Monday 22 December 2014

All Things Christmas [Part Two – Baking and Crafts]


I love baking and each season provides me a great excuse to try out some new recipes. Pinterest is the number one cause of this as I spend most of the year pining some yummy looking treats I can’t wait to try. Last season’s hit was my Browned Butter Nutella Stuffed Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies… which I of course made again.


This year’s popular cookie were my adorable Snowman Cookies from Taste of Home

These cookies not only looked awesome but they were delicious and held up despite their delicate construction. Usually when I try out a new recipe I give myself a few attempts to master it, but this one turned out perfectly the first time. I was a little worried at first about forming the balls and ensuring they stuck together during baking, but I found as long as I pushed them together firmly it worked out well. 


1. The mini-chcolate chips for the eyes have to be pushed on as soon as they are out of the oven to ensure they stick, but if you hesitate at all the chocolate starts to melt a little (ex - Snowman #3). 

2. Instead of the mini-kisses I used regular ones which worked out okay. But next time I would be more careful with the icing when applying their hats (Ex - Snowman #5). 

3. I found that rolling out a bunch of each sized balls first and then assembling them later helped. When I tried to roll in order it took more time and the snowman were all different sizes. 

Step 1 - Forming the Snowman -- push the balls together firmly

Step Two - One baked add their eyes and buttons

Step Three - Decorate when cooled and enjoy!
I made a batch of my favorite Ginger Molasses cookies (a recipe I got from a café I used to work at) and as usual they were good, but not as good as the originals! I also tried out some new recipes like cherry almond shortbread and eggnog cookies. Both recipes were okay, but I plan to improve on them next year. 

I was going to organize a cookie swap this year but started the planning too late. It's definitely on the list for next year though, as I really miss our annual cookie exchange party. I did help out a friend who signed up for a swap not fully understanding the concept and made 160 cookies for her. Brian and my mom thought I was insane but I truly did enjoy it. I love baking and don't find it a chore but a pleasure. 

Usually I take some Holiday cupcake/cake decorating classes at Christmas and spend some time making various cakes and such, but this year I didn't. I only made one batch of cupcakes and kept them simple - I used a plain chocolate frosting and cut out mini fondant ginger bread men which I decorated using edible markers. In the spirit of being honest I will fully admit the cake was from a mix and the frosting from a can. Still, while they were simple and easy they looked great and tasted awesome. I am big on adding liquor and flavours to my cupcakes so in future I would try out this same look but add some gingerbread liqueur to the batter and icing for a more festive feel.  

After I finished all my holiday baking I assembled some cookie boxes which I gave out to various family, friends and co-workers. I find these boxes are great to have on hand for when guests drop by or when you are going to someones house. Because I start my baking early, I make sure that all my recipes freeze well. I carefully seal them in freezer bags which I place inside plastic containers. 

I get all my boxes from either Creative Bag or the dollar store and line them with foil wrap. Then once the baking is finished I assemble the boxes. I leave this until the last week of Christmas so that I can start giving them out immediately. I work quickly at assembling the boxes so that I can refreeze them if needed. If I am refreezing them I wrap them in plastic wrap and foil to keep them from going airy.  

This year I made up a few different sized boxes 

Pecan-Pretzel-Rolo Cookie 

One of the most simple cookies I include in the boxes is a Pretzel topped with a rolo chocolate. This gets baked for about 5 minutes at 350 (you have to watch them) until the chocolate starts to melt. Once they come out of the oven you press a pecan on top forcing the chocolate to cover the insides of the pretzel. Next year I plan to get a little more fancy with the pecans and roast/flavor them beforehand.


I tried out a Christmas craft from Pinterest this year, which turned out quite nicely. I encountered a bit of problems with the vase – the candy canes kept breaking – but when I added some pretty flowers and some bright ribbon, I was happy with the end result. It was a great centerpiece for the table.

My Candy Cane Vase 
Basically you take some sort of round can/vase. A coffee can was suggested but I had a leftover glass vase from my wedding. Then using candy canes you glue them around the sides creating what is supposed to look like this:

Pinterest's Vase - the inspiration 
After about 20 minutes of candy canes breaking and not lining up properly, any  expectations of this being the end result were gone! Still I kept at it making the best of what I had. I finally broke off all the curves of the canes because there was no way I had enough of them and then used a second piece of ribbon to cover any cracks. While it didn't turn out exactly as I had envisioned I think my vase was beautiful and worth the effort! Next year I may try this again but use a square shape instead and make sure I buy a lot more candy canes. 

I also made up some baskets for my fathers business clients. While he usually sends out around 20 baskets, I only did the two large ones as a trail run. They turned out great and we have plans for me to make all of them next Christmas. I used a large box as the base (I find baskets over-used and restrictive) and filled them with various chocolates, cookies, candies and other edible products. I bought the contents at Purdy's chocolates (the best Canadian chocolate store in my opinion!) a local Italian grocer as well as from the One of a Kind Show. I find that many gift baskets come off looking full but aren't really - its an illusion from all the filler inside. I did away with all of that and used only the actual contents inside. 

I have to say the One of a Kind Show was wroth the trip downtown. The different types of candies and cookies I was able to find for the baskets were awesome! They included products from all over Canada and helped make them very unique. 

One last thing I decided to try this Christmas was a holiday-themed manicure! I oped to do a simple candy cane design which turned out nicely. I loved the bit of whimsy/sparkle this added and it perfectly matched my Christmas phone case. (Yes, I actually have a Christmas phone-case which works great with my Christmas ring-tones!).

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