The Twelve Days of Christmas Confections (Part 1)
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, 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 the sweet 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.
Peppermint Bonbon Cookies
Three years ago my younger daughter made these as a Christmas gift to her co-workers; I sampled one and believe me, they taste as wonderful as they look.
The recipe is from the Time, Inc. website http://myrecipes.com.
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.
- 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 cup finely crushed hard peppermint candies
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
- Additional coarsely crushed hard peppermint candies, divided
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar (optional)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons milk (optional)
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate morsels, melted (optional)
- Combine first 3 ingredients in a large saucepan; cook over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and stir in 1/2 cup crushed peppermint and 6 Tbsp. sugar. Let cool 30 minutes.
- Add eggs to melted chocolate, 1 at a time, stirring well. Stir in extracts.
- Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to chocolate mixture, stirring until combined. Stir in chocolate morsels. Cover and chill dough 2 hours or until firm enough to shape.
- Shape dough into 1 1/2" balls; place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake at 325° for 12 to 13 minutes or until cookies are puffed and cracked on top.
- Sprinkle coarsely crushed peppermints onto cookies; press candy lightly into cookies. Let cookies cool 5 minutes on baking sheets. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Whisk together powdered sugar and milk; drizzle over cooled cookies, if desired.
- Drizzle with melted chocolate, if desired. Sprinkle cookies again with chopped peppermint, if desired. Let cookies stand until glaze and chocolate are firm.
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen
Florence's Sugar Cookies
When I think about 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 specialities. But nothing, absolutely nothing could compare with the sugar cookies she made at Christmas time. Poppin-fresh makes sugar cookies that are tasty, and certainly easy, but they don't come close to the buttery, flaky 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 tsp. soda
- 1 tsp. cream of tartar
- 2 tsp. 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 Bark (3 Ways)
How does Santa Claus do it? Does he ever miss someone on his list? My intent is to have a small gift for everyone who helps us during the year--the paperboy, the guy who mows the lawn, the hairstylist, my next-door neighbor's handyman who has bailed me out more times than I can count. But invariably, I always forget someone until the 11th hour. That's why it's nice to have a batch of candy ready to place into a gift bag or canister. These three recipes are quick and inexpensive, but taste far better than anything you could buy at the store. Thanks to the wonderful website www.myrecipes.com for this wonderful recipe.
These are so easy, and look and taste as though you fussed for hours. Consider it my gift to you.
Peppermint White Chocolate Bark
- 24 round red and green hard peppermint candies
- 2 (12-oz.) packages white chocolate morsels
- 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
- Line 3 (9" x 5") loaf pans with multipurpose sealing wrap (we tested with Press 'N Seal); set aside. (Use disposable loaf pans from the grocery store, if desired.)
- Place candies in a zip-top plastic freezer bag. Coarsely crush candies using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Set aside crushed candies, reserving 3 Tbsp. separately for topping.
- Microwave white chocolate morsels in a large microwave-safe bowl at 70% power for 1 minute and 15 seconds. (Morsels will not look melted.) Stir morsels until melted. Microwave again at 15-second intervals, if necessary.
- Add peppermint extract and larger portion of crushed candies to melted chocolate, stirring until evenly distributed.
- Quickly spread melted white chocolate evenly in prepared pans; sprinkle with reserved 3 Tbsp. candies, pressing gently with fingertips. Let stand 1 hour or until firm.
Peanut Brittle Candy Slabs:
Melt white chocolate as directed in recipe above, gently folding in 1 1/2 cups crushed storebought peanut brittle and 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter; spread evenly in prepared loaf pans. Dollop 1 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter over candy mixture in each loaf pan; swirl with a knife. Sprinkle 1/2 cup crushed peanut brittle evenly over candy in pans, pressing gently with fingertips. Yield: 3 slabs/2 1/3 lb.
Hello Dolly Candy Slabs:
Measure and combine 2/3 cup each miniature semisweet chocolate morsels, toasted flaked coconut, chopped pecans, and chopped graham crackers; set aside 1/2 cup of this mix for topping. Melt white chocolate as directed in recipe above, gently folding in combined ingredients; spread evenly in prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle reserved 1/2 cup topping mixture over candy in pans, pressing gently with fingertips. Yield: 3 slabs/2 lb.
