Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Goodies

This year found me at my domestic finest for the holidays. I decided for the third year running that I would make small gift bags of candy as presents (previous years brought homemade caramels and peanut butter bonbons), along with Christmas cookies for a large community Christmas dinner my mom was helping organize.

Hoping to select a creative candy choice, I browsed Epicurious until I stumbled upon a recipe for peppermint patties. Perfect.

Following a visit to Sur La Table for a new candy thermometer, 1.5-inch round cookie cutter and foil wrappers, and a trip to Lunds for my ingredients, I set out with my two little helpers (my roommate and her boyfriend) to make the nifty little minty treasures.

The process is slightly time consuming (lots of freezer time) and definitely requires more than one person when you get to the dipping-in-chocolate step, but the finished product is quite delightful. Not only are they tasty, but they look like they were made by the hands of a professional.

We had quite a bit of chocolate left over, so I tried making chocolate covered cherries. They turned out just fine, although they've never really been my cup of tea. Plus, I didn't make the fondant inside that truly makes the chocolate covered cherry experience. O-well, better to be resourceful than wasteful. :)
Next up, Christmas Vanilla Sugar Cookies, a recipe I got a couple years ago from The Splendid Table's Lynne Rossetto Kasper.

I was so excited about these cookies because a.) I love Lynne Rossetto Kasper b.) I'd had the recipe for quite some time and c.) they sounded delicious.

Cutting out cookies with the adorable snowflake cutter.
Some baked snowflakes and angels.
Icing prep.
Ta-da. Finished product.
Although I'm quite proud of how these cookies turned out, I will say that I now have a profound appreciation for why people simply buy the pre-made sugar cookies at the grocery store. These are a lot of work! And making approximately 12 dozen doesn't make things any easier.

Regardless of all the work I put into my tasty treats this holiday, I'm glad I did it. It allowed for good roommate bonding and really put us all in the Christmas spirit.

I'm already starting to think about next year's candy choice. Feel free to send any good ideas my way.

Christmas Vanilla Sugar Cookies Recipe
(makes approximately three dozen)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
white decorating sugar, for garnish (or blue and yellow if you're making snowflakes and angels)

Cookies: In small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth, about two minutes. Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract and beat well. Add the dry ingredients in three parts and mix until just combined. Shape the dough into three flat disks, wrap each disk tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. One disk at a time, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch fluted cutter, cut out the cookies and place on baking sheets with wax paper. Refrigerate for an additional 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease baking sheets. Place cookies two inches apart and bake 9 to 11 minutes. Let cool.

Icing: In the top of a double boiler, over simmering water, combine ingredients. Stir two to three minutes until smooth. Remove from heat and place in glass measuring cup, allow to cool to lukewarm. To ice cookies: use pastry brush to spread a light coating of icing on each cookie and then sprinkle the decorating sugar over the icing. (Allow icing to set for a few hours before stacking cookies.)

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