Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tis the Season for Sweets!

Merry Christmas, everyone! It's a cozy 65 degrees in NC today, not exactly feeling a lot like Christmas based on the temperature. Based on the pile of sweet things accumulating on my desk and in my house, though, it definitely feels like the Sugar Holiday. Cookies, fudge, breads, I feel like I'm gaining weight just LOOKING at this stuff! And I'm not helping myself, either. This year, I made my two usual Christmas confections and added a new one to my collection. They're all recipes so simple, even I can't mess them up. All three only use three ingredients, and they end up completely delicious!

Peppermint Bark
This was the first Christmas candy I ever made. Very simple holiday treat.

2 bags prefered brown chocolate chips - dark, milk, semi-sweet
2 bags white chocolate chips
peppermint candies

1. Lay out wax paper over a standard cookie sheet.
2. Unwrap the peppermint candies (I use 10 to 15 round mints, although candy canes should work too) and pulverize them. I like to put them in several ziplock bags and smash them with a hammer, although I imagine a blender or food processor could do the job just as well.
3. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the brown chocolate, heating it 30 seconds at a time for the first minutes and 15 seconds after the first minute, stirring after every heating interval. Once the chocolate is all melted and smooth, pour it onto the wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle this layer with peppermint dust, no large chunks. Put into the fridge to set.
4. Once the first layer is solid enough, repeat the melting process in step 3 with the white chocolate. Pour over the brown chocolate layer. Evently sprinkle the remaining peppermint dust and bits over the chocolate. Put into the fridge to solidify.
5. Once the entire tray of chocolate is cool and solid, break the chocolate into chunks. This is easier to do if you've let the chocolate come to room temperature, otherwise it'll shatter. You can use your hands to break it or cut it with a knife. After several years of hand-breaking it, I found this year that deeply scoring it with a knife lets you break it easier and into nice straight lines.
6. Enjoy!

Last year, I began making Oreo Truffles along with the peppermint bark, and they were a huge hit!

Oreo Truffles
(makes 30)

1 bag of regular oreos
8oz cream cheese
1 bag chocolate chips, whichever kind of chocolate you prefer

1. Open the oreos and set aside four to six. Finely crush the rest (food processor or blender will do this fine. If you don't have one of these, you can fill a few ziplock bags with oreos and use a rolling pin to crush them. The first time I made these, I didn't have ANY of those. Not even a rolling pin. I ended up using a bottle of rum like a rolling worked!)
2. In a large bowl, mix together the crushed oreos and cream cheese thoroughly. Roll the resulting mixture into tablespoon-sized balls and place them on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Pop them into the fridge to solidify.
3. Using a double-boiler (or following step 3's melting method for the peppermint bark), melt the chocolate. Dip the chilled oreo balls into the chocolate, coating them entirely. Use a fork to scoop the chocolate-covered truffle out of the chocolate and sift off any extra chocolate. Return to the cookie sheet and make sure there's no holes in the chocolate. Use a little extra to cover any up.
4. Once all the truffles are covered in chocolate, crush the remaining oreos you set aside earlier and sprinkle them on top of the truffles. Let the truffles chill in the fridge until the chocolate has hardened.
5. Enjoy, and prepare to have the recipe ready for everyone who will undoubtedly ask for it!

This year, wanting to add a new recipe to my repertoir, I scanned my Pinterest "Edible Gifts" page and settled on these. I got these for Christmas at a secret santa exchange last year and LOVED them. When I stopped by a store, most of the ingredients were on sale, so it made the choice even easier. I did change the recipe up a bit by using peanut butter M&Ms instead of regulars and Window Pretzels (I don't know what the preper term for these are, they're the square ones that look like 9-pane windows), and I definitely like the change! You can make as many or as few as you want, but I've shared the sizes per bag that I found while making these, so buy as many bags of each ingredient as you need to make as many as you want. Warning: these are so poppable and delicious, you will be tempted eat them all instead of giving them to anyone.

Pretzel Kisses
Recipe inspired by Megster Meter.

Hershey Kisses (~50 per bag)
Peanut Butter M&Ms (~100 per bag)
Window Pretzels (A LOT PER BAG!!)

1. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees.
2. Lay out a bunch of pretzels on a baking sheet. Unwrap the Kisses and place each one on a pretzel. Put them in the oven for three minutes.
3. Push a single M&M down on the top of each Kiss. Let cool and enjoy.

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