Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cooking for Christmas - The sugary gifts

Last year I had an open house.  It was so much fun, but lots of work, so this year I decided to make sugary gifts to give.

Step one:  Research - does that really surprise you?  I love the research step!
Step two:  A list of the receipants
Step three:  Math - how many of each kind of cookie do I need?
Step four:  Grocery lists and a few grocery trips
Step five:  A marathon day of baking, cooling, prepping, and packaging.

First of all please forgive picture quality - at the end of all of this, creativity and lighting were the last things on my mind!

I decided on a variation of buckeyes and made peanut butter bars.  Also on the list was bourbon balls, shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate, Polvorones (Mexican wedding cookies), Cinnamon Fudge, and chocolate dipped pretzel sticks.

Lots of work went into this project (about 10 hours), but also lots of love as these treats go to friends and family.
 Somehow I missed out of taking a fudge picture, so that is the recipe I will share first.

This fudge is basically foolproof, and is incredibly tasty and unique with the addition of cinnamon.  I used a particularly strong cinnamon from Penzeys, so these bad boys have a beautiful punch!

Cinnamon-Chocolate Fudge (Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis)
  • Butter, for greasing the pan
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pound (about 2 cups) bittersweet (60 percent cacao) chocolate chips (recommended: Ghiradelli) see Cook's Note
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • Kosher or flake salt, optional
Butter the bottom and sides of an 8 by 8-inch baking pan. Line the pan with a sheet of parchment paper, about 14-inches long and 7-inches wide, allowing the excess to overhang the sides. Set aside.

In a medium glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the condensed milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stir in the chocolate chips and butter. Put the bowl on a saucepan of barely simmering water and mix until the chocolate chips have melted and the mixture is smooth, about 6 to 8 minutes (mixture will be thick). Using a spatula, scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with salt, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until firm.

Run a warm knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the fudge. Remove the fudge to a cutting board. Peel off the parchment paper and cut the fudge into 1-inch pieces. Store refrigerated in an airtight container or freeze.

Cook's Note: The fudge can also be made using 1 pound (about 2 1/2 cups) of semisweet chocolate chips.

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