Thursday, December 31, 2009

Twelve Treats of Christmas-Chocolate Rum Balls

So this is the last installation in my "Twelve Treats of Christmas" series. I didn't quite get this last one out on time. I hope you'll forgive me; I promise I have a fantastic excuse! M took me back to his home state of Oregon over Christmas to meet his mom, step dad, sister, youngest brother, nephew, and grandfather. I had the most amazing trip getting to know M's family and spending Christmas day with them. They were warm, inviting, friendly, and a whole lot of fun. I spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen with M's mom, who is a fabulous, and I mean FAB-U-LOUS cook. She let me in on a few secrets (most of them about cooking) and taught how to make M's favorite pumpkin chiffon pie. I even got to see snow!

Even though his family drew names for a gift exchange, I couldn't show up empty handed for his mom. I mean, come on...everyone has a super power they use to win over people (especially moms!) and mine just happens to be baked goods. I'm sure you all understand. When deciding what to bring, it was very easy. I immediately knew I wanted to bring my often requested holiday favorite, chocolate rum balls.


I first made these about five years ago. They went fast and I promptly made up another batch. Every year since then, I've gotten multiple requests to make them and am always happy to oblige! They taste much stronger than they actually are, which is fine by me! I like that you can actually taste the rum in these. Just be sure you use a good quality dark rum because it isn't baked out.


Merry (late) Christmas and cheers to a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2010!




Chocolate Rum Balls
adapted from Martha Stewart, "Holiday Cookies", December 2005
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:
vegetable oil cooking spray
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 large eggs
1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. dark rum
coarse sanding sugar, for rolling

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 12-by-17-inch jelly roll pan with cooking spray; set aside.

2. Melt butter and chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

3. Whisk together eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in chocolate mixture, then fold in flour.

4. Pour batter into prepared baking sheet. Spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake until top is shiny and a cake tester inserted into center comes out with some crumbs attached, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

5. Break up brownie into small pieces; transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With machine on low speed, pour in rum, and mix until crumbs start to come together to form a ball.

6. Shape into 1-inch balls, and roll in sanding sugar to coat.

7. Transfer to a baking sheet; refrigerate, uncovered, until cold, about 2 hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

*Rum balls can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 week. Makes approximately four dozen.

One year ago: red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Twelve Treats of Christmas-Snickerdoodles

Christmas is drawing near (very near!) and my "Twelve Treats of Christmas" series is coming to a close. I've had a great time making the previous ten treats and have really enjoyed bringing them to others. I hope you've enjoyed them, too.

I'm sure you'll agree these really are the perfect snickerdoodle. Santa might agree, too. Try leaving a plate for him and see what you get!



Super Snickerdoodles
adapted from Martha Stewart "Holiday Cookies", December 2005

printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:

2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1 c. unsalted butter, softened

1 3/4 c. sugar, divided

2 large eggs

4-5 tsp. ground cinnamon


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.


2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.


3. Put butter and 1 1/2 c. sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about three minutes. Mix in eggs.


4. Reduce speed to low and gradually incorporate flour mixture.


5. In a small bowl, stir together remaining 1/4 c. sugar and cinnamon to preferred ratio.


6. Shape dough into 1 3/4 in. balls (you should have about 20). Roll in cinnamon sugar and place three inches apart on baking sheets lines with Silpat or parchment paper.


7. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, twelve to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire racks. Cookies can set out for Santa or stored between layers of parchment in an airtight container for up to three days.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Twelve Treats of Christmas-Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies

Christmas, for those of you as fortunate as I am, isn't only about baking, shopping, presents, and decorations. It's about faith, family, and friends. Yesterday I got a chance to combine some of these things when I made cookies with Courtney, one of my dance students, who also happens to be like a little sister to me, and her mom Pam, who also happens to be like another mom to me.

Courtney made the choice about what kind of cookies to make, and what a fabulous choice she made! These cookies were rich and chewy with just the perfect bit of lightness from the mint chips. Even better, I got to spend time with Courtney and Pam right before Christmas. And after all, isn't that one of the best things about Christmas?


Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies, December 2005
printer-friendly recipe
Ingredients:
4 oz. coarsely chopped semisweet or dark chocolate
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. mint chips (chopped Andes mints would work if you can't find mint chips)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.


2. In a double boiler over medium-high heat, melt chopped chocolate and butter until smooth. Set aside to cool one minute.


3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.


4. At medium speed, combine sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Once mixed thoroughly, slowly add chocolate and butter mixture, being sure chocolate mixture has cooled enough.


5. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture in three batches. Fold in mint chips by hand. Chill dough in the refrigerator at least 20 minutes before baking.

