. Cool completely before cutting into squares.
Christmas Toffee Bars, from “Cuisine at Home, Holiday Cookies”
Makes one 13 x 9 inch pan. I doubled the recipe to make one 13 x 18 half sheet pan.
For the crust, combine the following ingredients. Press into the buttered baking dish. Bake at 350′ for 8 minutes.
2 cups crushed vanilla wafer cookies (smash in a zip lock bag)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup melted, unsalted butter
While the crust is baking, melt together 1 stick of unsalted butter and 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, and boil 1 minute. Pour the mixture over the baked crust. Return to the oven, bake 10 more minutes and let rest 2 minutes.
Sprinkle 8 ounces of chopped chocolate, or one cup of chocolate chips over the bars. Spread to smooth. Top the chocolate with 1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans. Let the bars cool completely and cut into 1″ squares.
Black Forest Crinkle Cookies, from “Cuisine at Home, Holiday Cookies”
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Melt 1/2 stick, 4 tablespoons, unsalted butter in a small bowl
add 1/3 cup cocoa powder (not Dutch process), 1 egg, 2 Tablespoons of strong coffee, 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Mix well. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in 1/3 cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate pieces and 1/3 cup dry, chopped tart cherries.
Chill for dough about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350′ Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls. Roll in powdered sugar, 2 times. Bake 12-14 minutes. Let cookies cool on pan 5 minutes before moving to rack.
Savory Fennel Pollen Shortbread with Red Onion Jam, from Ashley Rodriguez, Not Without Salt Blog
If you haven’t checked out Not without Salt, you are missing out on great recipes and delightful stories. I am lucky to have taken Ashley’s Cookie Boot Camp class at The Pantry at Delancey, where I first had the shortbread cookies with jam. Spread the cookies with a little goat cheese or blue cheese, and top with the red onion jam for the perfect appetizer or dessert. I cannot think of a better accompaniment to a midnight glass of champagne, than these cookies.
Red Onion Jam, adapted from Food & Wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium sweet onions, julienned
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup grenadine
pinch of salt
Melt the butter in a medium skillet. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until soft and just translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the sugar, wine, vinegar, grenadine and a pinch of salt. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the liquid thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 35 minutes. Transfer the onion jam to a bowl and let cool.
Fennel Pollen Shortbread, adapted from Ina Garten
3/4 pound butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fennel pollen, plus about 2 more Tablespoons for rolling the dough in (You can find at a few gourmet stores and online.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the fennel pollen. In a medium bowl, sift together, with a whisk, flour and salt; then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Roll into a log about 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle a generous amount of fennel pollen to cover the the log. Cover in wax paper or parchment. Chill until firm.
Carefully slice the log into 1/4″ cookies. Place the cookies on an sheet pan covered with parchment. Bake for 11-13 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Fleur de Sel Caramels, Ina Garten, Food Network Magazine
I have been making these for about 4 years now. Due to a faulty candy thermometer, it took three tries this year! Take my advice – use two thermometers, or at least one that your trust implicitly! I actually quadruple this recipe and use a 10″ x 15″ glass pan. I recommend making the single recipe and watching a video or two, if you have not made candy before. Dave, the WRAPPER, saved a lot of time this year by using pre-cut candy wrappers!
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup of water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy whipping cream
5 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 teaspoon fine fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Butter an 8″ square baking pan, set aside.
In a deep, heavy saucepan combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar and white corn syrup and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown. Don’t stir — just swirl the pan. Very important to prevent the formation of crystals.
While the sugar syrup is cooking, in a small pot, bring the cream, butter and 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.
When the sugar mixture is done, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be careful — it will bubble up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer. (I also used my digital thermometer.)
Very carefully (it’s hot!) pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Cool until firm.
When the caramel is firm, cut into squares by prying one strip at a time from the baking pan, and cutting on a cutting board. Wrap the candies.
Lemon Thyme Wreaths, From The Art of the Cookie: Baking Up Inspiration by the Dozen by Shelly Kaldunski
This cookie almost won me a trip to the loony bin! It was one of the last minute impulse cookies, I made. It showed up in my email box from I Village Food, looking so lovely, I had to try them. When Dave saw me placing the thyme leaves on the cookies with a pair of tweezers, he became very worried that I had “gone over the edge of the cookie sheet”, so to speak! They were fun to make and are very pretty as well as tasty.
2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting and rolling
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, separated
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 bunch fresh thyme, leaves and tips picked
1/2 Recipe Royal Icing: http://www.joyofbaking.com/RoyalIcing.html
In a bowl, whisk together the 2 cups flour, the baking powder, and the salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter, shortening, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, 2—3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and lemon zest and juice and beat on low speed until the egg is completely incorporated. Beating on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and continue to beat just until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Press the dough into a 7-inch (18-cm) disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white with 2 teaspoons water.
