Sunday, December 27, 2015

January food “holidays”

Did you know that January is National Candy Month? And Bread Machine Baking Month? Here are a few other reasons to celebrate in January!
  • January 1 – Bloody Mary Day
  • January 4 – National Spaghetti Day
  • January 6 – National Shortbread Day
  • January 11 – Milk Day
  • January 11 –Hot Toddy Day
  • January 15 – Strawberry Ice Cream Day
  • January 19 – National Popcorn Day
  • January 20 – National Cheese Lover’s Day
  • January 23 – National Pie Day
  • January 24 – National Peanut Butter Day
  • January 27 – Chocolate Cake Day
  • January 30 – National Croissant Day
In honor of National Peanut Butter Day, my favorite holiday fudge: Peanut butter-chocolate swirl fudge.
  • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1-2/3 cups (1-10 oz. bag) peanut butter chips

Line 8”x8” or 9”x9” pan with foil and grease foil.

Combine milk and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until butter melts and mixture is smooth. Put approximately 1/3 cup of mixture into a small saucepan and add chocolate chips, stirring until melted and smooth (return to heat if necessary). Add peanut butter chips to remaining mixture, stirring until melted and smooth (return to heat if necessary).

Spread peanut butter mixture in pan, then drop spoonfuls of chocolate mixture over top. Using a rubber spatula, swirl chocolate into peanut butter. Refrigerate for approximately three hours or until firm; peel foil from fudge and cut into pieces.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Last minute gifts for the baker: Gift basket ideas

credit: freedigitalphotos.net/Naypong
Originally published on Examiner.com.

If there’s a baker on your gift list that you still need to shop for, here are a few ideas for gift box or basket stuffers that you can throw together with just a trip or two to stores like JoAnn’s, Michael’s or Bed Bath and Beyond. These are items that every baker needs, and often in multiples – they’ll be happy you’re adding to their collection!
  • Baking sheets – especially if they bake in bunches, a baker can never have enough baking sheets in different sizes.
  • Pot holders and oven mitts – they get dirty, or burned, or misplaced – extras are always welcome.
  • Kitchen towels and dish towels – one of the evils of baking: the clean up! Give your favorite baker some colorful towels to brighten things up when the work is done.
  • Sprinkles and other decorations – icing, sprinkles, jimmies, and more to add some fun to sugar and cut-out cookies as well as cupcakes.
  • A cookie press – spritz cookies are fun to make, and their bite-size nature makes them fun to eat! If your gift recipient doesn’t have one, add this cool tool to their collection.
  • Silicone utensils and trivets – silicone is durable, withstands the heat, and is relatively inexpensive considering how long it lasts.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holiday favorite cookies: Five-ingredient coconut macaroons

credit: paulathompsonfreelance.com
Originally published on Examiner.com.

Looking to add a simple cookie recipe to your arsenal for the holidays? Here’s a super-easy coconut macaroon recipe that takes just five ingredients – I double the following recipe, as you’ll then use the entire can of sweetened condensed milk.

Coconut Macaroons
  • 2-1/2 cups flake coconut
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350-degrees F. Combine coconut, flour and salt in a bowl, then add milk and vanilla. Mix well to form a stiff batter.

Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet, approximately one inch apart. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown; cool on wire racks.

Single recipe will yield approximately 18-22 cookies – great for a small family or a single person.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Shipping cookies as gifts? Tips and hints for packing

peanut butter cookies are great for
shipping
credit: paulathompsonfreelance.com
Originally published on Examiner.com.

A very popular gift during the holidays is the gift of baked goods. If you’re planning to send cookies from your Buffalo kitchen to family across the country, kids at school, or a family member deployed overseas, packing them to avoid damage takes some planning. Here are some tips for treating friends and loved ones to your kitchen delights during the holidays or any other time of year.
  • Opt to send things like bar cookies, or cookies that are slightly chewy like chocolate chip, peanut butter, or oatmeal. Items that need refrigeration, like cheesecake bars, or cookies with a cake-like texture don’t ship well. Other good items: Chex mix and brownies.
  • Keep the delicate cookies on top of the package, or better yet, in a separate bag or container.
  • Don’t overpack the cookies, but don’t underpack either. Line your box with crumpled newspapers, Styrofoam “peanuts,” or bubble wrap first, and then put your baked goods inside. Leave enough space on top for an additional layer of packaging material.
  • Suggested shipping method: USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate box. My family ships a good-sized package of cookies to friends in Florida. The package arrives quickly and shipping via the Priority Mail Flat Rate box is less expensive than shipping via regular Priority Mail. Also, try to ship early in the week (Monday or Tuesday) – with the two to three day delivery time, the package should arrive before the weekend.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Holiday favorite cookies: Kris Kringle cut-out cookies

Originally published on Examiner.com.

credit: paualthompsonfreelance.com
Cut-out cookies are a year-round favorite, but they’re especially popular at the holidays, when bakers in the Buffalo area and throughout the country get out their cookie cutters and make snowmen, trees, stars and bells to decorate. This recipe has been in my family for more than 30 years.

Kris Kringle Cookies
  • 1 cup butter or margarine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4-1/2 cups flour

Pre-heat oven to 400-degrees F. Cream together butter and sugar, then add eggs, baking soda, milk and vanilla; mix thoroughly. In another bowl, combine salt, cream of tartar and 3 cups flour, then add to liquid mixture; add more flour as necessary to make rollable dough. (**Author’s note – once dough is mixed, put in the refrigerator to chill, up to overnight – it will help in the handling of the dough.)

Roll dough to desired thickness on floured board or countertop and cut with cookie cutters or patterns; place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned (**Author’s note: baking time will depend on thickness of cookie, so it may take longer than 10 minutes).

For some great decorating ideas for cut-out cookies, check out the blog www.bakeat350.blogspot.com

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Freezing cookie dough and cookies for the holidays

credit: paulathompsonfreelance.com
Originally published on Examiner.com.

Now that the holidays are upon us, things will get hectic, leaving little time for Buffalo-area bakers to get into their kitchens and make fresh cookies. Would it be easier if you could make your cookie dough or cookies and freeze them until you need them? You can – here are a few tips to help you reclaim some time in the kitchen this holiday season from www.allrecipes.com and www.christmas-cookies.com.
  • Many cookie doughs can be frozen for four to six weeks – make sure you double-wrap the dough in plastic wrap or store in air-tight containers to avoid freezer burn as well as the absorption of odors in the freezer.
  • Write the type of dough and date made on the wrapping or put tape on the container with the information.
  • Doughs that freeze best: shortbread, chocolate chip, peanut butter and sugar cookies.
  • When it comes time to bake, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Baked cookies can be kept in the freezer for many weeks – make sure you double-wrap and label baked cookies just as you did dough.
  • To eat frozen cookies, let them thaw to room temperature or microwave them for approximately 30 seconds (times will vary by cookie and microwave).