Oh, the Christmas Sugar!
My favorite thing about Christmas just may be the baking. Of course I love to eat sweet treats but more than that I love to make them. For at least 20 years now I have always renamed any recipe so it includes the name of the person who shared it with me. I don't just have a Challah Bread recipe, I have Jeff & Sally's Challah Bread. I don't just have a cheese Gnocci recipe, I have Oliver's Decadent Cheese Gnocci. So a lot of my cooking and baking is also a trip down Memory Lane and the height of that reminiscing, which I so love, comes at Christmas.
A few years ago I'd tried to make my own treats like Bounty Bars. I tried three recipes I found online but none were quite what I was after. I amalgamated two of the recipes and got quite close. Before perfecting the recipe my lovely friend Jen gave me a little gift of what she called macaroons. They were exactly what I'd been trying to make! Thankfully she shared her recipe so I've been able to make them for the last few Christmases. Because the macaroons I've had in the past were quite dry and crunchy I now refer to these treats as JEN'S COCONUT BALLS. These are by far the treats I get the most compliments on at this time of year, and a great treat for the people in my life who are avoiding gluten.
Another one of my favorite Christmas treat recipes also came from Jen - about 15 years ago! This is JEN'S ALMOND ROCCA. These are always quick to disappear! One of the people who got the almond rocca this year said it was a decadent treat to dip a piece into peanut butter.
I am beginning to believe I was just not built for making SHORTBREAD. I've tried a few recipes with not much luck. I thought I'd given up on it but earlier this fall my friend served me shortbread cookies that her and her hubby had just made. They were by far the best shortbread cookies I'd ever had. I was so excited about them that when my friend gave me the recipe she titled it "Best Shortbread Cookies EVAR!!!". Knowing my shortbread history I even did a trial run before Christmas. They weren't great. I consulted with my friend and got more specific instructions about the kind of sugar and butter she'd used and how long to mix the dough. I was so sure the final run at Christmas would be perfect I was practically drooling as I pulled the cookies out of the oven but one bite said they were not one iota better than the tough and bland trial run. I wailed to her and she said she'd also made the recipe a second time and hadn't had any luck either! Her and her hubby couldn't figure out what they'd done differently than the delicious first time but they were going to abandon the recipe and recommended I do the same. I'll give shortbread one more try, though. After serving the poor version of my mum's recipe to my boyfriend's shortbread-loving father in 2010 I received a thank you card in the mail containing their family recipe. If I can't make that recipe work I won't ever try to make shortbread again!
At least where I fail at shortbread I succeed at SUGAR COOKIES. My boss calls me the Sugar Cookie Queen and I love that title! I'd made sugar cookies a few times in the past and had thought the cookies were really just there to hold the icing, more a colourful treat for kids than something to be savored. Then I came across a recipe in a magazine - probably Canadian Living - that used brown sugar instead of white. I tried it and was in love. I also started making the cookies a little thicker than I had before, so you get to taste the cookie and not just the icing. I use professional icing colours to get the saturation I love. I tend to decorate (and eat) a few test cookies before I find a style I like, then I do the rest of the batch in a very similar style just because I love the uniform look. I leave them overnight to dry, then they are ready to pack up and give away.
I think the height of Christmas reminiscing comes when I make my MUM'S FANTASY FUDGE recipe. I remember the first time I had fudge in a shop I was so disgusted that it was dry and flaky. I still don't enjoy "real" fudge because I so much prefer the soft and smooth texture of my mum's recipe. My mum has been experimenting with other fudge recipes for a few years but the recipe I remember from my childhood is still by far my fave.
When I was in high school I was in a group that was a bit like Girl Guides, called Canadian Girls in Training. I don't even know what we were in training for because I just remember how much fun it was to meet up and do crafts and chat and run around at camp. I ended up with two recipes from that group (I wish I could remember who shared the recipes with me). One is a fruit dip and one is a rocky road type recipe with butterscotch instead of chocolate. Over the years I've morphed that butterscotch recipe into my MINI ALMOND BUTTERSCOTCH CUPS.
I'll share the recipes soon.
Those are my favourite to make and eat. What are yours?