Christmas is only a few days away. Sweets are the perfect, last minute gift! (Not to mention affordable.) Here’s a few tips to making the perfect X-mas goodies…
- Chocolate bark is a surprisingly easy and delicious gift that you can
personalize according to the recipient’s taste! (Some people prefer
chocolate and pretzels, some are partial to dried fruit or nuts.)
Simply melt however much chocolate you want (I recommend 20 oz.) in the
microwave. (I like to use white and dark chocolate for a marbling
effect.) Then, mix it with crushed cookies, toasted nuts, shredded
coconut, candied fruits, M&Ms, candy canes…anything you have on
hand. Spread the mixture on waxed paper with a spatula and place in
the freezer until hard. Some bakers use a knife, but I like to just
break it up with my hands. Gift wrap it in a cellophane bag tied with
- Puffy Cookies — Christmas time means millions of flat, crispy Christmas cookies. If you’re not much of a baker, or don’t have a rolling pin, there’s still hope. Just take an empty glass bottle (a tall wine or olive oil bottle is best) and start rolling! Just make sure to dust the bottle and the dough beforehand with flour. Cookie Decoration — You don’t need sprinkles or those little silver balls to decorate. All you need is a toothpick to poke borders, a snowman, or any other festive image into the dough. For a more colorful cookie, mix a beaten egg yolk with a few drops of food coloring to make cookie “paint.” Just brush on the dough and bake in the oven.
- Pie Dough Cookies — I’m not going to sugar coat it: Making pie dough can be tough, so make sure your scraps don’t go to waste. Instead, turn them into cookies instead. Roll the dough into balls and cover in cinnamon or colored sugar or even cut the pie dough into shapes and sprinkle with sugar. Then, bake in the oven at 350 until golden brown. The result is terrifically flaky cookies with lots of little layers.
- Poached Pears — Peel ripe, but still firm pears and poach them in enough white or red wine, flavored with a vanilla bean or other spices to cover the entire pear. (You can even use concord grape juice if you don’t have wine on hand.) After about 15 minutes, the pears should be perfectly tender. If you want to be more creative, try mixing the flavorings up by using cardamom, cloves, ginger or star anise. If you use grape juice or red wine, the pears take on a gorgeous rosy color that is perfect served with a dollop of creme fraiche and bittersweet chocolate sauce. This is a good healthy, but no less decadent dessert for the holidays.)
- Fruitcake Possibilities –The Christmas fruitcake is notorious for being the worst gift that never perishes. But if you get one, don’t toss it in the trash or regift it. You can use it as raw material to make other desserts. Let it dry out on the counter for a few days, then cut it into squares to make a rich bread pudding. Then cut out circles with a cookie cutter or a juice glass, and use as a base for a Rum Custard dessert. Or breakfast. Soak the fruitcake into a mixture of egg yolks and vanilla-flavored milk, then saute like french toast. Depending on the fruits used, you can top it with custard, maple butter, or a sprinkle of shredded toasted coconut. Just try it.
- Icing — Royal icing is one of the simplest, most inexpensive forms of decoration. Beat however egg whites you are using to a foam. Slowly add a cup of sifted confectioner’s sugar (per every egg white) and a few drops of lemon juice bit by bit until you have a smooth, opaque white frosting. Make a small wax paper bag and use it to pipe the icing onto cookies or cake for a beautiful design. You can even pipe a border of icing on cookies and then dip them in sprinkles for a pretty effect. Just make sure to work quickly – royal icing hardens fast.