Sweeten holidays, cook up traditions with these treats
To say “Christmas” is to unlock a treasure chest of favorite memories and a world of much loved tastes, smells, sounds and scenes.
Christmas is a season and a feeling, a spirit as infectious as a baby’s laughter. At our house we anticipate its arrival all year long. When it finally gets here, we bake and decorate cookies together and hang lights. Tthe Other Fisherman adorns the outside of our home and my decorating magic happens indoor with the help of lots of fairy dust. We make special recipes handed down from our grandmas, shop way too much, throw parties and try to see our special friends. Just thinking about all this makes me want to take a long-winter’s nap.
The Other Fisherman and our boys are crazy over sweets and we both come from families where baking and candy making are mandatory come December. Treasured hand-written recipes fill a special little book I hold dear, as many of the recipes are from family and friends who are no longer with us. Required ingredients are scattered on every countertop in my kitchen and baked cookies rest on cut up brown paper bags on my dining room table to cool. Batch after batch of memorable treats made just once a year are turned out and stored for gift giving, serving at parties and just to “sneak” after dinner during the month.
Back in Wisconsin where we grew up, there is an 81-year-old, family-owned chocolate shop that makes the most delicious candies. Hughes operates out of the basement of the owners’ original home. The shop is world renowned for its chocolate-covered candies and toffee. A box of Hughes chocolates is a bit of heaven on earth, especially when you live in the far north.
But here in Homer, we have no similar shop, so we cook up our own treats.
Peanut Butter Balls
The Robl men love anything with peanut butter and chocolate and their favorite Christmas candy is chocolate dipped peanut butter balls. This is my mother-in-laws’ recipe. Mom is gone now, so we cherish the recipes she sent to us over the years.
• 2 cups crushed graham crackers (You can buy graham cracker crumbs in a box or make your own using your food processor or putting them in a big Ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin.)
• 1 1⁄2 cups powdered sugar
• 2 cups peanut butter-not natural
• 1⁄2 cup melted butter
• 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips and 12 ounces milk chocolate chips
Combine first 4 ingredients and roll into 1 inch balls. Place on cookie sheet. Freeze until firm.
Melt chocolates together and dip frozen balls to coat with chocolate using spoons. Place dipped candy on a cookie sheet and let set in a cool place. Be forewarned, these disappear quickly!
I visited my mom in Wisconsin this fall and enjoyed looking through her recipe collection. I came across this recipe from her mother, my Gramma Bloom, who loved to bake and sew. I asked Mom about it and she said when Gramma made these cornflake macaroons my mom, aunt and uncle would devour them in one sitting.
Gramma’s note says to make these on a sunny day.
• 2 egg whites
• 1 cup white sugar
• Pinch of salt
With electric mixer, beat the above 3 ingredients together until soft peaks form.
Gently fold in:
• 3 cups cornflakes
• 1 cup of nutmeats
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray and drop by spoonful on sheet. Bake at 325 degrees until light tan. Transfer from baking sheet to cooling rack. Enjoy!
May be made with or without the nuts.
You will need a candy thermometer for as it is key to produce a perfect candy.
• 2 sticks of butter
• 1 1⁄2 cups white sugar
• 1⁄2 cup water
• 1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 6 ounces of milk chocolate chips or quality chocolate broken into pieces (if you like bittersweet or dark chocolate, feel free to substitute any kind to your liking). I have used semi-sweet chips.
• 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts, your choice
Line a 9-by-13 inch baking pan with foil, overlapping sides. Butter foil or spray with cooking spray.
Melt butter slowly in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar, water, cream of tartar and salt and stir until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium high. Brush down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush occasionally. Cook stirring constantly just until candy thermometer registers 295 degrees. The toffee should be a rich, red, nut brown color.
Immediately pour into prepared pan. Let stand 2 minutes, then sprinkle with chocolate. Let stand 2 more minutes to soften and melt. Spread chocolate with back of a spoon over toffee until smooth. Sprinkle with nuts. Let set until firm. Remove toffee from pan, using foil as aid. Cut into squares. Store in airtight container.
I hope you make time to do a little baking or candy making with someone special in your life to add to your treasured memories of Christmas. It’s fun, makes the house smell good and who doesn’t love a tasty sweet?
From my kitchen to yours, I wish you a blessed and Merry Christmas full of yummy goodies, lots of love and meaningful traditions.
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