29 December 2011

Christmas Cookies, Past and Present

Now that you are exploding from holiday baked goods overload, let me tell you all about the Christmas goodies I cooked up this year. It was the first year I actually found time to plan out my Christmas baking.

Sure I've managed to pull something out of the oven every December, but the past few years have been baking failures in one way or another, from the gingerbread man orgy to butchered family classics to bland, tater-tot-like marzipans, to one of my more depressing Christmases, where I over-baked chocolavas alone on Christmas eve while watching a David Lynch movie marathon.

But this year every ingredient magically fell into place in a delicious way. Now I will tell you about some of them.

First of all we have the aptly named Seriously Delicious Chocolate Orange Gingersnaps, from Lisa Slater's The Brownie Lover's Bible. They didn't turn out quite like the picture in the book -- they are extremely thin -- but they are without a doubt the most delicious cookie I have ever made. It's really unfortunate that when you Google what a ginger snap is supposed to look like, you get this. >:[ But Wikipedia tells us the classic ginger snap can be under 3 mm in thickness, so all is well in cookie world.

What is in these babies? SO MANY THINGS: three kinds of ginger (ground, fresh and candied), cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, molasses, bitter Seville orange marmalade, vanilla, cacao nibs and bittersweet chocolate chips. Plus all the usual suspects.

It took me so long to assemble these ingredients, that when it came time to chill the dough, I let it sit in the fridge until the next day.

But now here they sit, all rolled up in turbinado sugar and looking like Timbits, ready to be rendered "Seriously Delicious."

Next up: these aren't cookies. They are candy. ALL NATURAL! Except for the sugar. Which is most of the ingredients. Yes, the ingredient list was a lot shorter on this one:

Candied Grapefruit Peel

2 grapefruits, washed
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar (plus extra to coat candy)
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Peel the skin off the grapefruit, then cut into candy-sized strips.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the peels. Boil for 5 minutes and strain. Rinse and refill the pot with fresh water and bring it to a boil again. Add the peels and boil for another five minutes, then strain. Repeat this process two more times for a total of four pots of boiling fresh water. This blanching process removes the grapefruit's bitter flavour.

Place blanched peels in the pot. Add the sugar, lemon juice and 1 1/2 cups of water. Simmer on medium-low heat until the peels are translucent (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours).

[Actually I took a nap during this time and overslept, making the simmering time about 2 hours. That's why some of the candies in the first photo look a little scorched -- a few stuck to the bottom of the unwatched pot and started to caramelize. Luckily, a caramelized candy does not taste so bad.]

Strain and place peels on a wire rack. Let air-dry for several hours, or overnight.

Fill a shallow bowl with sugar. Roll and press each peel in the sugar until evenly coated. The candy will last at room temperature for a couple weeks.

I made these a while ago and I remember it being much more of an ordeal back then. But, everything was more of an ordeal back then because I was so new to cooking. Now I am totally a seasoned pro.

And, now this post is getting pretty long so I will stop here and post the rest in a couple days.

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