Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Finally getting the hang of Christmas baking

     I love baking. I had to learn to enjoy cooking but I have always enjoyed baking. Cake, cookies, brownies. Yesss. I wrote my own recipe for brownies when I was a teenager. That's how much I love brownies.

     We probably spent more time in the kitchen making stuff at Christmastime than the rest of the year combined when I was growing up. Shaped sugar cookies, breads, buckeye balls, chocolate dipped pretzels, chocolate chip m&m cookies. Yes, yes please! Now that I'm all grown up and have my own kitchen and my own stuff I continue to make many of the same things we made when I was a kid. My kiddos seem to enjoy it just as much as I did! Even at their sweet little ages I try to let them help and learn as much as they can so they can have fun making things for their own families some day.

     It never fails though that even with all I was taught over the years I am continuously learning things in the kitchen. The little tricks and tweaks that made my mother's and grandmother's foods taste like heaven on a plate. But gracious, half the time, I feel like a moron for not realizing some things sooner.

       Like, you know, when you make a bread (like pumpkin, banana nut, or zucchini) you should mix the dry ingredients separately from the wet, mix those together, then add in your mushy fruit or nuts. It all blends better that way and you're much less likely to get a blub of flour somewhere. OR, if you let the pumpkin bread get nearly done and the top center is still mushy there is a solution! You can turn the temperature down and press some foil around the edges of the bread pan just over the loaf and like magic, after a few minutes, it will firm up.

      As I discovered yesterday, homemade biscotti is actually NOT that hard to make at all! (Making it uniform and pretty may be another story.) It just takes some time and some hands-in-the-dough-squishing. About an hour and a half in the oven. You can have whatever type you want and it's way cheaper than buying it in a can from the store. I used this simple recipe and added in some chocolate chips. I have more than will fit in my favorite cookie jar.


     Isn't it the cutest cookie jar ever? I've had this thing for 8 years now. My sweet husband chose this for me. I remember telling him Frosty the Snowman was my favorite because we almost never got snow in Alabama. He gave it to me just before he went back home (3 hours away) after we saw The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe together. It was the first Christmas present he's ever given to me! That feels like it was a million years ago now.

     Another thing, I've learned that in place of a double boiler (because it is necessary for the safety and prosperity of chocolate) you can just put a bit of water in a skillet. Then, put the chocolate you intend to melt in a regular saucepan and place that inside the skillet full of water. Yay for no burnt chocolate! Yay for no wasted space in my small cabinets!

     Now I can make pretties like these lovely red velvet cake balls with "Christmas sparkles" (quoting my three year old) without wanting to smash things.

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