Dec
08
2013

Classic Gingerbread Man Cookie Recipe

RUN, RUN, AS FAST AS YOU CAN

Classic Gingerbread Man Cookie Recipe

Gingerbread men

If there's one scent that screams out "festive," it's the scent of baking gingerbread cookies. And if there's one activity that screams out "festive," it's the decorating of said gingerbread cookies. Nothing makes one bask in the glow of holiday togetherness like a cozy afternoon of cookie baking with the children.

To be honest, we all know that making cookies with children is less of a warm and peaceful activity, and more of a chaotic and Lord of the Flies-like activity, at least in my house. But that's why I love this recipe; spending a day making dough, and then chilling dough, and then rolling out and baking cookies, and then waiting for the cookies to cool, and THEN decorating cookies with crazed children who are eating icing and decorative candies by the handful would probably do me in. I would morph from my usual Buddy the Elf-like persona to one resembling the Grinch.

How To Survive Holiday Baking With Kids

This recipe saves me from trying to stop Christmas from coming for the poor little Whos. It is great for making ahead of time because the dough can be frozen for up to three months; make the dough when you have ten minutes to yourself, and then bake the cookies when you feel like it. Brilliant, no? In my case I made this dough in November, then I baked the cookies while my children were at karate. By the time they came home they had cooled enough for the decorating extravaganza to begin, and I didn't even have to put Bailey's in my coffee. Well, I did, but I didn't HAVE to, if you know what I mean.

This recipe for frosting works great, but I confess that I often foist store-bought tubes of icing on my children so they can easily decorate to their heart's content. Either way works well.

Ingredients:

For the cookies: 

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 1/2 cups flour
 
For the icing:
 
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
 
  Cream softened butter with brown sugar until fluffy. Add baking powder, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and molasses and mix well.
  Add egg to the mixture; beat until creamy. Stir in the vinegar.
  Mix in the flour until incorporated. Refrigerate for 2 hours until firm enough to handle. *Make ahead: form into a ball and cover with plastic wrap; freeze for up to three months.*
  On a floured surface, roll chilled (or thawed but still firm, if frozen) dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out shapes with cute cookie cutters.
  Bake at 375 degrees, on parchment paper-lined baking sheets, for 6-8 minutes, or until browned around the edges.
  Allow to cool completely before decorating with icing and candies.
  To make icing, mix milk into powdered sugar. Icing should be stiff enough to use as a candy adherent.  

Yield: Makes 4-5 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cookie cutters (size DOES matter, it turns out).

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Want more holiday cookies? Try my Grandma's Gingersnaps, my Gluten Free Peppermint Almond Cookies, Ali's Easy Hanukkah Sandwich Stars, or Lara's Pumpkin Pie Cookies.

Dec
03
2013

Decadent Dark Chocolate Truffles

THE "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S VEGAN" HOSTESS GIFT

Decadent Dark Chocolate Truffles

In my books, there are two hostess gifts that are always acceptable: wine and chocolate. Where recipients might be less than enthused about homemade wine, homemade chocolates are a different story altogether. Chocolate truffles are a decadent and impressive, yet incredibly simple gift from the kitchen.

The Peppermint Bark You'll Bite

The key to making these truffles is using very good quality chocolate and full-fat coconut milk. You can get creative by using different kinds of chocolate and infusing the coconut milk with different flavours by swapping out the vanilla for peppermint or almond extract, or maybe adding Grand Marnier for a special touch. You could also swap the cocoa powder for icing sugar or crushed nuts or candies to roll the truffles in; there are so many delicious combinations to try!

These truffles are also vegan, although they are so rich and scrumptious no one will believe you if you tell them that. It can be our little secret.

Ingredients

4 cups good quality dark chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
cocoa powder for dusting

  Place the chocolate into a large heatproof bowl.

  In a small saucepan, bring the coconut milk to a boil. Add the vanilla extract. Remove from heat and pour over the chopped chocolate. Stir until completely smooth. Refrigerate until firm, approximately 3 hours.

  When the mixture is firm enough to handle, scoop and roll into balls 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll or dust balls with cocoa powder.

  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: 3-4 dozen truffles

Need more foodie gift ideas? Try Maija's Milk Chocolate or Bailey's White Chocolate Fudge, my Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark, or my Grandma's Gingersnaps.

Dec
02
2013

The Bark You'll Bite: Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark Recipe

THE EASIEST AND MOST DELICIOUS HOSTESS GIFT EVER

The Bark You'll Bite: Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark Recipe

dark chocolate bark with peppermint pieces

Around the holiday season, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Sometimes I make complicated recipes that have three dozen ingredients and take a whole day’s worth of steps to make, and those are good. And then sometimes I make a recipe that takes fifteen minutes to make and requires only two easily-obtained recipes. Those are REALLY good.

This recipe is so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s absolutely scrumptious and unbelievably easy to make. Packaged in a festive tin or gift box, it makes a wonderful hostess gift — and no one will guess how simple it is! When I make this for a party I either have to hide the evidence or triple the recipe, else wise my family will eat it all. Or I will eat it all. One or the other.

The Easy Way To Crush Candy Canes

Some people would involve their children in the ingredient preparation; me, I do not trust my children with a rolling pin and instructions to crush anything. Disaster could only ensue from such a situation over here, but perhaps your children are much less destructive — in which case, by all means, get the children to help crush the candy canes! Family togetherness and delicious treats? Yes, please.

Ingredients

3 cups good quality dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy canes (5-6 regular sized ones)
 

  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  Place candy canes in a zippered plastic bag. Using a rolling pin, crush the candy canes to little bits. Don’t worry about uniformity here – there is room for all the candy parts, big and small. You should have about 1/2 cup of crushed bits – add more candy canes if need be (or eat the bits, if you crushed too many).

  In the top of a double boiler, and slowly melt chocolate chips over simmering water, stirring often.

  Pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet, smoothing it out so that it is about 1/4–1/3 inch thick. Immediately sprinkle the crushed candy canes over top all the chocolate.

  Place the baking sheet in the freezer for approximately 30 minutes, or until set.

  Break the bark into pieces and store in the refrigerator.

Want to see how easy this recipe is? Watch this short video of me making Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark Recipe.

Want more foodie gift ideas? How about Maija's Mint Chocolate Bark, Maija's Candy Cane Spoons, or my Decadent Dark Chocolate Truffles