Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Salt Dough Ornaments for The Etsy Blog!

Today I've cooked up something a little different - treats for your tree! These salt dough ornaments look and smell just like real gingerbread, and they make a sweet homemade gift. Best of all, they keep indefinitely, so you can use them each year to decorate your tree.

You'll find the complete instructions along with step-by-step photos here on the Etsy Blog!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

12 Treats of Christmas

1. Sugar Cookie Lollipops; 2. Peanut Butter Cup Bars; 3. Almond Florentine Cigars, 4. Almond Buttermints; 5. Golden Gingerbread with Hard Sauce; 6. Sprinkle Christmas Tree Cookies; 7. Rosemary Shortbread; 8. Sugar Cookie Bark; 9. Gingerbread Cupcakes; 10. Microwave Sea Salt Caramels; 11. Muddy Reindeer Cookies; 12. Peppermint Mousse Cups

It's hard to believe that we're a mere 9 days away from Christmas Eve! Time sure does fly, so I resolved to make the most of Christmas baking this year. I started planning and recipe testing the 12 Treats of Christmas in early November. It's been a lot of fun posting every day for the past two weeks, and I hope you've enjoyed the treats as much as I have. Many of them are easy and make great homespun gifts.

I'll be back to regular posting soon. Right now I'm catching up on a mountain of Christmas gift wrapping!

Happy Winter!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mocha Party Punch

Silly me. I thought all party punch was supposed to be bright red and fruity, but this punch changes everything. It's like sipping on a combination of chocolate milkshake, Yoo-hoo and café frappé. The ice cream on top mixes with the chocolaty punch and creates the most divine frothy topping. If you're looking for something unexpected to serve at your next party - this may be it!

I decided to display some of my most-loved vintage party napkins beside this punch. I collect mid-century cocktail napkins, and I'm seriously stingy about using them. I only bring them out for special occasions, and apparently, when chocolate punch is being served (smile).

One dip or two? 

The chocolate curls on top makes the punch look like a million bucks - and when has extra chocolate ever been a bad idea?

I doubled this recipe because my punch bowl holds 12 quarts.

Mocha Party Punch
[click for printable version]
Yields: about 5 quarts, or 20 punch cup servings

The coffee flavor in this punch is mild but obvious and it intensifies the chocolate flavor. I certainly recommend using it, but if you're serving this to children or you do not like the flavor of coffee, you may omit the instant coffee granules. If you  have instant chocolate milk mix or powdered hot cocoa mix, then you may use it in place of the freeze dried coffee.

1 1/2 quarts water
3/4 cup/255 g prepared chocolate syrup
1/2 cup/65 g powdered vanilla coffee creamer
1/2 cup/100 g granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
4 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1/2 gallon chocolate ice cream
Whipped topping or whipped cream (I used 2 cups, but use as much as you like!)
Chocolate curls or shavings for garnish

In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate syrup, creamer, sugars and instant coffee granules. Stir until well dissolved. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours, or overnight (preferred).

20 minutes before serving, pour the chilled chocolate punch into a punch bowl. With a large ice cream scoop, place dollops of ice cream on top of the punch; stir briefly and let stand until the ice cream spreads and covers the surface of the punch. Heap the whipped topping in the center of the punch and garnish with chocolate curls or shavings.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Peppermint Mousse Cups

This is one of the easiest and prettiest treats to make this holiday season, and best of all? It's totally edible, right down to the candy cups and peppermint spoons.

These cups are yet another sweet inspired by Wilton's Christmas products. The candy cups are easy to make with white vanilla candy melts (although, peppermint candy melts could be used for a triple peppermint whammy!). Just paint the melted candy on the inside of a paper cupcake liner. When the candy is set, just peel away the liner!

Instant candy cup!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Muddy Reindeer Cookies (Chocolate-Dipped Gingerbread)

Santa's reindeer have quite a job to do on Christmas Eve. They have just one night to travel 75 million miles and carry a sleigh of toys that weighs over 300 tons (some years more or less depending on the naughty to nice children ratio). Wow!

That's a lot of landing on sooty rooftops and traveling through inclement weather. No doubt the reindeer would become a little sullied from the journey. These cookies are my way of regarding Santa's antlered helpers.

Remember when I said I was SO into gingerbread this year? Yeah. I wasn't kidding (see here and here). This vintage gingerbread recipe was new to  me and I'm so glad I decided to try it. It's made differently than some of the contemporary gingerbread cookie recipes. Instead of creaming butter and sugar together (like most any cookie recipe) the butter is cut into the flour with a pastry blender (or a food processor) as you would to make pie crust. This makes for a truly delectable texture.

These guys were "muddied" with melted semisweet chocolate. It gives the cookies just a little extra sweetness, and that makes them delicious with hot tea or strong coffee. You could also dip the cookies in white chocolate - I'm sure the reindeer encounter many snowy rooftops on their travels as well!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Microwave Grey Sea Salt Caramels

This is one of my favorite caramel recipes because you don't have to use a candy thermometer. Total cooking time is about 7 minutes in the microwave (as opposed to 20 + on the stovetop) and after a short chill in the refrigerator, they're ready to be cut and wrapped. This is a great recipe for busy holiday cooks.

Sea salt is the ultimate complement to this caramel. I use coarse Celtic grey sea saltto finish this candy because it's beautiful and makes the candy taste like it's been kissed by a mermaid.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Candy Stripe Frosting

I'm into gingerbread in a big way this season, and that's not always been the case in previous years. I'm not sure why. Perhaps because I was too busy stuffing Oreos inside Red Velvet Crinkles, or building the biggest Black Forest Cake ever, ever, ever. But this year is different and I just can't get enough ginger-spiced goodness!

There's just a touch of cream cheese added to the frosting - not enough to call it cream cheese frosting, but just enough to give it a tang. It's a nice complement to the spiced cake.

I gave the frosting a candy stripe with red and green gel food color painted on the inside of the piping bag. I think next time I make these, I'll add a little peppermint extract so the flavor matches the appearance.

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