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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Cookie, Candy and Chocolate Extravaganza



I like to bake at christmas time and up until recently it was pretty much the only time I baked all year and unless they are all lying to me, my friends and family seem to really enjoy the treats I make for them. I get special requests for specific things and I always like to throw one or two new things into the mix.

This year I had decided I would do chocolate pecan toffee, chambord dark chocolate truffles, lime melt aways (my mother in law would probably stop talking to me if I didn't make these for her), the cardamom ginger cookies I made for the Great Blogger Cookie Exchange and a delicious Lemon Almond Meringue that I found on Joy the Baker.

There was one small snag this year though. We decided on Wednesday night to book a week in Tulum, Mexico, leaving Saturday, which is fabulous, no? Except that when I woke up Thursday morning, I realized that if I was going to put together baking gift boxes for Little Shack's teachers, I was going to have to make all of those things that day.


In one day.



Maybe that's not a big deal for some of you who are big bakers but I don't consider myself a baker. I am a cooker who bakes at christmas and who is slowly becoming a decent baker but who has NEVER made that much stuff in a day.

I must say, I impressed myself with my mad organizational skills. I got out a notebook and I made notes and lists and made a plan. I am not the kind of person who makes really plans (clearly, since I am the kind of person who decides on Wednesday night to whisk her family off to Mexico 3 days later on a whim). I generally fly by the seat of my pants and just wing stuff but there was no way I was going to get all this stuff done using my normal operational methods.

The only real snag was the realization that I burnt my 3Qt saucepan that I use to make candy a few weeks ago and threw it out in a huff. DOH

A quick trip to the store for a pot and since I was there, a melon baller and some coffee beans and I might as well get a can of tomatoes and oh, look at that cute scarf at JOE. We lucky canadians can buy super cute, cheap and cheerful clothing at JOE Fresh right in Loblaws, one of our major grocery store chains. You have no idea how many times I have run in there for eggs and left with eggs, two cute little tops, a cardigan and a skirt. It's a slippery slope. Joe is slowly invading the USA as I type so make sure you check it out when once comes to your town.



Anyway, once I got my pot I got to work. I made the ganache for the truffles first and then, while that chilled in the fridge, I made the toffee.



The toffee was left to harden and I made the dough for the lime melt aways next since that dough has to sit in the fridge for at least an hour.

Next, I made the cardamom ginger cookies and while they were cooling, I managed to throw a load of laundry in AND shower.

BAM!



By the time I got out of the shower, the dough for the lime cookies was ready so I cut and baked those.
The meringues were last on the list and for the first time ever, my meringue wouldn't whip to stiff peaks. I have no idea what I did wrong. I washed the bowl and the whisk well first, there was no yolk in the whites although, it WAS raining out so it was damp and you aren't supposed to make meringues when it's damp out.

I threw it out and decided I would try another time and if it failed twice, I would accept that the egg white gods were not smiling on me, call it a day and find another cookie to replace them, even though they were the cookie I was the most exited about. Thankfully, the second time was the charm and they came out perfectly. I love that cookie so much I want to marry it and have it's babies.

I also managed to whip up a christmas card at some point in the afternoon and send it off to Staples to be printed and I picked that up right before dinner when I went in to buy a new black ink cartridge so I could print off our e tickets for the trip. It's a good thing I realized today that we were out of ink and not Saturday morning when I would usually print the tickets out to take to the airport.
I told you that planning ahead is not my forte.



Lemon Almond Meringues
from Joy the Baker

cardamom ginger cookies

lime meltaways
from Martha Stewart

Chambord Dark Chocolate Truffles


240g 70% dark chocolate
2/3 cup whipping cream
2 tbls chambord
dark cocoa for rolling

chops the chocolate up as small as you can and put it in a metal or glass bowl. Heat the whipping cream in a pot until it just starts to boil and then remove the pot from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute before you start stirring, stirring, stirring from the inside of the bowl out, once it's pretty much melted, add the chambord and keep stirring until all the chocolate is completely melted. You now have your ganache. Cover it with plastic wrap and put in the fridge, for at least an hour and even overnight.
When you are ready to roll the truffles, remove the ganache from the fridge and take off the saran wrap. 
Put your dark cocoa in a shallow bowl.
If you have a melon baller or a tiny ice cream scoop, use that. Otherwise, use a tbls to scoop out chocolate that you will roll in your hands into a little ball (it's up to you how big to make them but they are pretty rich and so I like to make more small truffles than fewer large). After you roll the ball drop it into the cocoa and roll it around in there until its completely coated with cocoa and it looks like a little ball of dirt. That is the look we are going after.
Keep them in the fridge for up to two weeks but they won't last that long so don't worry about it.


Tx Toffee

1 lb butter
1 lb dark brown sugar
1/2 to 1 lb pecans , toasted and chopped (it's up to you how nutty you want it to be - I tend to go a bit lighter on the nuts)
12 oz chocolate chips, light or dark or a mixture

Lay parchment paper down on a cookie sheet. Spread the pecans out over the parchment.

Melt the butter and brown sugar in a heavy saucepan. When it starts to boil, put a candy thermometer in there and start stirring. Don't wash down the sides at all, just stir in the middle and keep doing that until the thermometer hits 300.
As soon as it hit's 300F, take the pot off the heat and carefully pour the toffee over the nuts - you don't want your toffee to be too thick so make sure it's pretty evenly spread out - I like about 1/4" ish thick.
Let it sit and cool for a few minutes before you scatter the chocolate chips all over the top of the warm toffee. Let those sit for another couple of minutes so that the chocolate chips will get all melty and then use a spatula to spread the chocolate all over the toffee.
Let it set for at least 3 or 4 hours but overnight is best. Then you break it up in to chunks and store it in an airtight container. Again, this lasts for a few weeks but I have NEVER had it last that long so I can't vouch for that.

*this toffee has nothing to do with Texas, the state, but Tx chick, an old online friend who is famous for making this toffee and who has inspired at least a hundred of us to make it every christmas and so it will be forever Tx Toffee to me.