Thursday, January 29, 2009


Ever have something that you're supposed to do, but then you don't get around to doing it? And then maybe there's other parts of it that subsequently don't get done because you need to do the first part first? And then eventually you get so far behind that to take care of the whole big mess of things that didn't get done seems like an awful lot of work so you put it off even longer?
Okay, so that's what happened with this blog.

It started with the Christmas baking. I did so much in so little time that I got behind on my blog posts. And then I didn't want to post anything else because I hadn't finished my Christmas baking posts yet. So I've been having all sorts of cooking adventures and I've even taken the occasional photo, but the blog posts never got done.

But, this is a new year! Today is the day I get caught up. I have been cooking up a storm this month. Below, you'll see some of the posts I've been meaning to do, starting with the end of my series of Christmas posts. Over the next few days, I'll be getting caught up on the rest of the posts.

I do apologize that I don't have photos for all of them, I got so far behind that I slacked on the pictures for a while.

Happy 2009 everyone!

Holiday Baking Part 7: Gift Baskets

I can't always think of the perfect gift for someone.

There are those who I love, but sadly I don't spend enough time with to know their current interests so that I can figure out the perfect present.

I don't believe in regifting or giving someone something I'm not sure whether they will use, and I don't believe that simply spending money shows how much you care. But I also don't want to be viewed as stingy, and I do believe in giving something from the heart.

So the happy medium that I have come up with for these instances is to lovingly put together a basket of baked goodies, and include a gift card for a place that I'm sure the recipient will either enjoy or be able to find something useful. I think it shows the honest truth which is that although I don't know them as well as perhaps I should, I still care about them enough to make something from the heart, but also want to allow them to choose their own gift because they know better than I do what would make them happy.

These gift baskets are one of the main reasons I do so much baking at Christmas. I think it's fun to have a lot of variety!

This year I was wicked coordinated. I found these wonderful boxes with a snowflake print and a roll of matching wrapping paper. They were two piece boxes meant to hold a bottle of wine. I took each box and split it into its two halves and lined each half with wrapping paper (attached with a glue gun)

I really liked the shape of these boxes because they hold a tonne (last year I used tins and they didn't hold as much as I would have liked) and I could arrange everything in neat rows.
Here are the contents from left to write (top row first): Shortbread stars with yellow sprinkles, lebkuchen, pineapple Christmas cake (each slice individually wrapped), a container of lemon curd (I picked these up at the dollar store because they matched so well and had cute snowmen on them), and empty tart shells placed in a snowflake muffin cup. In the second row there are snowballs placed in silver candy cups, snowflake sugar cookies, apricot and hazelnut thumbprints and a couple of peanut butter balls placed in candy cups.

Recipes for everything except the shortbreads can be found below.

I wrapped the boxes with clear cellophane with blue snowflakes and tied it with a thick piece of silver elastic. I found little blue gift card boxes at Carlton cards which I punched a hole in the corner and attached to the elastic. The finishing touch was a silver name tag on each box.

I'm really happy with how these turned out!

One quick note about freshness: I figured out ahead of time how many baskets I would be making and subsequently froze the appropriate amount of goodies as soon as they were made. I thawed them out on the morning of Christmas Eve, assembled the baskets and gave them to their recipients on Christmas Eve afternoon. This was to ensure that everything was fresh since the cellophane around the box is not air tight.

Holiday Baking Part 6: Lemon Cheese Tarts

This recipe is one that my Dad has been making every Christmas for as long as I can remember. It consists of pastry tart shells and a lemon curd filling that are stored separately, with the filling spooned into the shell right before serving. I loved these as a kid because if Mom wasn't looking, I could over fill the tart shell and maybe grab one more little spoonful of filling just to eat off the spoon.

As for why they're called lemon cheese tarts when they have no cheese in them, I'm not sure. I assume it's because the creamy texture of the lemon curd is reminscent of the consistency of a soft cheese.

Also, I will be perfectly honest and tell you that this is the one place in my holiday baking that I take a shortcut. I buy frozen tart shells. Don't tell anyone, okay? These are so popular that I always make a double batch.

Recipe: Lemon Cheese Tarts


-Premade tart shells (homemade or frozen)
-3 eggs less one white
-1 cup sugar
-2 Tbsp butter
-Juice and rind from one lemon

Melt the butter and place in a double boiler. Add remaining ingredients to the double boiler and cook, stirring continuously, until thickened. Allow to cool before pouring into shells. Store in the refrigerator and spoon into shells as required.

Note about the recipe: This is definitely a taste-as-you-go recipe. Some people will prefer to use more or less lemon juice, depending on whether you like a sweet tart or a tart tart!

Holiday Baking Part 5: Snowball and Peanut Butter Ball Recipes

So many cookies and cakes! Baking tends to involve lots of flour based desserts, so I try to throw in a couple every year that are just pure, straight sweetness. These rich little bites are completely flour free!

The first are my own invention, and I call them snowballs. It's a really simple concept, but I've never seen it done anywhere else, so if you have let me know. These beauties burst with cherry when you bite into them. They're really rich and delicious. Secondly, I've included a recipe for peanut butter balls, a personal favorite of mine, that is from You can never go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate!

Recipe: Snowballs


2 packages of marzipan (it comes in tubes)
1 jar of marischino cherries
White chocolate for melting/dipping (I use Wilton melting wafers)
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Drain cherries.

For each snowball, tear off a small piece of marzipan and roll it into a ball about 3/4" in diameter. Flatten the ball of marzipan on an icing sugar dusted surface with a rolling pin until it is about 1/4" thin. It should look like a thick dumpling wrapper. Place a cherry in the center of the marzipan and wrap the edges of the marzipan upwards to completely enclose the cherry. Press seams together firmly (If they're not sticking well, moisten slightly with a little water). Roll the marzipan wrapped cherry between your palms to smooth out the surface and round out the ball. Each ball should be just under an inch in diameter.

