Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Baking, Part 1

No TWD for me this week...the house is already stuffed to the rafters with sugary sweets, and the thought of adding butterscotch pudding to the mix didn't excite me at all. However, I did happen to make some things I think are even better than pudding: Christmas cookies and candy! I got medieval with the mixer this past weekend and churned out six cookies/candy for gift giving this year. Here's the first wave of goodies:

Coconut-Lime Macaroons
I love the combination of coconut and lime. I have a coconut-lime truffles recipe that regularly haunts my taste buds, but I wanted something that would hold up a little better than delicate truffles on a cookie platter. These miniature macaroons were dipped in green-tinted white chocolate and given a chocolate drizzle to dress them up a bit.

Walnut Fudge
This is actually my father-in-law's recipe. He's famous for making huge blocks of fudge and giving it away each Christmas. He also does a white chocolate version, but my heart belongs to this semi-sweet variety. It's really easy--no candy thermometer or beating required--but I like it much better than other "easy" fudge recipes that call for condensed milk or marshmallow cream. It's perfectly smooth and rich and, to me, what an ideal fudge should be.

Almond-Cinnamon Toffee
Jason loves toffee, but I rarely make it for him. Poor little lamb! So he was really psyched to see that I made it for the gift plates this year, since it means lots of scraps for him. You can bet he was praying for lots of mistakes and awkwardly broken pieces while I was divvying it up. This toffee has just a touch of cinnamon in it to give it a subtle holiday taste. I mostly like it because it doesn't get unpleasantly chewy or sticky.

The recipes are under the cut below. Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of the Christmas baking! And, because I love reading about sweets almost as much as I love eating them, tell me what you're making for Christmas this year!

Okay, I lied, I don't have a recipe for these lime-coconut macaroons! Truthfully, I didn't like the recipe I used, and ended up tweaking it a zillion different ways to get it to work. Pass! So if you have a fail-safe macaroon recipe, I'd love to hear it! I want one that's golden brown and crunchy on the outside, but really nice and moist on the inside. Is whipping the egg whites the secret? Do tell me all. I can tell you that adding the zest of two limes and some fresh-squeezed lime juice makes them taste fab. See, it's a barter system.

Almond-Cinnamon Toffee
Adapted from my Cinnamon Hazelnut Toffee recipe
* 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 2 tbsp water
* 1 tbsp light corn syrup
* 1 tsp ground cinnamon
* 1 cup chopped toasted almonds
* 1.5 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Set it aside. Grind 1/4 cup of the almonds in a food processor, or finely chop with a knife. Coarsely chop the rest of the almonds.

2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once it is melted, remove it from the heat and stir in the sugar. Once the sugar is mixed in, add the water and corn syrup and stir until well-incorporated.

3. Place the pan back on the heat and insert a candy thermometer. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the candy reaches 290 degrees. Watch it carefully near the end, as it can easily burn at high temperatures.

4. Once the candy reaches 290 degrees, remove it from the heat. Stir in the cinnamon and the coarsely chopped nuts, and immediately pour the candy onto the prepared baking sheet. Tilt the sheet several times to spread the candy in a thin layer. Allow the toffee to sit at room temperature until it is completely cool.

5. Place the chocolate chips in a large microwave-safe bowl, and microwave until melted, stirring after every minute to avoid overheating.

6. Spoon half of the melted chocolate on top of the toffee, and spread it in a thin, even layer over the top. Sprinkle half of the finely chopped nuts on the wet chocolate. Place the toffee in the refrigerator to set the chocolate for about 15 minutes.

7. Remove the toffee from the refrigerator and lift it from the baking sheet. Flip the toffee over so that the chocolate side is now resting on the bottom of the baking sheet. Spoon the remaining melted chocolate over the top of the toffee and spread it evenly. (If necessary, re-warm the chocolate briefly so that it is spreadable). Sprinkle the remaining finely chopped nuts on the chocolate.

8. Refrigerate the toffee again to set the chocolate. Once set, break the candy into small pieces with your hands. Store the toffee in an airtight container in the refrigerator or in a cool room.

Easy Walnut Fudge
Recipe also on the candy site
* 4-1/2 cups granulated sugar
* 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
* 18 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
* 1/2 lb butter, cut into small pieces
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 2 cups chopped walnuts

1. Spray a 9”x 13” pan with cooking spray, or cover with foil.

2. Combine sugar and evaporated milk in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir continuously and boil for six minutes.

3. Remove from heat, and add butter, chips, and vanilla. Continue stirring until the chips and completely melted and the mixture is smooth.

4. Add the chopped nuts and stir to incorporate. Pour into prepared pan.

5. Ideally, this should cool at room temperature overnight, but if you are in a hurry or if it is especially warm, it can be put in the refrigerator to harden. Slice into small squares and serve when firm.


  1. What a beautiful montage of Christmas treats! My favorite, super-easy macaroon recipe comes from Ina Garten:

    I've made these several times and gotten many compliments.

  2. I have been searching for a fudge recipe that doesn't use the fluff or sweetened condensed milk. Thanks! I'll give this one a try -

    Happy Holidays!

  3. Anonymous12:39 PM

    Your cookies look wonderful! I haven't had time to bake for the holidays, but I can enjoy it secondhand through pictures. YUM!

  4. the coconut and lime macaroons look great! i wanted to make a key lime truffle this year similar to those but didn't get around to it. happy holidays!

  5. They all look yummy; I'll take a double helping of the toffee and at least a good healthy taste of the fudge! Well, and sample a macaroon also...