December 23, 2019

Holiday baking, 2019 (part 2)

It's almost time to hang up the oven mitts and get down to the business of properly relaxing (at least for a couple of days)!  I hope it's been a sweet holiday season despite the inevitable stress and time crunch that comes along with it.    
I've had a lot of fun cocooning myself up in the kitchen and baking up a storm this holiday season.  I think we'll be finding sparkling sugar and bits of nuts and chocolates around the kitchen for a while yet.  So while I continue the cleanup, I'd love to share the final (part 2) recap of my recent holiday baking whirlwind.  
First up - I finally gave "the" cookies a try.  If you're on social media and into baking, you'll likely have heard of Allison Roman's "Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies", which were so popular, they essentially went viral and became dubbed "the" cookies.  I saw these cookies on my Instagram feed repeatedly for ever so long and have kept them in the back of my mind.  Since Christmastime is a great time to make shortbread cookies, it was time I gave them a try.

I can tell you the salted chocolate shortbread cookies are mighty tasty and they were not as tricky to make as I feared.  In my mind, you can't go wrong with adding chocolate to most things and inserting them into salty, buttery shortbread certainly works.  The salt stands out here; don't forget to add the flaky sea salt on top before baking...the extra bite of salt intensifies the flavor.  The edge of crunchy turbinado sugar not only brings a touch of glamor, they add a lovely sweet crunch.  It's a great holiday shortbread to bring to the party.
In addition to Allison Roman's salted chocolate shortbread, I made the vanilla sablé cookies that I made last holiday season.  This is going to become a holiday tradition because my family and I really, really adore these simple vanilla recipe by Dorie Greenspan.  They are a beautiful balance of sweet and slightly-salty, crisp and sandy yet tender, with that extra skirt of crunchy, sparkly sugar that adds to their elegance (and deliciousness). 

There are so many classic cookies to make and enjoy over the holidays but I also love taking the opportunity during the holidays to try making things I've never done before.  This year, I made marshmallows for the first time! 
And it worked!  I essentially halved Ina Garten's recipe (set in an 8" square pan), with help and tips from Thomas JosephAmerica's Test Kitchen, and The Kitchn.
They were lovely and squishy; they tasted great and melted very nicely.  Of course, we floated homemade marshmallows in hot chocolate...
...and toasted some up for s'mores!  It was a lot of fun and again, I learned that marshmallows are yet another thing that isn't all that hard to make yourself.
On the topic of making new things, I also made nut brittle.  I love making candy during the holidays.  It's the time for special treats and it's fun to mix things up beyond cookies (though we need lots and lots of cookies)!
This is the salted nut brittle recipe from Food and Wine.  I used a mix of salted peanuts and cashews.  Candy thermometer and fresh baking soda in hand, it was pretty easy to make this big pile of nut brittle, great for gifting and nibbling.
Jumping from the new back to the classics, I had to have the soft and chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies.  It's a tough call but these are my favorite Christmas cookies and I really savor them this time of year.  Luckily, there's some tucked away in the freezer so I'll be baking them up and enjoying them this week.
If I can't go without the chocolate-gingerbread cookies, the fellas at my house need to have their tri-color cookies.  Talk about Christmas traditions!  We all love these intensely around here.
With all this baking, I often found myself with a leftover egg yolk or egg white now and then.  One night, I used an egg whites to make yet another cookie - actually, Nigella Lawson's "Merookies".  A mix between meringue and cookie, they're also called "Forgotten Cookies" because you put them in a hot oven, which you immediately turn off, then leave them overnight.
These meringue cookies are filled with miniature chocolate chips and pistachios.  Sprinkling the tops with some of the pistachios and a dust of sparkling sugar makes them so pretty.  While I've never been good at whipping meringue and they always turn out too flat (as it did here), I had a lot of fun putting my extra egg white to very good use in this way.  I found the sweet meringue cookies - which shatter on contact but are soft and chewy inside - addictively fun to eat.  It helps that every mouthful is filled chocolate chips and nutty pistachios!
I'll wrap things up on another familiar note - sugar cookies I whipped up the usual crew for my annual family Christmas gathering.  I love to see my son and his cousins dig into these with some hot chocolate at the end of the night.  
No matter the time crunch or how "messy" I tend to be, I always find myself smiling when my batch of sugar cookies are decorated and sitting on the cooling rack.  They are a true classic that brings a lot of smiles to the holidays.  

Here's to a wonderful holiday and to the new decade ahead!  May 2020 and the new decade be spectacular, filled with the makings of many happy memories!  


  1. Been busy baking, huh? So many delicious treats :-))
    Wish you and yours a happy holiday season, Monica!

    1. Some baking "fatigue" does set in towards the end of the season but somehow I can't resist and do it again the next year... : )

      Happy New Year!



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