The Twelve Days of Christmas Confections (Part 1)
One Of My Favorite Things
I love to make cookies and candy.
I love every step in the process—pouring over old (and new) recipe books and magazines to find a new idea, shopping for just the right ingredients, maybe giving that old or new recipe my own personal "spin" with a bit of imagination tossed in for good measure.
I love making the dough, creaming the butter and sugar until they are just the right amount of soft and fluffy. I love the shaping, whether by rolling, pressing, patting into a pan, or merely dropping from a spoon. And then there's the aroma. There is nothing like the fragrance of cookies baking in the oven or scent of sugar and butter melting together to form a sweet piece of fudge.
And, best of all, Christmas gives me a (somewhat) valid excuse for taking cookie baking to the excess. I've not heard one complaint that there are 12 dozen confections in the house.
Here are six of my favorites.
Peppermint Bonbon Cookies
Three years ago my younger daughter made these bonbon cookies as a Christmas gift to her co-workers; I sampled one and believe me, they taste as wonderful as they look.
As the photograph shows, you can make these with just a sprinkle of chopped candy cane on top, or you can really put on the bling with a drizzle of white icing and melted chocolate.
Florence's Sugar Cookies
When I bake these cookies, I think of my oldest sister. She was the queen of cookies in our house. Bar cookies, chocolate chip, and slice-and-bake (she called them icebox) cookies were her specialty. But nothing, absolutely nothing could compare with the sugar cookies she made at Christmas time. Pillsbury Poppin-fresh makes sugar cookies that are certainly easy, but they don't come close to the chewy, buttery taste of these wonderful sugar crisps by my dear sister Florence:
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup margarine
- 1 cup white (granulated) sugar
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 4 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon soda
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- colored sugar for decorating
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Cream together butter, margarine, and sugars. Stir in dry ingredients and vanilla and mix until well blended.
- Form dough into walnut-sized balls. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten each ball with the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar.
- Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes.
White Chocolate/Dried Cranberry Biscotti
Years ago one of my coworkers was a lady named Theresa. She was a first-generation American—both of her parents came to this country from Italy. At Christmastime, we always knew that Theresa would bring biscotti into the office to share with all of us. Those biscotti were amazing—crisp but light and lovingly scented with anise.
Biscotti is a popular Italian cookie. The name derives from "bis" which is Latin for twice and "coctum" or baked—twice baked.
Historians tell us that, on special occasions, Romans would eat little cakes made from nuts and honey. Some believe that Columbus brought this "twice-baked" bread on his voyage to the New World because it was known to last for months. But whether you believe that biscotti were invented as a treat for celebrations or convenience for travelers, they are a tasty cookie, perfect for dunking. Yes, they are hard to bite but (for that very reason) are a perfect accompaniment to marsala wine, vin santo, or coffee. And that is exactly why they are so popular today. With the advent of espresso stands on almost every corner, biscotti are a natural treat.
I have experimented with various biscotti recipes—biscotti with chocolate, fruits, nuts, spices. The combinations are limitless. But white chocolate and dried cranberries are one of my favorites, especially at Christmastime. I found this recipe for white chocolate/dried cranberry biscotti in the December 1998 issue of Bon Appetit. I'd like to think that Theresa would have liked these almost as much as her own recipe.
Apricot-Orange Shortbread Bars
Isn't it funny (odd) the things that can bring back memories? Maybe it's a song on the radio, an old movie, a sound, an aroma, a place you drive by once-in-a-blue-moon.
For me, it's apricots. My dad loved apricot pie. Not just any pie—the apricot pie my mom made. As I've said before, my mom made the most incredible pie crust. It was so very flaky and light—almost etherial. And the filling for the pie my dad loved so much started with dried apricots. I never really paid attention when mom was making it, and what a pity. I've tried many times to replicate that taste, but there is always just "something" lacking.
I also think about my mother inlaw when I bake these cookies. She came to live with us in November 2006—just before Thanksgiving. She was weak and seriously underweight. Eleanore had devoted so much time and attention to caring for her husband of 73 years that she had neglected her own health for far too long.
Weighing barely 90 pounds when she arrived on my doorstep, she needed and deserved much care—and nourishment! And she soon became my official test-taster for the Christmas cookies coming from our kitchen. Of all the cookies I made that year, this apricot-orange shortbread bar is the one she loved the most:
Peppermint Layer Cookies
When I opened my email this morning, there was waiting for me my "daily cookie". Long ago I subscribed (free) to www.myrecipes.com. This is a great website that features recipes from Cooking Light, Southern Living, Sunset, Real Simple and Health magazines. This month they are providing ideas for Christmas baking. Lucky me. And lucky you. For me, anything that contains red and white peppermint candy or crushed candy canes reminds me of Christmas. Guess what I'll be baking today? Sunset Magazine Peppermint Layer Cookies
Note: Store cookies, peppermint ends up, in an airtight container at cool room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Freeze cookies for up to two months.
Chocolate Fruitcake Bars
Once upon a time, a brownie and a fruitcake met; they fell in love, got married, and had a baby. OK, seriously, I have a confession to make—I love fruitcake, I always have and I always will, but my kids would have nothing to do with it. Too nutty, too fruity, and whoever thought that candied grapefruit peel could be a good thing?
On the other hand, what's not to love about a chocolate brownie? Somehow, with this adaptation, this clever Mom made a fruitcake that everyone in the Carb Diva family likes.
- 1/2 cup flour, sifted
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 tablespoon coffee or chocolate liqueur
- 1 tablespoon light rum
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1/4 cup red candied cherries, chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped dates
- 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix together flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Set aside.
- Cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Stir in egg and vanilla.
- Beat in flour mixture, and then add liquid ingredients and stir just until blended (don't over mix).
- Stir in chopped nuts, fruits, and chocolate chips.
- Spread batter in greased and floured 9-inch square baking pan.
- Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.
But Wait, There's More!
Six more recipes to come tomorrow.
© 2014 Linda Lum