The Twelve Days of Christmas Confections (Part II)
There are Six More Recipes!!
I promised you twelve recipes for Christmas confections. Six were presented in Part I of this series (see link below if you missed it).
Six more recipes follow.
- The Twelve Days of Christmas Confections (Part 1)
Whether for a potluck, gift-giving, or just for your own family's pleasure--there is nothing more festive that Christmas cookies and candy. I am sharing 12 tried and true recipes with you.
So, what exactly is a sugarplum? According to www.godecookery.com:
"The dictionary defines a sugarplum as a small round or oval piece of sugary candy. English being the flexible language it is, the name could have come from the resemblance to a small plum. Or it could have come from actual plums preserved in sugar, a relatively new idea in 16th Century England. Prior to this time sugar was so expensive that it was used very sparingly, much as we would use a spice today. In the 1540's, however, sugar started being refined in London which lowered the price considerably, although only well-off families were able to use it lavishly. Preserving with sugar allowed the sweet fruits of summer to be enjoyed all year round, especially during the holiday season."
The 2004 edition of Better Homes and Gardens "Holiday Baking" publication has one of the best recipes I've tasted for "sugarplums". I don't know if this is what Clement Moore was thinking of when he wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas", but it's something my friends and neighbors look forward to receiving from my kitchen each year:
- 15 ounces white chocolate baking squares (with cocoa butter, not almond bark)
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 10-oz box shortbread cookies, finely crushed (about 3 cups crumbs)
- 2/3 cup finely snipped dried apricots
- 12 cup finely chopped candied pineapple
- 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped candied orange peel
- 1 tablespoon shortening
- pink coarse sugar
- Chop 3 ounces of the white chocolate; transfer to a heavy small saucepan. Heat and stir over low heat until melted. Remove from heat. Add the corn syrup and orange juice; stir until combined.
- In a small bowl, combine cookie crumbs, dried apricots, candied pineapple, toasted nuts, and candied orange peel. Stir in corn syrup mixture until combined. Form mixture into 1 1/4 to 1 1/2-inch balls. Place on waxed paper; let stand about 30 minutes or until dry.
- For coating: Chop remaining 12 ounces of white chocolate, transfer to a heavy, medium saucepan. Add shortening. Cook over low heat until melted and smooth, stirring frequently. Dip balls, one at a time, into coating; let excess drip off. Place on waxed paper. Sprinkle with coarse sugar before coating is set. Chill about 15 minutes or until coating is set. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Makes about 3 dozen.
As I look over the recipes I've shared, I recognize that I have failed to include gingerbread. Of all things baked, gingerbread (to me) is Christmas. I found this recipe in Sunset magazine. It's a different take on the traditional chocolate/vanilla spiral cookies. Let me know what you think of it.
(for gingerbread dough)
- 3/4 cup (3/8 lb.) butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup light or dark molasses
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
(For plain dough)
- 1 cup (1/2 lb.) butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Make gingerbread dough: In a bowl, with a mixer on high speed, beat butter, brown sugar, and molasses until smooth. Beat in egg yolks until well blended, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. In another bowl, mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, and salt. With mixer on low speed, beat flour mixture into butter mixture until well blended. Wrap dough in plastic and flatten slightly; chill until firm but pliable, about 1 hour (or freeze for 30 minutes).
- Make plain dough: In a bowl, with a mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla until well blended, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt. With mixer on low speed, beat flour mixture into butter mixture until well blended. Wrap dough in plastic and flatten slightly; chill as directed above.
- With a lightly floured rolling pin on a lightly floured sheet of waxed paper, roll out gingerbread dough into an approximately 12- by 15-inch rectangle. Slide dough, on waxed paper, onto a 12- by 15-inch baking sheet. Repeat to roll out plain dough and chill both doughs until slightly firmer, about 10 minutes.
- Carefully invert gingerbread dough over the plain dough, lining up edges as evenly as possible. Remove waxed paper from top of gingerbread dough. With a sharp knife, cut rectangle in half lengthwise to make two 6- by 15-inch rectangles. Transfer one of the rectangles to another sheet of waxed paper. Let stand about 10 minutes to soften slightly.
- Starting at long edge of one rectangle, lift waxed paper to roll doughs into a tight, even cylinder. Repeat to roll other rectangle. Wrap rolls in plastic; freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
- Unwrap rolls and slice crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Lay cookies flat, 1 inch apart, on buttered 12- by 17-inch baking sheets.XBake cookies in a 325° regular or convection oven until edges just begin to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. If baking multiple sheets in one oven, switch positions halfway through baking. Transfer pinwheels to racks to cool.
Gooey Mixed-Nut Bars
I have a huge crush.....on a magazine. Better Homes and Gardens. I've been a subscriber for 40 years, and before that I was reading my sister's copy. BH&G always has reliable, practical information on gardening, decorating, crafts, cooking, and baking. And in the internet age they have become my go-to website for recipes.
