Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Successful Christmas Baking Recipes

Over the past few years I've been attempting to make a few recipes my own so that I end up with my own stash of tried and true recipes. Last year I sorted all potential Christmas cookie recipes and put them in a stash - this year thanks to having my mom and three sisters in town, we had a cookie and candy baking extravaganza and tried a bunch of them.

The favorite, by far, though we used walnuts instead of peanuts:

Chocolate Peanut Toffee
Gourmet Magazine

December 2007
Yield: Makes about 3 pounds
Active Time: 45 min
Total Time: 1 3/4 hr
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups whole cocktail peanuts plus 1 cup chopped (1 pound 10 ounces)
7 to 8 ounces 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Equipment: a 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan; a candy thermometer; a metal offset spatula
Butter baking pan and put on a heatproof surface.
Bring butter, sugar, and salt to a boil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat, whisking until smooth, then boil, stirring occasionally, until mixture is deep golden and registers 300°F (hard-crack stage) on thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes.
Immediately stir in whole peanuts, then carefully pour hot toffee into center of baking pan. Spread with spatula, smoothing top, and let stand 1 minute, then immediately sprinkle chocolate on top. Let stand until chocolate is melted, 4 to 5 minutes, then spread over toffee with cleaned spatula. Sprinkle evenly with chopped peanuts, then freeze until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces.
My dad requested peanut brittle, claiming that toffee tastes like burnt butter but peanut brittle is SO good. The recipe we tried was  okay, but the brittle was sticky and not as crispy as we'd hoped. We also tried fudge and are still on the hunt for a better recipe. We tried a sugar cookie recipe and it failed, but that may have been because we used bad crisco. Since sugar cookies are absolute ESSENTIAL, we tried again using a recipe our roomies had already tested and approved... it's Alton Brown's recipe from the Food Network, and you can find it here.
From christmas

My other favorite is one I tried last year and LOVED, and it's a favorite for people who love coffee and chocolate! Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps, from Martha Stewart. We also did Chocolate Mint Cookies, which look similar to the Martha Stewart cookies but are different.

The last and easiest are the Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls (otherwise known as Buckeyes), which was about the same as this recipe, except I bought an easy microwavable dipping chocolate thing.

Then we did one more thing, which I gathered from a few recipes that suggested various similar things. Peppermint icecream is seasonal, and you may as well take advantage of it! We bought an oreo crust, put in a layer of peppermint ice cream and refroze it, and then topped it with fudge and then whipped cream. So... Peppermint Ice Cream Pie. Yum.

When we looked at our holiday cookie trays we realized we had a whole lot of chocolate things.... and sugar cookies. So what are other holiday cookies (that are actually good!) that aren't chocolate? I thought of gingerbread cookies... that's a potential!

From christmas

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