December 27, 2015

Christmas Baking 2015

Every December I bake for Christmas, as many of you likely do, and I generally make a few things. This year I think that I outdid myself by making 6 different treats with a few old favourites, and a couple of new things thrown in.

Most of the recipes are pretty standard as I've just googled them, but I'll link out to specific ones if applicable.

Shortbread Bites
This is a standard shortbread recipe, no biggie. But when I first learned how difficult it was to work with refrigerated shortbread dough (read: I'm not patient enough to let it settle to the right temperature), I stopped trying to roll it out and just started forming it into small bites. It's the best! You get way more individual servings and they're so easy to just pop in your mouth! That might not be a good thing...

Chocolate Covered Pretzels
Duh. No explanation required. But I make these because they are my absolute fave! I generally dislike mixing salty & sweet but this combo is heaven! Make sure you use dark chocolate though, because milk chocolate just doesn't taste right. A few years ago, I even made these fancy drizzled ones.

Almond Shortbread with Jam
These are new to the repertoire. I wanted to replace the almond biscotti with something almond-y but not as complicated as real linzer cookies. So I found a twist on regular shortbread and sandwiched them with some homemade raspberry jam!

Sugar Cookie Swirls
I abandoned sugar cookies years ago because who the hell eats plain, undecorated sugar cookies? No one. And do I really want to deal with making and decorated with royal icing? Nope. Luckily I came across a great pin on Pinterest that lead me to this great twist [haha I'm so punny] on your good ol' sugar cookie. I also used her actual sugar cookie recipe to make sure I didn't mess anything up. I also doubled the recipe to make sure I had enough of each colour and then ended up with a million cookies. I don't know how many (I know, I should have counted) but there were a lot so feel free to go with a single dose.

Here are some outtakes from that activity...
We failed a bit on the roundness but also got some great marble ones from the leftover dough pieces!

Peppermint Bark
The peppermint bark is another staple and certainly a fan-favourite! I use small candy that I break up manually and I find that peppermint extract unnecessary bc the candy canes add enough flavour.
The most annoying part about this each year is figuring out the most efficient way to melt both chocolates. I usually a double boiler but that involves me watching the stove and having to use one (if not two) of my good bowls for chocolate when I could really be mixing dough in them. Pinterest to the rescue yet again with this awesome pin! Especially great because I haven't been using my Crockpot lately and it made it quite useful!

I used as many mason jars as I needed to fit all of my chocolate, filled the water just past half-way of the jars and set it to high. Here I had both chocolate wafers and broken up baking bar pieces, and both melted just wonderfully. Since I wasn't totally ready for the bark when they were melted, I just reduced my heat setting to "warm" to just maintain them. So easy! I also used this method for the pretzels and it was great.

Blitzen's Breton Brittle
I got this recipe from an old co-worker and it is definitely my personal favourite. I couldn't find the exact same recipe as mine which is fine because I actually make a few modification of my own anyway. You'll definitely get the same delicious result with this recipe and can try my variation below:

  • I don't have multiple layers of crackers. Once I've put in the whole ones, I break them up and try to cover up the holes as much as possible without creating a second layer.
  • I add the nuts before the chocolate.
  • I use sliced almonds because it's something I always have in my kitchen.
  • I use very little chocolate because I find that it's already very sweet. It's really up to you!
  • I bake for 2 minutes between each addition - butter/sugar mix, nuts and chocolate. The last bake can be longer as 2 minutes is often not enough for the chocolate to melt and be spreadable.

I know this seems like a lot and really overwhelming but it's not, I swear! All of this took one day but with help from hubby and a small nap. Plus watching a Christmas movie will dipping pretzels. My co-workers, family and friends all loved it (I really hardly eat any) so it's totally worth it.

Just remember - wax and parchment paper are your best friends! Happy baking!

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