6. Using a 1 in. cookie scoop, place dough balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Bake until cookies have sre still a little fluffy and cracked on top, about 15 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets on wire racks. Store at room temperature in an airtight container up to five days.


One year ago: vanilla-bourbon cranberry sauce

Twelve Treats of Christmas-Egg Nog Martini

With all the holiday baking I've been doing, I decided I needed to treat myself. So, I took a break to watch some cheesy Christmas television and sip on one of these little babies. They're quick to whip up and so tasty, too. Just make sure you use full-fat egg nog; the low-fat kind is just too thin to work here.

Cheers!


Egg Nog Martini
adapted from Lon's Hermosa Inn, a Phoenix institution
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:
1 1/2 oz. dark rum
1 oz. spiced rum
1/2 oz. vanilla vodka
4 oz. full-fat egg nog
a dash of nutmeg
honey, crushed graham crackers, and a cinnamon stick (optional garnishes)

Directions:
1. If desired, dip the rim of a chilled martini glass in honey and then into graham cracker crumbs.

2. Pour rums, vodka, and egg nog in a shaker with ice. Shake until combined.

3. Strain into glass, sprinkle with nutmeg, and garnish with a cinnamon stick, if desired. Makes one stiff egg nog martini.

One year ago: molasses crinkles

Monday, December 21, 2009

Twelve Treats of Christmas-"Yellow Bowl" White Chocolate Snack Mix

Also known as "Yellow Bowl", this mix has much nostalgic value to me. Back when I was a high school cheerleader, my mom used to make this mix for the team for many games and every competition. We all just loved it. It makes quite a lot and the only bowl large enough to hold all of it was a gigantic yellow plastic Tupperware bowl my mom got for signing up for a Blockbuster account.

The first time she brought it to us, she could tell we all loved it. (I'm thinking the sight of us picking at every last bit in the bottom of the bowl clued her in.) The second time she brought it, one of the girls saw her coming and exclaimed, "Here comes the yellow bowl!" We all ran to meet my mom to "help her" carry it. After that time, the exclamation got shortened to just "yellow bowl!" and the rest is history.

This year, Yellow Bowl got even more nostalgic. I still keep in touch with several of my cheer friends. Three of them facebooked me to ask for the Yellow Bowl recipe so they could make it. One of my girls wanted to make with her son. Both my mom and I think that is one of the coolest things to happen this Christmas season. A simple snack mix we all loved as high schoolers now being passed on as a treat and a memory shared with a child. I love it. So here you go, readers and my dear cheer friends, the recipe for Yellow Bowl. 
 


"Yellow Bowl" White Chocolate Snack Mix
recipe originally from family friend Becky Evans
included in the incredible family cookbook my mom made
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:

8 c. rice Chex
1 1/2 c. plain M&Ms (If using Christmas M&Ms, be sure they're NOT mint)
1 1/2 c. peanuts

1 1/2 c. mini pretzels
8 oz. white chocolate
up to 1 TBSP oil to thin chocolate

Directions:

1. Melt chocolate over a double boiler. Add just enough oil to thin the chocolate to pouring consistency. Let cool one minute.

2. While chocolate is melting, mix rice Chex, M&Ms, peanuts, and pretzels in a very large bowl, preferably a yellow one!


3. Pour chocolate over mix and gently toss with a spatula to coat. Pour mix out onto wax paper to dry, up to three hours depending on humidity.


4. Keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature up to one week. Keep out of warm temperatures as the chocolate will melt.

One year ago:
chocolate candy cane cookies

Twelve Treats of Christmas-Double Vanilla Marshmallows

I was never really a marshmallow fan as a kid. Well, that's not entirely true. I loved them in hot cocoa or roasted over the fire for s'mores. After all, who can resist a warm, gooey, marshmallow with perfectly crisped edges sandwiched between two graham crackers and a big square of chocolate? Not me! As for snack straight from the bag, though, I could easily pass.

Fast forward to my adult life. Every year, my assistant principal makes homemade marshmallows for our staff Christmas party. I was reluctant to try one the first year she brought them because, as I mentioned, they're not exactly my favorite. But intrigue got the best of my will power and holy cow! I'm so glad I did try them. They were so delicious and not at all like the bagged marshmallows we're all used to!

I decided this year was the year to make marshamllows all on my own. I was a little nervous, because I've heard stories about marshmallows coming out like little bricks and marshmallow strings caught on every thing in the kitchen. I didn't have either of these problems (and I attribute not being a sticky mess to Smitten Kitchen's sound advice not to scrape every last bit out of the mixing bowl) but I did have confectioner's sugar all over the place by the time I was done. Oh well! It's an easy clean up and a fair price to pay for delicious, homemade marshmallows so light and fluffy they literally bounced off the counter top!


