One of my absolute favorite things about the holidays is cookies. Ironically, I don’t really care for all that many cookies – gingerbread and chocolate chip are really the only ones I can’t do without (and are the ones I’m making this holiday), but a sugar cookie, peanut butter crisscross, or chocolate crinkle have been known to be dunked into my hot chocolate on occasion. My mom has a tasty recipe for date pinwheels (which I’ve yet to snag), but that small list contains probably the only cookies I’d ever want. I often flip through cookie cookbooks, wondering at the tasty variety within, but always put them down. I know that honestly, I’ll probably never want to make any others – every time I bite into a snickerdoodle, I always think gee, I could be eating a sugar cookie.
There are other confections synonymous to the holidays that I enjoy, but I’ve got to tell you, I’m more than happy to pay someone else to make peanut brittle, popcorn balls, buckeyes, & pumpkin roll. My mom makes the best nut roll, which I suppose I’ll need to learn to make one of these days (I just don’t have much patience for anything that needs time to rise), but this Christmas, I’m only making two cookies & one trifle. For gingerbread, I use Martha Stewart’s Gingerbead People recipe – they come out just perfect; chewy & soft. I skip the icing & just add a few mini chocolate chips for eyes & buttons, & toss some sugar on them before they bake. I always make a least a few batches of my chocolate chip cookies, to my fiance’s & father’s delight.
One thing I’ve noticed while baking this year is that although I love doing it, & your own cookies always taste better than anyone else’s, baking is really rather expensive! Beyond the pantry basics like flour, sugar, eggs, & vanilla, once you pick up the walnuts, chocolate chips, ginger, & molasses, just making two kinds of cookies easily makes them at least $10 each to make. Now, both recipes make quite a lot, but still – no wonder bakeries charge so much for a dozen cookies!
I’ve been thinking about the baking for a little while now, especially the timeline. I was on vacation last week, so I could’ve easily spent a day or two flour-covered in the kitchen. But if I did that, the cookies would already be a week old (or older) by the time Christmas rolled around, & I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not eat stale cookies whilst digging into my stocking. I decided that I’d wait until this week to make them, & so this morning I mixed up two batches of gingerbread dough to chill while at work. Now, I swear I’ve been picking up extra stuff at the store for at least the last month – more flour, an extra bag of sugar (just in case!), chocolate chips, brown sugar, etc. I took stock of what I had, & what I needed, & I was certain I had everything.
Then I was short a 1/4 cup of molasses, & had to run to the store – because checking the “quick substitutions” chart in the back of my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook said that a swap for molasses was honey, and yep… I’m out of honey, too. (Go ahead, Mom. You can laugh. Just don’t forget to pick me up some honey before I see you on Thursday!)
So I’m back from the store, having picked up the cream cheese I also forgot I needed for the recipe below, & I’m down to the last step – adding flour. Someday, I’d like a shiny KitchenAid mixer. One that can handle two batches of gingerbread goup turning into dough with the addition of the final cup of flour. As any recent college graduate of the 21st century can tell you, there’s a lot of debt – & so a shiny KitchenAid mixer is as out of the question as a new car. I had (note the past tense) a cheap $20 hand mixer.
It gave out during when I added the final cup of flour. Six cups proved to be its kryptonite, & it could mix no more. Thankfully, I possess reasonably okay upper body strength & was able to stir the rest of it by hand with a wooden spoon, but still. The chocolate chip cookies ought to be interesting to make by hand! Luckily though, I did discover that one can whip cream with a blender, & so was spared a half hour of whisking.
This year I’ll also be making the No Ordinary Trifle originally from Wet Noodle Posse for our department party. It’s pretty simple to make, & always recieves rave reviews. I’ve often heard that every girl needs a trademark dessert, & I think this one might be mine. You’ll need several bowls, but it’s totally worth the clean-up. Here’s the recipe with my alterations:
What you’ll need:
» Trifle dish or other clear glass bowl, although any bowl will do (I use a small clear punch bowl!)
» ~1lb sliced strawberries, fresh or frozen
» 1lb cream cheese, softened
» 1/2 cup sugar
» 1/3 cup orange juice
» 3 cups whipping cream
» 1 boxed pound cake (although I suppose you could make this from scratch if you’d like!)
» 1 bag chocolate chips (I use dark chocolate), grated into tiny bits (using a blender or food processor, or by hand!)
How to do it:
01) Bake the pound cake according to package instructions. With the bowl that I use to serve mine in, I just bake it in a medium round casserole. Works perfectly!
02) While cake is cooling, make your whipping cream. You can whip it up with a mixer, a blender, a food processor, or by hand!
03) Combine the softened cream cheese with the sugar. Fold into whipped cream.
04) If you have any juice from the thawing strawberries, toss it with the orange juice.
05) Once the cake is cool, slice it three times, or into smaller chunks for three layers.
06) Layer the trifle, beginning with a layer of pound cake. Sprinkle the orange juice on top (it’ll soak into the pound cake), then strawberries (push some against the edges for a pretty look), chocolate, & whipped cream. Keep going as you’d like, but make the top three layers pound cake, whipped cream, & then chocolate. Have fun with it!
So, what are you making? Any family traditions you must make? New recipes you’re going to try out? Tell me all about it?