Today I needed a cookie recipe that would be easy to make and not require a trip to the grocery store. Doesn't hurt that it also looks and tastes wonderful
- 1 package 2-layer size yellow cake mix*
- 1/2 cup butter
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup light-color corn syrup
- 1/3 cup butter, melted
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 cups mixed nuts, coarsely chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over the pan edges. Coat foil with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. In a large bowl, use a pastry blender to cut 1/2 cup butter into cake mix until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press mixture evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned and set.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup, the 1/3 cup melted butter, vanilla, and cinnamon; whisk to combine. Stir in mixed nuts. Pour nut mixture over warm crust. Bake about 30 minutes more or until bubbly around the edges and golden brown. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Using the edges of the foil, lift the uncut bars out of the pan. Cut into bars. Makes 32 bars.
To Store: Layer bars between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.
This feels like an eggnog day.
The sky is gray and overcast, the air is damp, and the temperature is hovering just above freezing. As I was planning this list of cookies, I wondered "what makes eggnog such a perfect comfort food?" For me, it reminds me of the vanilla milkshakes at the neighborhood ice cream parlor (to my brother and sister, you remember it, don't you?). They were so very thick and rich, and there were flecks of vanilla bean--just like the dusting of nutmeg we sprinkle atop our nog.
A few years ago I created a cookie I call eggnog logs--each one a tiny little buche de noel that tastes like a sip of nutmeg-dusted eggnog.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon rum extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
- 3 cups confectioners' sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon rum extract
- 2 tablespoons light cream
- Ground nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the nutmeg, egg and extracts; mix thoroughly.
- Stir in flour. If necessary, chill dough for easier handling.
- On a lightly floured surface, shape dough into 1/2-in. diameter rolls; cut each into 2-in. long pieces. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.
- For frosting, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add 2 cups sugar and extracts; mix well. Beat in cream and remaining sugar.
- Frost cookies.
- With tines of a small fork, make lines down the frosting to simulate bark. Sprinkle with nutmeg.
Coconut Macaroon Cookies
When I was growing up, money was very tight. By today's standards, we were poor, but we didn't know it. We had a warm home, and good food on the table (my mom and sister were very frugal cooks) and, most of all, a strong and enduring love for one another.
Sometimes, if a little money was left at the end of the week, my oldest sister would go to the bakery to purchase a special treat for the family--bear claws or donuts were always favorites. I'd tag along, and if I was really good she'd buy me a cookie. I could pick anything I wanted, and I always wanted coconut macaroons.
I don't live in that town any more, and Frisbee's Bakery (opened in the 1920s) has long since closed its doors.So now I bake my own macaroons. Most recipes call for beaten egg whites. This one is much easier and produces a very sweet, moist cookie--almost as good as Mother Frisbee's.
- 2/3 cup flour
- 5 ½ cups coconut
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- In large bowl stir together flour, coconut, and salt. Stir in the milk and vanilla until well blended. Use an ice cream scoop to drop dough onto the prepared pans. Cookies should be about golf-ball size.
- Bake 12-15 minutes or until coconut is toasted.
Rosemary Shortbread Cookies
I braved the wind and rain today and walked around the garden--what a mess! Fir limbs litter the grass and flower beds after our most recent windstorm, and the cold snap killed what was left of any flowers blooming in the garden. Gone are the asters and chrysanthemums. Only one plant remains--my rosemary bushes.
I love rosemary. It isn't fussy about when it is pruned--in fact, the more you clip it the fuller and bushier it becomes. It blooms in the summer with hundreds of small blossoms ranging in color from palest lavender to deep bluish-purple. Rosemary is drought tolerant but doesn't mind our wet winters as long as it is planted in well-drained soil. It loves our summer sun but can withstand all but the coldest of weather. And (probably best of all) the deer and rabbits totally ignore it.
And I love the fragrance. it makes a wonderful potpourri and is a frequent guest in Mediterranean cooking. Another herb which has a similar fragrance and form is lavender. It too is used for potpourri and in cooking. It's the main ingredient in Herbs de Provence. This summer I visited the lavender festival in Sequim, Washington and tasted lavender shortbread. It was crisp and sweet with a subtle herby aroma and taste. Botanically, rosemary is a cousin of lavender. And so I wondered--could I make a similar shortbread and use rosemary instead of lavender?
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons mild honey
- 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- Garnish: small rosemary sprigs
- Special equipment: parchment paper
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
- In a small bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and rosemary. In a separate bowl mix together butter, honey, and confectioners sugar with an electric mixer at low speed, then add flour mixture; mix until dough resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.
- Gather dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead dough until it just comes together, about 8 times. Halve dough and form each half into a 5-inch disk.
Roll out 1 disk (keep remaining dough at room temperature) between 2 sheets of parchment into a 9-inch round (trim as necessary).
- Remove top sheet of parchment and transfer dough on bottom sheet of parchment to a baking sheet. Score dough into 8 wedges by pricking dotted lines with a fork, then mark edges decoratively. Arrange rosemary sprigs (if using) decoratively on top of dough, pressing lightly to help adhere, and sprinkle dough with 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar.
Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Slide shortbread on parchment to a rack and cool 5 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a cutting board and cut along score marks with a large heavy knife.
© 2014 Linda Lum