Sweet Christmas Treats

With Christmas 1 week away, you never know when a visitor might drop by or when you might be invited to a last minute get together.  Having a few treats around to snack on while wrapping gifts  or just hanging out makes for a pretty fun evening.   Hot chocolate and a little sweet bark along with great coffee, tea and festive cookies could save the day!  Here are a few super easy recipes for sweet treats to have around as snacks or to give as a hostess gift or present on Christmas Day:

Peppermint Bark

Paula Deen’s Peppermint Bark

Ingredients

  • Crushed candy canes, to yield 1 cup
  • 2 pounds white chocolate
  • Peppermint flavorings, optional

Directions

Place candy canes in a plastic bag and hammer into 1/4-inch chunks or smaller.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.  Combine candy cane chunks with chocolate (add peppermint flavoring at this point if desired).  Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet layered with parchment or waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm  Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle).

Note:  If you don’t own a double boiler try a heatproof bowl over a pan of hot water. 

 

French Chocolate Bark

Ina Garten’s (The Barefoot Contessa) French Chocolate Bark

Ingredients

  • 9 1/2 ounces of very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces very good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions

Melt the 2 chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. 

Meanwhile, line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  Using a ruler an a pencil, draw a 9 by 10-inch rectangle on the paper.  Turn the paper face down on the baking sheet.

Pour the melted chocolate over the paper and spread to form a rectangle, using the outline.  Sprinkle the cashews, apricots and cranberries over the chocolate.  Set aside for 2 hours until firm.  Cut the bark in 1 by 3-inch pieces and serve at room temperature.

Note: Try making smores with peppermint and chocolate bark.

 

Simple Sugar Cookies

Simple Sugar Cookies from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

Makes 7 dozen

FOR THE DOUGH

  • 4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup unsalted butter ( 2 sticks)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for pressing cookies
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Finely grated zest of one orange

 Directions

1.  Sift together flour, salt, cream of tartar, and baking soda; set side.  Place butter, olive oil, 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, and 1 cup granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on medium until fluffy.

2.  Beat in eggs, vanilla extract, add orange zest until well combined.  Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture slowly, until fully incorporated.  Cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour overnight.

3.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Form dough into balls measuring  about 1 inch n diameter, and place on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Press flat with a glass dipped in sugar.  Place cookies in oven, and bake until very lightly golden, 7 to 10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving. 

 

 

 

Decorate with royal icing

Ingredients

Makes 2 1/3 cups

  • 1 box confectioners’ sugar (1 pound)
  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder or 2 large egg whites

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar and meringue powder.  Mixing on low speed, add a scant 1/2 cup water.  For a thinner consistency, usually used for flooding, add more water.  A thicker consistency is generally used for outlining and adding details.  Mix until icing holds a ribbon like trail on the surface of the mixture for 5 seconds when you raise the paddle.

 

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

Makes 30

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package (14 ounces) sweetened flaked coconut (5 1/3 cups)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper (or coat generously with nonstick cooking spray).

In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, sugar, and salt until frothy.  With a fork, stir in coconut until moistened.

Drop mixture by packed level tablespoons onto prepared sheet (cookies will not spread).  Bake until lightly golden, 25-30 minutes.

 

HOT DRINKS!

The Barefoot Contessa’s Hot Mulled Cider

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 16 cups pure apple juice or fresh apple cider
  • 4 (2-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • 2 oranges, peels and juice
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 6 star anise

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes.  Pour into mugs and serve. 

 

The Barefoot Contessa’s Hot Chocolate

Makes 4-5 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder
  • 4 to 5 vanilla beans or cinnamon sticks, for garnish

Directions

Heat the milk and half-and-half in a saucepan on medium heat to just below the simmering point.  Remove the pan from the heat and add both chocolates.  When the chocolates are melted, add the sugar, vanilla extract, and espresso and whisk vigorously.  Reheat gently and serve immediately.  Use a vanilla bean or cinnamon stick to garnish each serving. 

Note: Try garnishing with a peppermint stick

How sweet it is!

 

Have a Merry Sweet Christmas!

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