Posts Tagged 'Christmas Treats'

Bourbon Balls

Last year, Dr. O’s grandmother gave me a folder full of holiday meal suggestions and recipes from various magazines from the late ’60s and early ’70s.  (How fun, right?)  The folder has a little bit of everything – drinks, appetizers, mains, sides, and desserts (along with some great holiday hairstyle ideas, hehe!) – so I thought I’d see if I could find something to add to my dinner party menu for next weekend.  One dish that really jumped out at me was a 1969 Good Housekeeping recipe for Bourbon Balls…  It was short, sweet, and good for making ahead, so I decided to give it a try.

There are several ingredients that need to be finely chopped, so I used my mini food processor quite a bit.  If you don’t have a food processor or chopper, the recipe is definitely still “doable.”  It just might not be quite as fun or easy.

First, I ground handfuls of vanilla wafers in my food processor to yield 2 1/2 cups of ground wafers.  (The recipe says they should be finely crushed, so banging them in a Ziploc with a rolling pin could be a decent alternative.)  I transferred the ground wafers to a large bowl.  Next, I used the food processor to finely chop 1 cup of walnuts.  I transferred those to the bowl as well.

To the mixture in the bowl, I added 1 cup of powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of baking cocoa, 1/3 cup of bourbon, and 3 tablespoons of corn syrup.  I stirred the mixture until everything was well incorporated and then hand-rolled the mixture into 1-inch balls.  (Each ball was about 1 tablespoon of the mixture and the recipe makes about 36.)  To finish them off, I rolled the balls in granulated sugar.

Bourbon Balls

My friend Christopher absolutely loved these, but I have to say…  These Good Housekeeping people must have really loved boozy candy back in 1969.  Holy smokes!  The bourbon flavor is pretty strong, and you get shot-like warmth as they head down the hatch.  (If you’ve already had a fair share of “holiday cheer,” you might not feel it as much, but wow.)

I actually made them again the next day, cut down on the bourbon, and incorporated a bit of coffee and vanilla as “replacement liquid.”  I think my adaptation will be more of a crowd pleaser.  I really love the idea of this recipe, though, and the candies are just so pretty and festive with the sparkly sugar coating.

TIPS:  The first time I made the recipe, my mixture was a bit dry and I had a hard time rolling it into balls.  If this happens, just add more liquid (corn syrup, bourbon, or whatever, really), mix until it’s well incorporated, and try again.

UPDATE (12/10/09):  I’ve been discussing this recipe with a friend lately and I thought it would be good give you my exact recommended breakdown for the liquid.  Instead of 1/3 cup of bourbon, I recommend using 3 tablespoons of bourbon, 2 tablespoons of coffee, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  That way, you’ll still get the bourbon flavor without the burn.  If you still think the flavor is too strong, go with 3 tablespoons of coffee, 2 tablespoons of bourbon and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

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Cinnamon Stars

It’s time for my first Christmas cookie post of the season!  I’m having a few friends over for dinner next weekend, and I can’t wait to serve up some Christmas goodies.  Today’s recipe – Cinnamon Stars from Robin on Allrecipes.com – is a special project because one of my friends doesn’t eat wheat or dairy.  She would never ask anyone to plan around her dietary restrictions, but I enjoy the challenge of coming up with something tasty that *everyone* at the party can enjoy.  I made these Cinnamon Stars last night and then brought some to her over lunch today…  They most certainly passed the test.  (And she asked for the recipe!)

First, I processed approximately 2 2/3 cups of raw almonds in the food processor until they were finely ground.  (I was able to get a finer grind by processing them in small batches, about 1 – 2 handfuls at a time.)  I say “approximately” because I didn’t actually measure the whole almonds; I just kept processing handfuls until I had 2 2/3 cups of *ground* almonds.

Once I had the almonds ground, I placed them in a medium bowl and whisked in 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest.

In the bowl of my electric mixer, I beat 1/3 cup of egg whites and 1/8 teaspoon of salt until soft peaks formed.  With the mixer running, I gradually added 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, continuing to beat until the mixture was stiff.  (It probably took 3 – 4 minutes on high speed to achieve the consistency I wanted.)  I set aside 1/3 cup of the egg white mixture for the glaze and then folded my almond mixture into the rest of the egg white mixture.