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 a convenience for travellers, they are a tasty cookie--perfect for dunking. Yes, they are hard to bite, but are a perfect accompaniment with marsala wine, or 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 is one of my favorites--especially at Christmastime. I found this recipe 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.
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries (about 6 ounces)
1 egg white
6 ounces good-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Baker's), chopped, or white chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Combine 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, 2 eggs and almond extract in large bowl until well blended. Mix in flour mixture, then dried cranberries.
- Divide dough in half. Using floured hands, shape each piece into 2 1/2-inch-wide, 9 1/2-inch-long, 1-inch-high log. Transfer both logs to prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly. Whisk egg white in small bowl until foamy; brush egg white glaze on top and sides of each log.
- Bake logs until golden brown (logs will spread), about 35 minutes. Cool completely on sheet on rack.
- Maintain oven temperature. Transfer logs to work surface. Discard parchment. Using serrated knife, cut logs on diagonal into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on same sheet. Bake 10 minutes; turn biscotti over. Bake until just beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Transfer biscotti to rack.
- Stir chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water until smooth. Remove from over water. Using fork, drizzle chocolate over biscotti. Let stand until chocolate sets, about 30 minutes. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Freeze in airtight container. Thaw at room temperature.)
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 is the one she loved the most:
- 1 cup apricot preserves
- 3 tablespoons orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup (packed) almond paste (from 7-ounce roll), crumbled
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds, divided
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter 9x9x2-inch metal baking pan; line bottom and sides of pan with parchment paper, extending over sides. Butter parchment. Mix preserves and orange liqueur in small bowl; set aside.
- Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter and sugar in large bowl until well blended. Beat in almond extract. Add flour and salt; beat just until blended. Transfer 1 cup of dough to another small bowl; add crumbled almond paste and mix with fingertips until small clumps form. Mix in 1/4 cup sliced almonds; set aside for topping.
- Press remaining dough evenly onto bottom of prepared pan. Spread preserves mixture evenly over. Using fingertips, coarsely crumble topping over preserves, then sprinkle 1/4 cup almonds over. Press topping lightly into preserves.
- Bake shortbread until top and crust edges are golden brown, about 1 hour. Cool completely in pan on rack. Using parchment paper as aid, lift shortbread from pan. Cut shortbread into 4 equal strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 8 small bar cookies.
DO AHEAD Can be prepared ahead. Store in single layer in airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.
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 which 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?
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 3 cups flour, plus more for rolling
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract, divided
- 20 to 25 drops red food coloring
- 15 to 20 drops green food coloring
- 10 ounce white chocolate, finely chopped
- 5 ounces peppermint candy canes or peppermint candies, finely crushed
1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a separate bowl.
2. With mixer running, add egg and yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla. Slowly add flour mixture and beat on low just until combined.
3. Divide dough into thirds. Shape one third into a disk; set aside. Return another third to mixer, raise speed to medium-low, and add 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract and red food coloring; shape into a disk and set aside. Clean mixing bowl and paddle attachment. Put last third of dough in mixing bowl and beat in remaining 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract and green food coloring; shape into a disk and set aside.
4. Draw a 6- by 8-in. rectangle on a sheet of waxed paper. Turn sheet over and lightly flour it. Working with one disk at a time, put dough in center of rectangle. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, your fingers, and a pastry scraper or a ruler, roll and shape each disk to fit rectangle. Layer each dough rectangle between sheets of waxed paper and chill at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. Let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes before continuing.
5. Peel waxed paper from rectangles and put one sheet on counter; discard the rest. Set green dough on waxed paper. Top with red dough, lining them up as evenly as possible, and gently press down. Top red dough with plain dough. Gently roll dough stack with a rolling pin to seal layers, then trim uneven edges with a very sharp knife.
Note: Store cookies, peppermint ends up, in an airtight container at cool room temperature or in refrigerator for up to 1 week. Freeze cookies for up to 2 months.
But Wait, There's More!
Six more recipes to come tomorrow.
© 2014 Linda Lum