Secrets Unveiled

For the past several years, my mum and I have gotten together for a few days in early December to make goodies for our out of town relatives.  We usually make quite an assortment, but this year we decided to keep things simple and just make two or three items.  It seemed like a reasonable thing to do, given that I have a bit more on my hands than in previous years.  However, we failed completely, and ended up making more items than ever. Oops! Mum kept gently suggesting that we leave this item or that item off the list, and I kept on insisting that we’d be able to make everything. I suppose I just don’t find it easy to do things in half measures, or to admit that I can’t do it all… And you know, the recipe that I pushed the hardest for and that was most in danger of not getting made ended up being one of my two favourites. I’m not sure what (if any)  lesson there is in all this, other than that Christmas baking is delicious.  Maybe next year we’ll do better at scaling back, although I’m hopeful that by then I might have a little helper. 🙂

Without further ado, here is the list of what we made and the recipes. I contemplated putting up one recipe a day to prolong the suspense, but realized I would be unlikely to stick to it for that long, so here they are, all at once!

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Bark (No changes to the recipe.)

Chocolate Fruit & Nut Confetti Blocks (Chopped up the nuts a bit first to make it easier to cut the blocks.)

Chocolate Molasses Ginger Cookies (No changes to the recipe.)

Fig, Walnut & Orange Biscotti (Didn’t have quite enough figs, so used a few raisins.)

Spicy, Salty Caramel Corn (No changes to the recipe.)

Brown Butter Brown Sugar Shorties (No changes to the recipe, but did follow all the tips provided by “John” in comment 166 and they turned out beautifully. Sorry out-of-town people; we didn’t send away any of these and they are amazing! We were worried about them being too fragile to mail, but I think they would have been ok. Maybe next year!)

Sesame Glazed Almonds (Recipe below)

Chocolate Covered Ginger (Just pieces of ginger dipped in dark chocolate)

Nuts & Bolts (Recipe below)

This year we didn’t have time to make our perennial favourites, Mayan Chocolate Sparkle Cookies, but I am hoping to make a batch once James is around during the day and can take Miles for a walk to keep him away from (what he thinks is) the evil, evil mixer. The recipe is below.

Sesame Glazed Almonds

3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup water
3 cup whole, unblanched almonds
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp each cayenne, ground ginger

Line baking sheet with foil (grease if you want), set aside.

Boil sugar and water for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in almonds.  Let stand, stirring often, for 5 min.

Meanwhile, stir together the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Using a slotted spoon, move almonds to bowl, toss to coat. There will be lots of water/sugar left. In fact, you can double the other ingredients and use the same amount of water and sugar.

Spread almonds on baking sheet, roast at 350F for 20min, until caramel coloured (it may take a bit longer; cut an almond open and make sure it looks nice and toasted inside).  Let cool on sheet on rack, break into small clusters.

Nuts & Bolts

4 cups Cheerios
4 cups Shreddies
2 cups pretzels
1 cup peanuts

1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp paprika
1 clove garlic, minced (or some garlic powder/salt)
1 tsp celery salt (I never have this)

Combine the cereals, pretzels and nuts in a large roasting pan or two. Melt the butter and mix in the remaining ingredients. Pour over dry ingredients and toss. Bake at 300F for 30-40 min or until toasted. Cool and store in airtight container.

Mayan Chocolate Sparkle Cookies

3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp powdered ginger
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp pepper
pinch cayenne
3/4 cup chocolate chips (use 1 cup if not using crystallized ginger)
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

Beat shortening, butter and sugars until creamy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Add next 6 ingredients, mixing until incorporated.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Make a topping with 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon.  Roll dough into 1″ balls and roll in topping.  Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets, about 2″ apart.

Bake 8 min at 350F, until the cookies just start to crack.  I find these are much nicer slightly underdone so they stay chewy, so be sure to take them out at the first sign of cracking. Let cool on baking sheet for 3-5 min, remove, cool on wire rack.

If you freeze the rolled and coated dough, you can bake cookies from frozen whenever you feel like it; just add a couple of minutes to the cooking time.

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3 Responses to Secrets Unveiled

  1. Karen says:

    I will attest that the tin was (emphasis on was) full of the most delicious treats ! The Peppermint Bark was a favourite in our house, as was the spicy caramel popcorn. The biscotti is wonderful too. The dark chocolate lover in our house loved the confetti squares.
    I’d love to know which were your favourites, Sarah.

    • thechumsleys says:

      It’s hard to pick, but the combination of sweet and salty in the spicy caramel popcorn and the brown butter shorties really worked for me. I also have a particular fondness for the chocolate molasses ginger cookies because I made them last year when I was in labour and we lived on them in the hospital. 🙂

  2. Karen says:

    We’ll have to try the chocolate molasses ginger cookies – they sound delicious! I made the peppermint bark today, at the children’s request, and it turned out beautifully.

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