Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Cookie Explosion #9 - The Grand Finale!


This is my final Christmas post for this year. So, I thought I would show you what my Christmas Box looked like this year with all the yummy goodies inside. I made so many cookies. Each person I gave a box to got about 15 different cookies, gingerbread loaf, marshmallows, and my own brand of chex mix. I hope you all enjoyed eating as much as I enjoyed making it!

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for Christmas to be over already. The shopping is done, the bank account is empty, and most of the cookies have long been eaten. Time to move on to the budget tightening and pantry clearing January and February...First up, homemade marshmallows! I love making these. I don't know why. Maybe it's because there are so many different flavors I want to try. Maybe it's because I am just fascinated I can take a few very simple ingredients, mix them what seems like forever in my stand mixer, dump in a pan, and voila! Marshmallows!

I chose to do some experimenting with flavors this year. The reason I love the recipe I chose is because it's a rather small recipe, so you can make 2-3 smaller batches and vary the flavor. Last year, I made vanilla bean and peppermint. As an added touch, I crushed candy canes on top of the peppermint. They were great. I do have a caution for you though. If you use peppermint extract, it does get stronger with the age of the marshmallows, so be a little careful.

This year, I chose 4 very different flavors - well, actually 3 flavors and an experiment. First up was a request from my mom - Almond. They were really good just adding some almond extract. If you wanted to go all out, you could easily add some chopped toasted almonds to the powdered sugar you roll the marshmallows in.

The second one was my idea, and it was my favorite - root beer! Who doesn't love root beer marshmallows! They were so good - and tasted just like root beer! I loved them. They were perfect, and the root beer extract made them taste a little less sweet. To get the root beer taste, you do have to add a bit of Root Beer concentrate, but it was completely worth it (I added 1 Tablespoon).

The third I enjoyed just as much - Pandan! Everyone knows how much I love Pandan now that I know where to get the essence. For those of you that don't know what Pandan is, it's the screwpine leaf. Caleb first told me what Pandan is, apparently it's very common in Singapore, and a popular flavor for desserts. It's hard to describe the taste, but it is a very similar taste to coconut. And, yes, it is very green. I didn't add food coloring.

The fourth was as much an experiment than anything. While it turned out OK, it does need quite a bit of tweaking. I wanted kind of a brown sugar marshmallow, so I substituted brown sugar for white sugar, and added some cardamom. The result? They were very tasty, but they were also a different texture - wetter, and a bit stickier, if that makes any sense. Requires more testing once the holidays have passed, that's for sure.

I bought some cute little Christmas Bags to put the marshmallows in for the boxes. I thought that was such a cute idea.

I wanted to share this recipe as well. It's for home made cracker jack. I'm going to post the recipe I used from Brown Eyed Baker, since I didn't change it one bit, except to add more peanuts!

This stuff is great! Completely worth the effort. I have an air-pop machine, so I used popcorn from that, and I loved it! It's a great addition to any holiday cookie bag.



I also want to include a Peanut Brittle Recipe. I found this one on Epicurious.com, and it was so similar to one I used already, I tried it out. It's great! The only change I made to this recipe is I didn't chop the peanuts - I like them whole!

The last thing I'm not including a recipe of that I put in my Christmas Boxes is Chex Mix. I love the regular flavored chex mix, and use that recipe often. To jazz it up, I put it in a blue bag, and add both chocolate and cheese flavored goldfish. I also add mixed nuts instead of plain peanuts. My family prefers it that way. And, I know that Amanda loves the goldfish!

Finally, I'm including my semi-famous Peanut Butter Fudge recipe! Whenever I mention Christmas baking to my family, I can rely on at least 3 of them saying "PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE!" I think next year, instead of making Brian a box cake and canned frosting like he requested, he's getting the fudge...lol...

Yes, it is popular. I must warn you though, this is very sweet. I don't know how Brian can eat so much of it, but I can barely manage eating a 1 1/2" cube of the stuff. He can finish off a huge pan in a day...can't keep his hands out of it.




Wow, it's been an exhausting holiday season, and it's still 1 week until Christmas! Happy Holidays Everyone!

Peanut Butter Fudge
Source: Mom, heavily adapted

1/3 c. corn syrup
4 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 c. cream
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup peanut butter
1 8 oz jar marshmallow creme
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Lightly grease a 9x13 pan and set aside.

In a large heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine sugar, corn syrup, cream, and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 243 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.

Stir in remaining ingredients (peanut butter, marshmallow cream, butter, and vanilla), and pour into the prepared pan. Let cool completely before cutting.

Homemade marshmallows
Adapted from: Alton Brown, Ina Garten, and Joy of Baking

1/3 c. water
1 envelope gelatin
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. light corn syrup
pinch salt
1 t. to 2 t. flavoring of your choice

Lots of powdered sugar!

In an 8x8 square pan, sprinkle approximately 1/4 c. powdered sugar, coating entire bottom very well.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 1/2 of the water and the gelatin. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and remaining water. Place on medium high heat and let mixture come to a boil without stirring. Heat until mixture reaches 240 on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.

Turn your mixer on low, and slowly pour hot syrup over the gelatin. The best way to do this is to pour the hot mixture as close to the side of the bowl as possible so it won't touch the beaters, yet you won't spill it outside the mixing bowl. Once you have added all the hot mixture, turn the mixer on high until the mixture has tripled in volume and cooled, approximately 10 minutes. Add flavorings and salt, and combine, about 1minute more.

Scrape mixture into the prepared pan, being very careful - it's incredibly sticky. Spread it even with a damp spatula. Dust the top with more powdered sugar, and let set at least overnight.

To cut the marshmallows, the best way I can find is to take it out of the pan (carefully), dust a pizza cutter with powdered sugar, and cut your marshmallows into squares. Dust the cut edges with more powdered sugar, so they don't stick together.

Store in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.

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