Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Our 2008 Holiday Baking Spree...

The time has finally come - we've wrapped up our holiday packages for 2008 that we are sending out in the mail or delivering to the neighbors. I'm not sure how we actually got all this done in time, but whew, what a rush! Grab a drink, pull up a chair and check out what we made this year!

First up is the always irresistible Almond Roca - I made 15 pounds this year. This stuff is so hard to stay away from - buttery and crunchy with a sweet slick of melted milk chocolate and toasted almonds on top. One of our top favorites of all time.


While we usually try to find those fun kissable candies to adorn these next treats, we couldn't find them at all this year! So, instead, on top of the salty pretzel weave and the rolo caramel candy, a holiday M&M fit the bill! No real recipe - just put the chocolate on the pretzel, slide a batch in a warm oven for a few minutes to soften the chocolate and slide your candy (or nut!) of choice on top! So easy!

Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Squares

Next is Jeff's favorite cookie that is a requirement every holiday baking spree (and at several other times during the year!). You can use plain malted milk powder, but a dose of chocolate malted powder instead adds another sweet layer that takes these up a notch! 14 dozen of these!


We probably should branch out in the fudge department, but this below is the first I always make each season. Such a creamy and intense cinnamon rush!


We just made these cookies for a Wednesday Treat Day at Jeff's office a couple weeks ago and I knew after preparing them that they would fit right into our holiday baking spree. The red hots are a little unexpected, but when combined with the dip of white chocolate, the sparkly coarse sugar and nutty almond cookie, these sticks are sure to please no matter what age you are!


We always make some sort of biscotti every year to send out... however, Jeff called me from work yesterday and told me that he thought we forgot to bake some! I ran over to the table full of treats waiting to be bagged up and guess what? No biscotti! Oops! So, I got these done at the last minute - a solid recipe that yields golden biscotti that are crunchy, yet have a tenderness to them from a few pats of butter added to the dough. Besides, they fit with the theme with green pistachios and red cranberries!


For the folks with pups at home, we decided on these treats again! We made them last year for our pets, but decided to spread them around!


Here is a new recipe we added this year - these buttery cookies were a joy to prepare. While I was preparing the dough, the aroma charmed Jeff into the kitchen and asked "when did you go out and buy eggnog and how come I don't have some in a cup yet!?" While there is no eggnog used, it's flavor is brought in by using fresh grated nutmeg, rum extract and a dash of vanilla in the dough. Once the cookies were baked and still warm, we brushed them with a sweet frosting that we infused with a little more rum extract and sprinkled with colored sugars for a visual touch.

*My tips on spritz cookies - I always use cold, ungreased or unlined, baking sheets and don't refrigerate the dough once combined. The soft cookies stick to the sheets while raw, but will glide right off after being baked due to the butter content.


These caramels are dead easy to make and are so rich, soft and buttery - they don't necessarily taste like coffee, but those tiny espresso granules added bring an alluring quality that makes these extra special. The only tough part is staying out of them while you are trying to wrap them up!


If you haven't made a batch of this crazy addicting popcorn yet, you are really missing out! Heavy handed on the ginger, this crunchy snack is a must - period!


Grown tired of your ordinary spiced nuts? These sweet, roasted pecans, spiked with coffee liqueur and aromatic cinnamon, always seem to disappear at the blink of an eye!


As always, we must do a few trays of these meringue cookies. Crisp and sweet, these light-as-air kisses are a guilt-free treat with a tempting peppermint tingle. For the stripes, just paint a line or two of gel food coloring inside the bag!


I know lots of people make brittle this time of the year, but can we lure you away from your favorite nut recipe to try out this unusual treat made with popcorn? Yes, that's right - popcorn! The special ingredient? Molasses! I do like to use brown rice syrup when making this as it is not quite as sweet, but light corn syrup would be fine to use.


Do you like a spicy bite when it comes to food? We worked that heat into a classic favorite snack mix - holiday-shaped pretzels and a few different kinds of cereal are tossed with a variety of savory ingredients, then baked to bring it to life!


You can make marshmallows? Yes, you sure can! Jeff gets that question a lot when we bring them in to share with his co-workers. We tested these out a week or so ago first to see how well they did and when they got glowing reviews, we added them on to the list. This recipe makes marshmallows that are soft, luscious, and squishy with a definite note of peppermint! To make the design on top, all you need to do is scatter drops of red food coloring all over the top and use a wooden skewer to to swirl it into the stark marshmallows before they begin to set. Perfect to float atop a warm mug of your favorite hot chocolate.


