Merry Christmas!

May your day be merry and bright

And my all your Christmases be white!

(And sometimes you need to take your white Christmases where you can find them.)

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2018 (III)

When I’m trying to figure out what to bake each Christmas, whether something looks like it would be tasty is always the first and most important criterion.  Once that threshold is passed, however, I’m always looking for something with color and texture that will add a little dash to the cookie tins, and I also like to try recipes that are different from what I already prepare.

This recipe, which I found on the www.dinneratthezoo.com website, meets all of those requirements.  The cookies are made with cornflakes, which sounds intriguing, they look great, and they are “no bake” cookies that supposedly can be made in 10 minutes — which is something I’ve not tried before.

Christmas Wreath Cookies

christmas-wreath-cookies-683x1024Ingredients:  1 stick of butter (1/2 cup); 30 large marshmallows; 1 and 1/4 teaspoon liquid green food coloring; 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract; 5 cups cornflakes; 1/2 cup red candy coated chocolates such as mini M&M’s; cooking spray

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Place the marshmallows and butter in a large bowl, and microwave them in 30 second increments until melted.  Add the green food coloring and vanilla and stir until the marshmallow mixture is smooth.  Add the cornflakes to the bowl and gently stir to coat the cereal evenly with the marshmallow mixture.
Pack the mixture into a greased 1/4 cup measuring cup, then turn the mixture out onto the sheet pan. Use your fingers to make a hole in the middle to form a wreath shape and decorate with red candies. (The recommendation from the website is that it’s easiest to form the wreath holes if your fingers are damp or coated in cooking spray.)  Cool completely until firm and serve.

 

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2018 (II)

Every would-be cookie baker needs a taster — that person who will sample your fare and tell you whether the batch is brilliant . . . or a bust.  I’m blessed to have the greatest taster of all under our roof, so when Kish sent along some holiday cookie recipes from the New York Times I had to pick one to try this year.  I like coconut, so this was my choice.

Toasted Coconut Shortbread

merlin_146903328_7ae9fcfc-36b5-47f1-b4da-ae60eb1a466d-articlelargeIngredients:  2 1/4 sticks cold salted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces; 1/2 cup granulated sugar; 1/4 cup light brown sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour; 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (plus more for rolling); 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon; 1 large egg, well beaten; sanding sugar

Using an electric mixer and medium bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Use a spatula to scrape down sides of bowl, then put mixer on low speed and slowly add flour, followed by 1/2 cup coconut and beat until blended.

Divide dough in half and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap.  Sprinkle each piece of dough with half of the cinnamon, then fold plastic over to cover dough and use your hands to form dough into a log shape about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.  Chill logs in the refrigerator for 1 1/2 hours, until they are firm.

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Brush outside of logs with egg wash, then roll logs in unsweetened coconut.  Slice each log into 1/4-inch rounds.  Dip each round on one side into sanding sugar and arrange on backing sheet, sugar side up, 1 inch apart.  Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, until edges are just beginning to brown.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2018

A Little Christmas Goes A Long Way

I like Christmas.  I really do.  But when you’re at a conference, a little Christmas goes a long way.

Thursday night I found myself at a reception in the obligatory open atrium space at one of those colossal hotel-conference complexes.  I was having a perfectly pleasant time, chatting with other attendees, when suddenly there was a blast of music, strobe lights, and fog machine effects, and some kind of Christmas-themed program starting playing, at bellowing volume, over the sound system.  I think it may have been called “A Christmas Wish,” or something along those lines, and it seemed to involve a boy beseeching his Grinch-like grandfather to do something for the holidays.  People who love The Hallmark Channel Christmas movies no doubt would have appreciated its saccharine sappiness.  Me?  I found the kid’s voice incredibly annoying as I was trying to carry on a conversation, and I sympathized with the beleaguered granddad who had to put up with the irritating rugrat.

Eventually the program ended, and everyone at the reception breathed a sigh of relief at the very welcome silence.  Before we knew it, however, the program started again, and we realized with grim despair that it apparently was going to be broadcast every half hour.  I wasn’t the only attendee who then decided that it was time to exit the reception and get as far away from the imploring kid’s voice as possible.

Lights, trees, other festive decorations, and a little Christmas music in the background are just fine.  But forced exposure to some maudlin tale that is supposed to illustrate “the meaning of Christmas” is where I draw the line.

Avoiding Fudge Failure

Yesterday a friend sent me a message saying that she wanted to make some peanut butter fudge for the holidays and asking if I had a recipe she could use.  She explained that she’s tried two recipes and encountered embarrassing “fudge failure” each time, with one effort coming out hard as a brick and the other a soupy mess.

219I don’t have a recipe for peanut butter fudge — if one of the readers of this blog has one they’d like to share, I’d be happy to hear about it, by the way — but I do have a recipe for “fantasy fudge” that I first published on the blog in 2009.  I’ve made the fudge as part of my Christmas cookie baking in a number of years since then, and I can say with complete confidence that it’s pretty much failure-proof, as long as you keep stirring, both as the sugar, margarine, and milk is boiling and later when the chocolate is added.  Your arm will get a workout, I can assure you!

Fantasy Fudge

Ingredients:  3 cups sugar; 3/4 cup margarine; 2/3 cup evaporated milk; 1 12 oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips; 1 7 oz. jar of Kraft Marshmallow creme; 1 cup chopped nuts; 1 tablespoon vanilla.

Combine sugar, margarine, and milk in heavy 2 1/2 quart saucepan.  Bring to full rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Continue boiling for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted.  Add marshmallow creme, nuts and vanilla and beat until blended.  Pour into greased 13″ x 9″ baking pan.  Let cool and cut into 1-inch squares.

Fudge failure is no fun!  Fantasy fudge will make your holidays more flavorful and festive.  And speaking of flavorful, we’ll start our annual Christmas cookie discussion next week.