What is it about fall and winter that make us want to bake? Why do Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to revolve around sweet treats? Maybe its because the weather is turning cooler and it isn’t so dreadful to have the oven running for hours on end. Of course, in Florida, it is still in the 80s and we have to run the air to battle the heat of the kitchen, but it is worth it for the joy of holiday baking.
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I have many fond memories of Christmas baking with my mom. We would spend an entire day making M&M cookies, Peanut Butter Blossoms, Chocolate Chip, and Lemon cookies. I loved mixing them up, rolling them in colored sugar, licking the bowl clean, but I also loved packaging them up to give to friends and family. These days, between work, writing, and marketing I don’t have much free time, but I decided to make time over the weekend to do Christmas baking.
I subscribe to Tea Time Magazine and the November/December issue is full of wonderful new recipes. I started with the Double Chocolate-Cranberry cookies and Dark Chocolate-Pistachio Toffee. Both of these were incredibly simple and made me nostalgic for those childhood recipes. I found one for M&M cookies, and used mint M&Ms for a more contemporary flair.
On Wednesday, I am going to tackle Vanilla-Sour Cream Tea Bread and Cherry-Hazelnut Scones (if I can find hazelnuts). If these turn out well, I can see them turning up in a future book. If I can find the lemon cookie recipe, I think I will make some of those as well. All of these treats will make a nice gift bag for my friends and coworkers. What are your favorite Christmas treats?
Double Chocolate-Cranberry Cookies
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dark chocolate morsels
1/3 cup white chocolate morsels
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans (I used pistachios)
Preheat oven to 375
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt, whisking well. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine butter and sugars. Beat at high speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract, beating at low speed until combined. Add flour mixture at low speed until incorporated. Add both dark and white chocolate morsels, cranberries, and pecans, stirring to combine.
Using a levered 1-teaspoon scoop, drop batter 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets.
Bake until golden brown, approximately 7 minutes.
Dark Chocolate-Pistachio Toffee
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons salted butter, divided
3/4 cup finely chopped, roasted and salted pistachios, divided
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate morsels
Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat. Spread 1 tablespoon butter in a 9-inch diameter circle on baking mat. Sprinkle 1/2 cup pistachios over butter circle in an even layer.
Coat the inner top 2 inches of a large microwave-safe bowl with 1 tablespoon butter. Place remaining 1/2 cup butter in bowl. Add sugar and water. Do not stir.
Microwave on high until mixture turns very light brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
Immediately pour hot mixture over pistachios, covering nuts in an even layer. (Spread quickly as sugar mixture sets quickly.)
Immediately sprinkle chocolate morsels over sugar mixture in an even layer. Let sit for 1 minute to melt, then spread evenly, using an offset spatula.
Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup pistachios over melted chocolate.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until candy is firm.
When firm, cut into pieces, using a long sharp knife and pressing down.