On a lightly floured work surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough to about 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) thick. Using a 21⁄2-inch (6-cm) round cookie cutter, cut out as many shapes as possible. Use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to the prepared sheets, spacing them 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Use a 1-inch round cookie cutter to cut a small circle from the center of each shape. Press the dough scraps together, roll out, and cut out additional wreaths. Brush each wreath with the reserved egg white mixture and top with the thyme leaves and sanding sugar.
Bake until the cookies are lightly golden around the edges, 14 – 17 minutes. Let cool on the sheets for 5 minutes. Using the spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks and let cool, about 30 minutes. Spoon the icing into a paper cone with a 1⁄8-inch (3-mm) round tip (page 15). Pipe dots of icing on each wreath. Let the icing dry completely, about 2 hours.
Raspberry Streusel Bars, from The Joy of Cooking
This is one of my favorite cookies to enjoy with a cup of coffee. Almost more of a pastry than a cookie. I made them special this year, by using my raspberry jam that I made this summer. (See “Keeping Up With Summer”post, August 10, 2013) I doubled the recipe and made a 13 x 18 1/2 sheet pan.
Generously grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Stir together in the bowl of a food processor:
2 cups of all purpose flour
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Add 12 ounces, 1 1/2 sticks, cold, unsalted butter, cut in small cubes. Pulse mixture, as you would making pie crust. Add in 3 tablespoons of milk and 1 teaspoon of almond extract. Pulse a couple more times. Firmly press the dough into the baking pan. Refrigerate 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 375′. Bake 12-15 minutes until the dough is just firm. Remove from oven and spread the crust with once cup of raspberry preserves or jam.
Prepare the streusel topping. Whisk together:
1 1/4 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Sprinkle over the top:
8 tablespoons of cold, unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes.
Pulse the mixture in the food processor until crumbly. Add 3/4 cup sliced, blanched almonds and 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats. Pulse again to mix. Add in 1 beaten egg mixed with 2 tablespoons of milk. Pulse a few times to blend. Crumble mixture over the raspberry preserves. Return to oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until streusel is lightly brown. Cool completely and cut into bars.
Mexican Wedding Cakes, from The Joy of Cooking
2 sticks softened, unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup finely chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
2 cups all purpose flour
Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the chopped nuts. Slowly add in the flour. Roll the dough into one inch balls. Bake at 350′ on a parchment lined baking sheet until faintly brown, about 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool completely and then roll in powdered sugar. Store in airtight container.
Peppermint and White Chocolate Chip Cookies
This cookie came to be because I was given a jar of crushed peppermint candy at a trade show! I was determined to use up all the baking “stuff” I had accumulated over the past year. My nephew and husband are really enjoying these cookies!
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
24 ounces good quality white chocolate chips
1 cup crushed peppermint candies
1 additional bag of white chocolate chips, 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of milk (or more) to make chocolate drizzle for decorating cookies. (Melt chocolate in microwave in 30 second increments. Stir in between. Add vegetable oil and milk and thin to desired thickness. Place in parchment “cone”. Cut tip and drizzle over cookies.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt, in a small bowl, set aside. Cream butter and sugar together until light in color, in large bowl of a stand mixer. Add the vanilla then the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Reduce the speed on the mixer and add in the flour mixture. Do not over mix. Stir in the chocolate and crushed peppermint. Place dough on a large sheet of parchment or wax paper, and roll into a log. Chill overnight, minimum. When ready to bake, slice the logs into 1/4-1/3 inch thickness. Bake cookies on parchment lined baking sheets about 9 minutes. Do not over bake. Let cookies sit on baking sheet about 5 minutes before moving to cooling rack. Decorate with white chocolate drizzle, if desired.
Coconut Macaroons with a Surprise Center, from Cuisine at Home, Holiday Cookies
These are called “inside-out” Almond Joy Macaroons in the cookbook. This year, I wanted a cookie without nuts, so I used plain chocolate kisses, rather than the chocolate almond kisses I have used in the past. These lean more toward candy than cookie and are absolutely yummy!
1 package sweetened, shredded coconut
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup cream of coconut
3 egg whites
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
32, approximately, chocolate kiss candies, with or without almonds
Mince 1 1/2 cups of the coconut in a food processor. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the remaining coconut to the minced coconut and all the other ingredients, except the chocolate kisses. Mix until well combined. Chill dough in refrigerator at least one hour. Preheat oven to 350′. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape a spoonful of coconut mixture around a chocolate kiss, enclosing the candy completely. Place on baking sheet about 1″ apart. Bake until cookies are firm and deep golden at the base and lightly golden on the top. Let the macaroons cool on the sheet about 5 minutes before moving to rack. Store in airtight containers.
Extra big Christmas hugs to my husband Dave and my nephew Jacob for the food styling, lighting, photography of all these goodies! And to Jasper and Cooper for keeping the floor clean throughout the entire process!
From the crew at More Savory, Less Sweet – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!