Thursday, January 1, 2009

Christmas Baking!

Only a week late, too!

Christmas is always about the baking to me. In years when I don't have alot of money, I just bake in bulk anad give people bags full of four or five different kinds of cookies, sugarplums, magic cookie bars, anything else I can make. This year, we (C and I) went over to A&Ls to do our baking with them. Here's what we made: 

Cookies: C made ginger-molasses cookies that were supposed to be roll-out cookies, but wound up being balled-cookies because the dough was too sticky, but that really worked in their favor. They were moist and chewy, spicy without being overpowering, and mostly tasted like molasses-- and they kept the other cookies in the box moist with their own moistness. I made my classic sugar-cookie recipe which isn't kidding out the sugar-- two cups to the three cups of flour. L made snickerdoodles, his favorite, which came out light and crisp and the perfect balance of swweet and cinnamon, and were amazing dipped in the hot alibaba tea we had (earl grey boiled on the stove with a cinnamon stick and some sugar, borrowed from the Alibaba Middle-Eastern Restaurant in Longwood). C and A both made magic cookie bars, and they were so different. C made the classic gramcracker-butter crust with sweetened condensed milk, semisweet chocolate chips and coconut on top, while A made ones that started with a cocoa-powder, sugar, flour and butter crust, then mixed the sweet milk with eggs before topping with big fat milk chocolate chips and coconut. Both were to die for, and I kept eating them until I'd eaten most of what we took home and everyone else was wondering where they went. And now I'm ten pounds heavier.
Sugarplums! As in 'visions of...'. I made these for the first time last year, very soon after we moved into this house, and they're one of my favorite things to make. Very simple, no bake, very tasty, and actually pretty good for you. They're one part pitted dates, an equal amount of toasted nuts (which I usually just heat up in a pan on the stove), twice as many dried apricots, about a quarter of a bear of honey (I really like wildflower, because it's strong enough to still be tasted around the other flavors, and I adore the flavor of honey), about half an oranges' worth of zest (or orange liquor, or both), and tons of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice (about twice as much cinnamon as the others, somewhere around two or three tablespoons). Throw it all in a food processor, and pulse it until it's all small bits and it suddenly becomes a ball that spins around the bowl instead of blending further. Scoop out by the spoonfull into your palm, and roll them like meatballs, making sure to wash your hands when they become sticky enough that the balls stick to you instead of themselves. You can dust them with sugar or powdered sugar, but I susually just stuff them in my face.

I think this is about the most versatile recipe. Last year, I added raisins and chopped dried apples and some quick-cook oats and used two different kinds of honey, and they were just as good. Figs might also be good, and one recipe called for actual dried plums, which might be appropriate.

And then there was the cake. Not a light cake, either in weight or in calories, but fab. It's got two cups of white sugar, almost a cup of brown sugar, rum, multiple tablespoons of cinnamon and other wintery spices, a cup or two of mixed chopped nuts, two apples, three eggs, a cup of oil, and mounds of yumminess. I oiled the pan like woah, and it still stuck it was so sugary, but it came across as rich rather than too sweet. I think it'd be great warm with icecream or a maple-butter sauce, room-temp with dusting powder or a glaze, or with about any combination of fresh and dry fruit that will go in a cake. The oil leeches out of it as it cools, which is a little weird, but when you're eating it, it doesn't taste oily; I think next time I make it, I'm going to half the oil and make up some of the difference with butter, which should stay emulsified better.

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