Once all of the cherries have been wrapped in marzipan, melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Dip each wrapped cherry in the melted chocolate and allow excess to run off. Place on wax paper and sprinkle a little coconut on top. Allow the finished snowballs to harden at room temperature (If you cool them in the fridge, they sweat).

Recipe: Peanut Butter Balls


2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
3 cups icing sugar
3 cups Rice Krispies
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips or melting wafers

Melt peanut butter and butter in saucepan, over low heat. In large bowl, mix Rice Krispies and icing sugar well. Pour melted peanut butter and butter over cereal and sugar and blend together thoroughly.

Form into 1 inch or smaller balls, spread on cookie sheets, chill till firm in refrigerator (over night is okay).

Melt chocolate in double boiler and keep melted while working with balls. Dip peanut butter balls in the melted chocolate and place on a wax paper covered cookie sheet. Optional: Sprinkle with ground peanuts.

Recipe makes about a hundred.

For a picture of both of these recipes, please see the above post on Christmas gift baskets.

Holiday Baking Part 4: Apricot and Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookie Recipe

I have my staple recipes that I make every Christmas. Some of them are family traditions and some are my own personal tradition. This year I felt like I needed an extra cookie in my baking.

I already had the heavy big cookies, light and fluffy shortbreads and decorative sugar cookies, so I decided that the next cookie should have fruit and nuts. I like fruit and nuts in Christmas baking because it reminds me of my ancestors who couldn't buy passionfruits or lychees or even grapes in December like I can. I've always felt that Christmas is a time for tradition, so it's a good time to remember your ancestors as well. Dried fruits and nuts were a treat to them, so I try to respect that in my holiday baking. Christmas is one of the few times in the year where I incorporate these ingredients into desserts.

This year I borrowed a recipe from Martha Stewart for hazelnut thumbprints which I've adapted a little bit. They turned out fluffy and delicious and were quite pretty, so I wanted to share the recipe with you. I will definitely make them next year.

Note about the recipe: Refrigerating the dough takes a long time and it makes the dough more difficult to work with, so it's tempting to skip it, but try to resist! If you don't refrigerate the dough, the cookies will not hold their shape as well while baking so they may not turn out round or the space in the top for the jam may end up bigger than intended so you end up having to use too much jam to fill the cookie.

Recipe: Apricot and Hazelnut Thumbprints


1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
1 large egg, separated, each part lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup ground hazelnuts (or filberts)
a jar of apricot jam

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Dry roast hazelnut by placing in a dry frying pan over medium heat and stirring continuously until nuts become aromatic and turn a nice toasted brown colour. Remove from heat and place in a small bowl.

Cream together butter and 1/3 cup of sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy (3 to 5 minutes). Add egg yolk and vanilla and cream for an additional minute.

Reduce speed to low and add flour and salt. Mix just until combined. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Add remaining sugar to the bowl with the hazelnuts and mix. Roll dough into 1" balls, dip in the egg white and then roll in the nut mixture until completely covered. Space one inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Press down the center of each ball with your thumb. Bake for ten minutes.

Press down the centers of each cookie a second time using the tip of the handle of a wooden spoon or rolling pin. Return to the oven and bake until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet and then remove to wire racks to finish cooling. Fill each center with jam.

For a picture of these cookies, please see the above post on Christmas gift baskets.

Holiday Baking Part 3: Pineapple Christmas Cake (white fruit cake) Recipe

It wouldn't be Christmas at my mom's house without the Christmas cake.

My mother makes this every single year. She got the recipe from Nannie, who also made it every year. A few years ago, I started making it and this year, my sister made one for the first time.

I know what you're thinking. How can my family possibly need 4 identical cakes? Especially given that these are fairly big cakes. I use my Wilton 10" fluted angel food cake pan and it is filled almost to the brim and weighs several pounds.

I promise you, none of it goes to waste. It's that good. It's actually one of the first things to disappear out of the huge assortment of desserts we put together. This isn't your typical fruit cake (although I made one of those this year as well). The chunks of fruit are big and juicy, the cake is moist and fluffy and there are no nuts or dried fruits/raisins/currants. Also, understand that I fear and loath glaceed fruit as much as anyone. But somehow, it turns out delicious in this cake. You just have to trust me on this one!

So I will share with you our secret family recipe, and just hope that anyone I know who reads this will come visit me at Christmas anyway, even though they'll now be able to make their own Christmas cake.

Recipe: Pineapple Christmas Cake


3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
3 eggs
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 19oz can crushed pineapple (drain and reserve liquid)
1/2lb glazed pineapple, cut into 1" pieces
1 1/2 lb glazed cherries
2 Tbsp cornstarch

Note about ingredients: I usually use yellow pineapple pieces along with green and red cherries to make my cake colourful and pretty.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and line a 10" angel food pan with wax paper (I use this pan).

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (3 to 5 minutes). Add extracts and mix until combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.

In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Gradually add to the creamed mixture, mixing well after each addition, and alternating with the reserved pineapple juice when the consistency gets too dry (I usually end up using about 3/4 of the juice in total). Add crushed pineapple and mix until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine cornstarch and drained glazed fruit. Fold into the cake batter. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for about two hours. Cool in the pan for about ten minutes and then remove to a cooling rack. Remove wax paper from cake when it has completely cooled.

To see a picture of a piece of this cake, see the post above about Christmas gift baskets.

Newer Posts Older Posts Home