Double Vanilla Marshmallows
originally seen on
Smitten Kitchen
adapted from Gourmet, December 2008
printer-friendly recipe


Ingredients:

approximately 1 1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 TBSP plus 2 1/2 tsp.) unflavored gelatin
1 c. cold water, divided

1 c. granulated sugar

1 c. vanilla sugar

1/2 c. light corn syrup

1/4 tsp. salt
2 large egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and sprinkle bottom evenly with some of the confectioner's sugar.

2. In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 c. cold water and let stand to soften.

3. In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook sugars, corn syrup, remaining water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved.
4. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.
5. With stand or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using a stand mixer or about ten minutes if using hand-held mixer.
6. In a large bowl with cleaned beaters beat whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla extract into sugar mixture until just combined.
7. Pour mixture into baking pan and sprinkle about 1/4 c. confectioner's sugar over the top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least 3 hours, and up to 1 day.
8. Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and let drop onto cutting board. With a large knife, cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. Toss marshmallows in batches in reserved confectioner's sugar to evenly coat. You may need to repeat this step if the marshmallows quickly absorb all the confectioner's sugar.
9. Makes 96 one-inch marshmallows. Keep marshmallows an airtight container at cool room temperature up to one week.
They're pretty enough to set out on their own, but they're so good atop a big mug of hot cocoa!
One year ago: the only cut-out sugar cookie recipe you'll ever need--Ashlee's famous sugar cookies

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Twelve Treats of Christmas-Hazelnut and Dried Cherry Biscotti

I hope you're enjoying my "Twelve Treats of Christmas" blog series. I'm having so much fun baking away and giving out treats. Today's treat isn't nearly as sweet as some of the others I've made, so it would round out a tin of homemade goodies quite nicely.

Biscotti is a great snack to have around when you've got company. All you have to do is keep it in an airtight container and it stays fresh-tasting for a few days. It's easy enough for you to grab for a morning snack and pretty enough to serve alongside afternoon tea or evening coffee. This particular biscotti is my new favorite. The individual flavors stand out on their own, but still come together enough to give a rich and well-rounded flavor. I hope you like this as much as I do!



Hazelnut and Dried Cherry Biscotti
adapted from www.williams-sonoma.com
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:

8 TBSP (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and coarsely chopped
3/4 c. dried tart cherries, coarsely chopped
zest of one orange

Directions:
1. Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour 1 large baking sheet or line it with parchment paper, foil, or a silicone baking mat. Have another ungreased baking sheet on hand.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until fluffy and pale yellow. Add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is no longer gritty when rubbed between your finger and thumb.

3. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla until blended.

4. Over a sheet of waxed paper or a separate large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

5. Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat on low speed or stir with a wooden spoon just until incorporated.

6. By hand, mix in the hazelnuts, cherries and orange zest until evenly distributed. The batter should be very soft.

7. Turn the batter out onto a generously floured work surface and divide in half. With well-floured hands, transfer one-half onto the greased baking sheet and shape into a log about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place on one side of the sheet. Repeat with the remaining batter, leaving at least 4 inches between the logs. (They will spread as they bake.)

8. Bake the logs until the edges are golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the logs cool for 10 minutes.

9. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs, still on the pan, on the diagonal into slices 1/2 inch wide. Carefully turn the slices on their sides and return them to the oven. When you run out of room on one baking sheet, start transferring slices to the other sheet.

10. Bake until the edges are golden, about 10 minutes more. Let the biscotti cool completely on the pans on wire racks. Store in an airtight container. Makes about three dozen biscotti.

One year ago: miniature pumpkin cheesecakes with cinnamon crusts

Friday, December 11, 2009

Twelve Treats of Christmas-Soft and Spicy Ginger Cookies

You know how there are just some people you implicitly trust to make certain decisions? My mom, for example. I'd trust her 100% to find the best bargain out there. Or M. Hands down, the best restaurant chooser there is.

Katie is another person I have complete trust in. Her realm is recipes. Every recipe I've ever made from her blog has been fantastic. So when she posted a recipe for soft ginger cookies, I flat out stopped looking for the recipe I wanted to make. I knew hers would be perfect. And, of course, it was!

These cookies mark my first time working with royal icing. The royal icing wasn't nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be. After a few ugly first cookies (I baked up the scraps left from my cut outs for practice), I was ready to try the real deal. They definitely aren't perfectly piped, but I'd say I did a pretty decent job for my first shot!




