Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Goodies

Whether for gift giving, indulging, or the sheer festivity of the preparation, goodies at Christmastime are just the best.   Here is a sampling of some of the feel good yumminess that has added cheer to our holiday thus far:

Oreo Truffles

These heavenly morsels are no more than Oreos mashed with cream cheese and dipped in chocolate.  But they somehow feel decadent and kind of fancy.  They are lovely to be given as gifts and can be decorated in lots of ways.  My sister-in-law gave me this technique (its simplicity deems ineligibility for the "recipe" designation) years ago, and we've made them countless times ever since! 

I've referenced these little guys before, but here's the scoop:  Grind an entire bag of Oreos in a food processor until fine.  Add 8 oz of cream cheese, and process until the mixture becomes a uniform black "dough".  Scoop balls of the mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for at least 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt whatever kind of chocolate chips you like slowly in the microwave.  Then dip the balls in the chocolate and allow to set on parchment/wax paper/foil.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

All chocolate chip cookies are not created equal!  I won't pretend that mine hold a torch to so many marvels out there - my friend Allison's are insane, to name one.   But I can articulate what defines an awesome version of this classic in my book:  crispy outside, gooey (so not cakey) and slightly underdone inside, generous quantity of chocolate chips, and the slightest hint of salt on the end of a bite.  I know that last one is kind of weird, but man is it good.  Perhaps the two most important steps, I believe, are 1) ensuring that the butter is both unsalted and fully brought to room temperature, and 2) fluffing the flour so to not overmeasure.  These are a tad picky, but I have found that the texture is seriously affected by these ingredients.  The recipe I use - and tweak just a tad - is old school Betty Crocker.

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup unsalted, room temperature butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (I am hooked on Madagascar Bourbon)
1 extra large egg
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp plus a pinch kosher salt
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips (or whatever!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.   Sift flour, baking soda and salt together in a bowl, and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sugars and butter together until creamed.  Add vanilla and egg, and beat again until thoroughly combined.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture until just combined - don't overmix.  Add the chips and give the mixer a couple more turns to incorporate.  Scoop with a 1-inch cookie scoop onto a silpat lined baking sheet, and bake for 8 minutes until the edges are just golden brown, and the inside is total goo.  Let them set up on the baking sheet for a couple minutes before trying to move them to a cooling rack.

Peppermint Marshmallows 

Why would someone bother making marshmallows when there are countless, perfectly tasty ones available conveniently pre-bagged at the store?  Well, because it's fun and completely festive.  Please note I do not make homemade marshmallows a rule at my house.  If I did, I'd ask someone to smack me.  But the holidays are different and warrant some special treatment to me. 

I don't think I ever really pondered how the marshmallow came to be, but if you find yourself giving this a go, hopefully you'll be as entertained and interested as I was.

I start with Barefoot's homemade marshmallow recipe, which is found after the toasted coconut (also delightful, by the way) discussion on the link below.  In lieu of vanilla extract, I use about a teaspoon of peppermint extract.  After it's smoothed into the pan for setting, I disperse a few drops of red food coloring, and then perform a Marth-done-proud completely amateur job of marbelizing with a wooden skewer.  Quick user note: dip your knife in warm water before attempting to cut these babies, and this experience will be far more enjoyable.  I learned the hard way.


This treat occurred on Christmas night after our our fam took a post-dinner walk in the snow.  My husband peeled off the kids' snow pants (to reveal the same jammies they slept in the night prior...I'm not ashamed to admit that I was in the same state), while I prepared my fave hot chocolate on the stove. If you're wondering, there's no recipe here...just divine chocolate flakes from Williams-Sonoma whisked into hot milk.  We snuggled up with our cocoa with only the fireplace and Christmas tree to light our cups.


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