Christmas Treats

Christmas TreatsThe Christmas season is devoted to the helping others and being kind. In the spirit of giving, here are some baking ideas that can be done solo or with your own little helper.

Reindeer Cupcakes
Yield: 24 cupcakes

Cupcakes
¾ cup unsalted butter

1¾ cups sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

½ tsp salt

2½ tsp baking powder

2½ cups flour

1¼ cups milk

Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened (but not melted)

3-4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

½ cup cocoa powder, sifted ¼ tsp salt

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

2-4 Tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 375F. Combine the dry ingredients and set aside for later use. Cream the butter and the sugar until pale. Add eggs and vanilla. Once thoroughly incorporated, alternate between adding the flour mixture and the milk in small batches. Pour the batter into cupcake paper-lined tins until three-quarters full. Bake for 20-22 minutes and let cool for up to an hour before frosting. For frosting, beat the butter for a few minutes until it lightens slightly. Add one cup of the powdered sugar and mix until almost completely incorporated. Add two more cups of sugar and beat on low until thoroughly blended together. Add the cocoa powder and mix on low until mixture is smooth. Add salt, vanilla and half of the milk. Beat for 3-4 minutes. If the frosting needs to be stiffer, add more sugar. If it needs to be softer, add more milk. To assemble reindeer, use pretzels, white, red, and brown M&M’s, and vanilla wafers. Frost the cupcakes with a flat layer of frosting. Place pretzels for antlers, a vanilla wafer for the face and two white M&M’s for eyes. Dot the M&M’s with chocolate frosting. Using frosting as glue, place red and brown M&M’s on the wafer for the noses.

Peppermint Bark
Yield: Approx. 2 pounds of candy

1-1½ cups crushed candy canes
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup mint chocolate chips
2 lbs white chocolate

Melt white chocolate in a double boiler; while still liquid but cooler add the chocolate chips and crushed candy canes. Using a (preferably silicone) mold (candy canes, wreathes, Christmas trees, etc.) gently pour the mixture into each mold. Place on a level surface and let firm for 45 minutes in the refrigerator. This can also be done using a plain cookie sheet. Place parchment on the bottom of a cookie sheet and pour the mixture on, leveling gently. Let chill in the refrigerator for the same amount of time. Break into pieces.

Melted Snowmen Cookies
Yield: 24 cookies

Gingerbread Cookie Dough
3 cups all-purpose flour

1½ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 Tbsp ground ginger

1¾ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

6 Tbsp unsalted butter

¾ cup dark brown sugar

1 large egg

½ cup molasses

2 teaspoons vanilla

Royal Icing
1 lb confectioner’s sugar, sifted

2 large egg whites (or 5 Tbsp meringue powder)

½ cup water

Marshmallow Fondant

8 oz mini-marshmallows 1 lb powdered sugar, sifted

1½ tsp water

In a small bowl, sift together the dry ingredients including the spices. In a mixer, beat butter and brown sugar. Add the egg once the butter and sugar are smooth. Beat on medium speed until well blended. Add molasses and vanilla and continue to mix until well blended. Gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth. Divide dough in half and wrap each in plastic and let stand at room temperature for a minimum of two hours, but no longer than four hours. Preheat oven to 375°. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll out dough to ¼” thickness on lightly floured surface. Use as much flour as needed to avoid sticking but be careful not to add too much. Cut out cookies with a cookie cutter. The goal is to have it look like a puddle of water. Space cookies 1-inche apart and bake one cookie sheet at a time for about 8-10 minutes. If you want a softer cookie, take them out at 8 minutes. For a firmer cookie, remove from oven at 10 minutes. Remove cookies when done and let cool completely before decorating. For the royal icing, combine sugar and egg whites and beat until smooth. On low, add the water. Mix until it forms a ribbon like trail when you hold the paddle attachment above the icing, letting the icing fall freely from it. Consistency should be thick. Reserve half of this icing. Thin out the remainder slightly, so it is still thick but liquid enough to flood. Place a small piece of plastic directly on top of the both icings. For fondant, place marshmallows in a glass bowl and microwave for 1½ – 2 minutes, until they are puffy and soft. Grease a spoon evenly before using and stir. It should be a soupy consistency. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Stop adding sugar when it becomes too thick to stir. Turn out onto a greased surface and knead until smooth. Take a small portion and color orange. Wrap both tightly with plastic and set aside. To decorate the cookies, outline them with the thicker royal icing making a little border. Flood the center with the thinner royal icing. While that is firming up, color the thick icing black. Use this to make the stick arms. Taking the white fondant, roll out small balls to be heads and place between the sticks. Dot the head with two little black icing eyes and make sure to make little dots for coal buttons. Make little cones out of the orange icing for the noses.

Crystal Durham is a Certified Journey Baker who studied baking and pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America, Greystone. For comments or questions, she can be contacted at [email protected].

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