Holiday Treats IV-Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark

Barks are really easy candies to make and you can use either white or dark chocolate. Just melt the chocolate, pour it onto a wax paper lined baking sheet (one with sides) and then top with whatever flavorings you want. Things like, dried fruits, like dried apricots, coconut and candied orange zest, nuts, crumbled candies, crumbled pretzels and crumbled malted milk balls are just a few examples of things I’ve used. Use whatever your family likes.

You can melt the chocolate using a double boiler over a simmer and stir constantly (Be careful not to get water into the chocolate or the chocolate will seize and you’ll have to start over). The kid friendly way to work with chocolate is to employ the nuker. Microwave the chocolate on 50% power for 30 second intervals, stirring in between the intervals until the chocolate is melted.

The other caution I’ll give is to good quality chocolate bars versus chocolate chips when making candies, especially when it comes to white chocolate. White Chocolate chips rarely have any cocoa butter (thank you FDA and your lax food labeling policies) in them which is what you want for this.

Peppermint Bark
Probably one of the easiest home-made candies you can make.

1/2 cup of crushed candy canes or any hard peppermint candy

1/4 tsp peppermint extract

16 oz white chocolate (not chips) chopped

Line a sided baking sheet with wax paper and lay out 1/2 of the crushed candy. Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Make sure to stir constantly. Remove from heat and stir in peppermint extract.

Pour over candy on baking sheet. Then top with the remaining candy and spread so its a 1/4″ to 1/2″ layer. Let cool in the fridge for about an hour then break apart and store in an airtight container.

Holiday Treats Part III – Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Biscotti

Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Biscotti

For part three of my holiday baking series, I’ll share with you my recipe for biscotti. Like my other holiday treat recipes, this ones fairly easy and doesn’t require any special equipment or ingredients. You can make them with whatever you’d like. This variation is with pumpkin seeds and cranberries, but you can make them with just about any combination of nut and berries.

Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Biscotti
3 ¼ cups a.p. flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
½ vegetable oil
3 eggs
zest of one orange
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl, mix the 3 eggs, orange zest, sugar and oil together. In a separate bowl or on a large sheet of wax paper, combine all the dry ingredients. Then slowly add them to the egg and sugar mixture. Mix until it stiffens into a firm dough. Add the cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Form into two loaves 1 ½ inch thick loaves and place on a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and remove from the cookie sheet to cool for an hour. Once the loaves are cool enough to handle, slice into ½ inch thick slices, place onto a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet and back at 325ºF for 8 minutes. Turn over and bake for another 5 minutes.

Holiday Treats Part II-Sugar Cookies and more

Snowman Cookie

As I mentioned in a previous post, the thing I look forward to the most during the holidays is baking holiday treats. Here are a couple of my favorite cookie recipes, a simple kid friendly sugar cookie and a chocolate variation of the same sugar cookie. I’ve also included, my recipe for icing as well as some pictures to show you some examples of different ways you can decorate the cookies.

Chocolate Snowflakes copy
Chocolate Sugar Cookies
3 oz grated bittersweet chocolate
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder

Put the butter and chocolate in a large microwave safe bowl. Heat on medium power for 2 minutes. Take out and stir half way through the cooking time. Remove from the microwave and stir with a whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated with the butter. Add the sugar, egg and vanilla and stir until blended. Slowly incorporate the flour, baking powder and salt. Turn out on a board or counter that’s been dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Knead dough until its blended and forms into a square. Wrap with waxed paper. Seal in a plastic bag and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375f. Divide dough in half and return the unused portion to the fridge. Roll dough out until its between 1/8″ and 1/4″. Then cut into whatever shape you’d like. Lay out on a parchment lined cookie sheet (or you can use a silicone baking mat). Bake 8 -10 minutes for softer cookies or 10-12 minutes for crispier cookies.

2 TBS Softened Butter
2 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
2 tsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 to 6 tsp light corn syrup
paste or powdered food coloring

With a hand mixer, soften the butter then add in the powdered sugar. Slowly add in the milk. Gradually add in the corn syrup. The amount of corn syrup will vary depending on the consistency of the icing you’re trying to achieve. The icing needs to be free flowing to flood the cookie surface, but not too loose or it will run off the sides. For piping and lettering it needs to be thicker but still able to flow through a #3 or 4 tip. This should make enough icing to ice 4 dozen 3″ cookies.

Here are some ideas for different ways you can decorate the cookies depending on the season.

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