Soft and Spicy Ginger Cookies

seen on Good Things Catered
adapted from allrecipes
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:
For cookies:
1 c. unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. molasses
1 egg
4 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. freshly-ground nutmeg

For royal icing:
4 c. (1 lb.) confectioners' sugar
3 TBSP meringue powder
4-6 TBSP warm water, depending on humidity of where you live

Directions:
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, approximately four minutes. Stir in molasses and egg.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. Blend into the molasses mixture until smooth.

3. Cover, and chill for at least one hour.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line with parchment. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness.

5. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.

6. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until they hold their shape without being too firm.

7. Let cool for 10 minutes on pan. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks. Frost or decorate when cool.

8. To make royal icing, place confectioners' sugar, meringue powder, and 4 TBSP water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beginning on low speed, mix ingredients. Add additional water, one TBSP at a time, until icing reaches desired consistency.

9. Turn mixer to medium-low and run for 7-10 minutes, until the sheen comes off the icing.

10. Because royal icing dries very quickly, immediately place any unused icing in a tightly sealed storage container with a layer of plastic wrap directly on the icing. Keep in the refrigerator until use.

One year ago: gumdrop cookies

Monday, December 7, 2009

Twelve Treats of Christmas-Cranberry Bread with Cinnamon and Walnuts

If you ask me, no holiday goodie table or tin is complete without some delicious quick breads. This bread is sure to stand out with its smooth walnuts and beautiful red cranberries that look like bright, sparkling jewels.

I've lightened Martha Stewart's recipe just a bit by subbing in part whole-wheat flour and using half and half instead of heavy cream. I thought the result was a wonderful, hearty bread with just the perfect pop of tartness from the cranberries.


Cranberry Bread with Cinnamon and Walnuts
adapted from www.marthastewart.com
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:
1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. whole-wheat flour
1 c. packed light-brown sugar
1 TBSP ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly-grated nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
4 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 c. half and half
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. fresh cranberries (approx. 8 oz.)
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 TBSP turbinado sugar, for topping (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees; spray a 9x5 loaf pan with baking spray and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, combine butter, egg, vanilla, and half and half.

4. Add wet mixture to dry mixture, and whisk to combine; fold in cranberries and walnuts.

5. Pour batter into prepared pan; sprinkle top with turbinado sugar, if desired. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

6. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let bread cool 30 minutes. Invert onto rack, then immediately turn right side up to cool completely.


One year ago: My 100th post and a tribute to my adorable and much missed great-grandmother, chocolate rum balls

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Twelve Treats of Christmas-Foolproof Holiday Fudge

You know how, in college, you and your roommates would talk about anything and everything to procrastinate and avoid actually studying for finals? Yeah...you weren't the only ones. A couple of my friends and I even made a midnight run to Krispy Kreme--30 minutes away--all in the good name of finals procrastination. But that's another story...

During winter finals of my freshman year, some friends and I just couldn't take one more minute of studying for the famously difficult World Politics final. We had to give it a rest. So naturally, a study session devoted to hegemony, realist political theory, and democratization turned to the subject of Christmas treats. Being in school all the way in Washington D.C., we were all getting really homesick and couldn't wait to get back to our respective states, families, and home-cooked food.
It was during this conversation that I learned the very sad lesson that most people only have fudge once a year.

Growing up, I never really thought of fudge as a Christmas treat. My mom and I would make it for various occasions throughout the year and I always loved it. I just couldn't believe so many people went eleven months each year just waiting for a treat that is so easy to make!


So, for all you die hard Christmas fudge holdouts, here you go. A classic addition to my "Twelve Treats of Christmas"--a delicious and simple fudge recipe that comes out perfectly every time. Mix and match the chocolate and add ins to find your favorite combination!


Foolproof Holiday Fudge
adapted from
www.marthastewart.com
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:

vegetable oil cooking spray
2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt

6 TBSP unsalted butter

1 c. half and half

2 (7 oz.) jars Marshmallow Fluff or
3 1/2 c. mini marshmallows

3 c. semisweet or white chocolate chips

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy, chopped walnuts, or any desired add in


Directions:

1. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with two sheets of waxed or parchment paper in a crisscross manner so ends overhang sides of pan; coat evenly with cooking spray.

2. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, cook sugar, salt, butter, half and half, and marshmallows, stirring, until butter and marshmallows are almost melted, 5 to 6 minutes.

3. Bring mixture to a boil; cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

4. Add chips, vanilla, and desired add in. If using chopped peppermint candy, do not add to fudge mixture as it will melt. Instead save it for sprinkling on top of fudge. Stir until chips are melted. Pour mixture into lined pan.

5. Let fudge cool in the pan at room temperature, 3 hours. Use edges of paper to lift out fudge; place on cutting board, and remove paper.

6. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters, or cut fudge into bars. Sprinkle evenly with crushed candy. Fudge can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.


One year ago:
lighter butternut squash soup