Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Goody Plate

It's that time of year when we start feeling it necessary to spread the holiday cheer by getting our neighbors all sugared up, and by golly, I love it! With all the sweets being paper plated around, I get pretty passionate about making sure my offerings are among the tastiest, to ensure they really get eaten.

I've got four things planned for Christmas Baking 2009.

1. Gourmet Caramel & Chocolate Pretzels
I am passionate about salt and chocolate. Whenever I attend a wedding reception with a chocolate fountain or chocolate fondue party, the first thing I always look for is pretzels, and I'll be darned if people seem to forget about the salty goodness every time. Here's what I love about this holiday offering: They're easy. They're DELISH. And they're darling.

To make them, simply dip pretzel rods into caramel (see recipe below), let them cool, dip them in melted semi-sweet chocolate chips, let them cool/harden, and then drizzle some melted white chocolate over them.

Really, the only thing that takes some finesse is making the caramel. We used the following recipe from Bon Appetit...
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine sugar and 1/3 cup water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is golden amber, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Add cream and butter; stir until any caramel bits dissolve and mixture is smooth. Attach candy thermometer to side of pan and bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. Boil without stirring until thermometer registers 240°F, about 2 1/2 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla and salt.

I can't wait to toss a few into cellophane bags and tie them up with ribbons. (That's if there are any left by this afternoon!)

2. Almond Poppy Seed Bread
This is an old recipe of my mother's, and it is fool proof. And. Everyone I take it to begs for the recipe. Good sign, no?

1 1/8 C oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 C milk
1 1/2 T poppy seeds
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
3 C flour
2 1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Mix wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients gradually. Pour into 2 greased bread pans and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Mix the following and pour over partially cooled bread:
1/4 C orange juice
3/4 C sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
chopped almonds (optional)

A note on size: Instead of doing the 2 large loafs, I often bake 4 smaller loaves. They take about half the time to bake and are perfect little gifts.

3. Nanaimo Bars are a Christmas must in my husband's family and are always the first treats to go when we bring them to a church function. (Click the link for Mr. FYF's instructions.)

4. Believe it or not, I sometimes feel sugared out by the end of December. Sometimes I wish that people would deliver me savory goody plates. So, I've decided that some of my friends and neighbors will get this Whole Wheat Bread this year. Fresh bread? Nothing better.

And that rounds out my repertoire for this year.
What are you baking for 2009?

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danielle said...

mmm. I couldn't agree more! In fact, as we were watching Iron Chef America "Battle Sugar" last night, I kept thinking that was their fatal flaw...not enough salt in the sweets. Looks yummy! Wish I lived next door.

Jesslyn said...

Oh man, I am a HUGE fan of those caramel chocolate pretzel sticks. They as good as eaten when I'm around! Your version looks delicious.

Bloom said...

Those dipped pretzels look like they came out of Bon Apetit - wow!
And I can't wait to try the almond poppy seed bread.
Thanks, Anne!


liz said...

FYI, I'm pretty sure that was originally our sister Kathryn's poppy seed bread recipe. Also FYI, it's almost as delicious without the poppyseeds, if say, you're in the middle of making it and realize you don't have any.

Katie said...

All of your ideas look oh so delicious. And the photo of the pretzels makes me want to eat one...right now. This year I sent out gift boxes of Coconut Macaroons (Barefoot Contessa), white chocolate chip cookies and Molasses Cookies with choc. chips (Pioneer Woman). All of them so good.
Thanks for the ideas!

Christina said...

I tried the pretzel sticks last night - they were yummy but took quite a bit of time and dishes! The checker at the grocery store could tell what I was going to be making by what I was buying and she said this year she took a pretzel square and put a rolo on top and into the oven for a few minutes at 350 and when they come out add a pecan. I think I might try that next year - seems like the same yummy flavors with less effort. But I did think that caramel recipe was amazing! Thanks for the ideas.