We thought it would be fun to include a homemade spice rub this year just to change things up in some of the packages. I settled on this one, which is a mixture of crushed fennel, basil, salt, garlic powder, rosemary and oregano. If you make this, add a few shakes to a few steaks of salmon, chicken thighs or even some lamb chops!


If you enjoy chocolate and love peanut butter with a passion, these smooth squares are for you! Rich, soft, yet can always be cut into clean squares, this fudge can't be missed!


And we come to a close with these festive buttons that we started making about 6 years ago. One-bite salty and sweet treats - these are small Ritz Bits crackers, filled with peanut butter, dipped into real white chocolate and finished off with a variety of holiday sprinkles.

White Chocolate Dipped Mini Peanut Butter Ritz Bits

Okay... I think I need a nap - maybe for a few days!

28 comments:

  1. Wow!!! That's a package of goodies that anyone would love to receive! You definitely deserve a break-

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  2. That was worth the wait. Beautiful treats. I envy everyone that will receive a surprise package this year. Glad you posted this today. That will inspire me when my daughter comes to visit us from East. We will be baking together. We'll let you know what we made.

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  3. Everything looks absolutely delish. I bet you need a nap , I'd be in a coma from all that sugar. Donna

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  4. I'd love to see a picture of everything all together! So much work! I carved out the entire day Sunday to start doing all my baking ... now to whittle down the recipes.

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  5. Wow, I love seeing what treats you send out every year! Your friends and doggy friends are incredibly lucky!!

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  6. Totally amazing!! Your talents in the kitchen along with the beautiful photography make your blog one of my favorites. I can only imagine how the lucky recipients of your annual Christmas goodies anticipate their treats!

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  7. WOW! How on earth did you manage to make all of them - they all look fabulous. I was reading your post off I want that one, and that one and that one...

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  8. I'm speechless.

    Quinn

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  9. Everything looks awesome! I may have to modify my list to include some of these.

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  10. OMG! You are the king of baking. I am in awe. Bet people come round to your house constantly to eat your sweets! :-)

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  11. Wow, I am so impressed! I think you did a great job of having a balance-sweet, salty, chocolate-y, non-chocolate, etc...

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  12. Thanks for sharing all your gorgeous treats, recipes and the presentation is just, well, awesome!
    Lucky dog, lucky dog, you have some lucky dogs....
    I made the chocolate caramel pretzels for several events (and have been referring your blog)~ don't be surprised if you get lots of hits from Colorado! ;)

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  13. Amazing!! I have been looking forward to this particular installment all month!! I would love to see how you present all of these goodies on a plate (or plates???). My kids have a snow day today so we are going to make the pretzel/rolo/m&m treats this afternoon!

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  14. Wow! This all looks sooooooo good!
    How does one go about getting on your treat list, is there bribery involved? I'm jealous of anyone who gets a package of goodies like this-I can wait to try some of your recipes and make my own packages.

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  15. Wow!! I just gained weight reading this post.

    Sounds like you've been busy! I sure wish I could get my hands on some Malted M&M cookies!

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  16. Wow--how do I get on your Christmas mailing list?! Or invited to an open house?! I am in MN after all...!

    Thank you for all of the ideas/recipes! I already made the biscotti you featured in this post for my holiday giving, but now I am adding your caramels and almond roca to my list! Yum!

    Courtney

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  17. I'm exhausted just looking at all those treats! That's a lot of work! Count me among those who wish I was on that wish list!

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  18. Wow! I love seeing your holidays baked goodies every year Joe!
    Your marshmallows look soooo fluffy! My son loves marshmallows and I haven never made them at home, I really need to try these sometime!
    Ana

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  19. O-M-Goodness ... *lots* of Goodness. You are amazing (& I am so incredibly humbled). Beautiful goodies galore!

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  20. Wow, I look forward to this every year, Joe. Awesome batch of treats as usual!

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  21. How does one get on your gift list?

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  22. love all your holiday treats! i made the espresso honey caramels last year...so good!

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  23. Fabulous! And to think I am getting tired of making 12 different cookies (for preschoolers to take home)

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  24. Joe that is one impressive spread! Your giftees are very lucky indeed. :)

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  25. I'm making a few gifts this year, (including marshmallows) but you have just taken things to a whole other level!

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  26. Joe, when are you going to get on Facebook. Or are you already and I'm missing it?

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  27. Goodness! Tons of yummy stuff, great pictures and yes, you deserve a nap! I've been making goodies like crazy, too. I'm tired. Great job, Joe!

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