I lined 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Working with about 1/3 of the dough at a time, I rolled it out to 1/4-inch thickness between two sheets of parchment paper.  (I dusted the bottom one with powdered sugar to help prevent sticking.)  Using a 2 1/2-inch star cookie cutter, I cut the cookies, re-rolled the scraps, and kept cutting until I had a dozen cookies on each baking sheet.

To make the glaze, I added 1 3/4 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice to the reserved egg white mixture and stirred until the mixture was smooth.  (My glaze dried out just a bit as time passed, so I ended up adding another 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon after a few minutes.)  I used a pastry brush to lightly coat the cookies with the glaze.  Glazing took a few minutes, so I actually put the first batch in once it was glazed and then moved on to glazing the other cookies.

The recipe said to bake the cookies at 325F for 20 – 25 minutes…  No way.  I took my first batch out after 12 minutes and the bottoms were really misshapen.  It was like the centers exploded and oozed out or something.  I got perfect results – a light-brown, soft, yet completely-cooked-through cookie – with only 8 minutes in the oven.  I let the cookies rest on the baking sheets for 5 minutes and then cooled them completely on cooling racks.

Cinnamon Stars

I’ll admit the wheat and dairy eater in me prefers a nice butter-and-flour-laden traditional sugar cookie, but these are pretty tasty.  They have a really nice texture…  They’re not “bendable soft,” but they’re not crispy either.  I think “tender” is the right word.  The lemon and cinnamon flavors really sing.  I also *loved* that they held their shape beautifully.  No butter = no spreading.

My friend really seemed to enjoy them, so I’m going to put them on my “best bets” list for anyone looking for a good gluten-free and dairy-free Christmas treat.  They’ll be on my table again next weekend!

TIPS: I used packaged, pasteurized egg whites for this recipe because it’s a heck of a lot easier to pour 1/3 cup of egg whites out of a carton than it is to measure fresh egg whites.  Just make sure whatever you buy is 100% egg whites.  (Ham and cheese Egg Beaters won’t cut it!)

Recipe link: Cinnamon Stars

Peppermint Bark

Get ready for more Christmas yummies (already!). Today, I made Peppermint Bark from the December 2005 issue of Everyday Food.

The recipe list is short: 1 pound of chopped white chocolate (NOT chips), 2 cups of Rice Krispies, and 7.5 ounces of peppermints. I started by prepping a baking sheet. I sprayed it with nonstick cooking spray and then lined it with a piece of wax paper. (The cooking spray helps the paper adhere to the pan.) Next, I unwrapped about 45 peppermints, put them in a doubled resealable plastic bag (one inside the other), and pounded the heck out of them. This was the hardest part of the recipe, really. You need a decent amount of force to break those little disks, and there’s really no way around the noise. (My cat was alarmed.) Once they were crushed, I put the pieces in a sieve to remove the fine powder and set them aside.

Next, I put the white chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. (This is my version of a double boiler, which is one item I haven’t added to my collection yet.) I stirred the chocolate occasionally until it was melted, about 5 minutes. I removed it from the heat and stirred in the Rice Krispies.

I transferred the mixture to the lined baking sheet and spread it to the edges with a spatula. I sprinkled the crushed peppermints on top and then gently pressed them into the chocolate with a baking-sheet-sized piece of wax paper. I chilled the bark for 25 minutes in the refrigerator and then broke it into 2-inch pieces. Done!

peppermint_bark.jpg

This peppermint bark is addictive, seriously. The bark itself is softer than I expected, but the peppermints provide a nice crunch. Someone decided to buy out all of the Baker’s white chocolate in the three grocery stores near my home, so I ended up using Ghirardelli baking bars. I’m sure the use of quality chocolate contributed to the “yum” factor.

TIPS: The recipe says to use a rolling pin or a skillet to crush the peppermints. I found that the smooth side of my meat mallet worked best. If you don’t have a sieve, you could use a colander to separate the candy pieces from the powder.

Also, from the sound of the recipe, keeping your cooling time between 20 – 30 minutes is essential. Apparently, the moisture in the refrigerator will ruin the peppermints if the bark is stored there for too long. If you put the bark in an airtight container and keep it at room temperature, you should be able to enjoy it for a week.

Recipe link: Peppermint Bark




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