Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, the year 2008

I am a big Christmas baker. Or maybe candy maker is more like it. Either way, I love the flavors of the holiday, and I love bringing oodles of goodies to my friends and family. So hate me. I bake. And I do it well.

My friends at work refer to me as the "Cake Lady" because I bake and decorate cakes. Once a year, though, I put on my Candy Lady hat and bring a spread to the office. And today was the day!! Luckily, the cube next to me at work is empty, so this is what it looked like today:

You can double click the images in this post to get a better view. MrG is promising me a better camera for Christmas this year!

My mom and my BFF and my sister-in-law have gotten together over the years to spend a day in the kitchen making Christmas goodies. I cherish that time together, now more than ever. I regret that I have been so overscheduled this year that my candy making time has been limited to spurts here and there over the past two weeks. I have made my treats this year, and I know the people I share them with will appreciate them. But I feel like I got hosed this year because I didn't have time to make them WITH the people I love, just FOR the people I love.

Mo's Peanut Butter Bon-bons (center) - My maternal grandmother's recipe, and my sentimental favorite. Basically, just peanut butter and rice krispies, held together with magic and dunked in chocolate.

Fudge - Irish cream and white chocolate cherry almond. The cherry is on the lower right, the Irish cream on the lower left.

Mint Oreo Truffles (upper right) - mint oreos, pulverized and mixed with cream cheese, then dunked in white chocolate and sprinkled with green sugar. Looks like I spent all day in the kitchen, but these are simple to make!

Rolo pretzels (middle right) - sweet, salty, crunchy, soft goodness, all piled up together. Partially melt a rolo candy on top of a mini pretzel, then smoosh a pecan half down on top of it all.

Oreo Truffles (lower left) - Oreo cookies mixed with cream cheese, covered in melted chocolate. A drizzle of white chocolate dresses this candy up. People think I'm a genius when I show up with these. MrG took them to his Christmas cookie exchange this year, and we won the People's Choice award! By "we" I mean I made them and he transported them, so I guess it's a group effort.

Peanut Brittle (upper left) - a go-to favorite that's a lot harder to make than it should be. Trust me when I say you do NOT want to try to get burnt peanut smell out of your house. So, kids, watch that candy thermometer carefully when trying this dish. When you get it right, it is crunchy and divine.

Caramel Popcorn - the real kind that you make on the stove, then bake in the oven, low and slow. MrG loves the stuff, and it's almost idiot proof. I figure I have to feed him something yummy for allowing me to spend my time and our money to feed everyone else!

Cinnamon Almonds (center) - almonds, tossed in a sauce with brown sugar and cinnamon, roasted till they are golden brown and delicious.

Fudge - orange cream on the lower right, chocolate raspberry right next to it in the lower center.

Bourbon Balls (lower left) - not my personal favorite, but the folks at work seemed to love them last year! And they are pretty. They balance out the other flavors and textures well, so they make the cut. And the lady who handles my travel for me at work loves them. It pays to keep the person making your travel arrangements happy.

Peppermint Bark (upper left) - Vanilla flavored candy, melted and swirled together with red and green peppermint chunks. By far, this was the crowd favorite last year, and the easiest candy in my holiday arsenal!

Peppermint patties (upper right) - a new addition this year - creamy peppermint fondant dipped in dark chocolate. Yummy!

I realize now that I committed a cardinal sin by placing two fudges next to one another, and two peppermints next to one another. Oh well. Perfection can wait until next year, I guess. Martha would be so proud. In all fairness, it's hard to arrange the candy appropriately when your coworkers are giddily rallying around you as you unpack the good stuff.....

Ginger Snaps - good from the grocery store, but they can't be beat when they are homemade. This was the crowd favorite this year. It's a simple Betty Crocker recipe from a book I've had since 1987. A real book, with paper pages, a ring binder and a hard back cover. Go figure.

Kahlua Praline - what is not to love about chocolate, heavy cream, kahlua, and pecans?

There's a whole art to the balance of the candies - you want different shapes, different textures, different base flavors. A candy buffet with just round candies or just chocolate flavors is BORING. So I do what I can to throw in a wide range of flavors. Get some chewy stuff and some crunchy stuff and some melt-in-your-mouth creamy stuff. Be sure you have round things and square things and oddly sized things. In retrospect,
I probably really needed something tangy and fruit flavored like lemon bars or apricot balls to achieve true balance. But really - who wants to eat that stuff?

Those of you who know me won't find it odd that I had a spreadsheet this year to be sure I had all my bases covered. And those of you who don't know me have a lot to learn.

And yes, I really do get all Martha Stewart with the matching plates and napkins. (Well, as Martha Stewart as one can be when serving baked goods on throwaway plates). Even the email I sent to the office had a snowman background. And a poem, but that's for another time and place.

Making Christmas candy makes me happy, and feeding the homemade goodies to someone other than my immediate family (whose health and welfare I am responsible for!) makes me even happier.

Whatever your Christmas candy preference, I hope you or someone who loves you treats you this holiday season!

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