Well, here we are, deep into the month of December. In fact, it is just 10 days before Christmas and I am already nearly hysterical because there’s so much to do and so little time to do it. On the plus side, the house is decorated and relatively clean; most of the gifts have been purchased and are either wrapped or in the process of being wrapped. On the minus side, there’s a whole lotta baking to be done.
I am the queen of procrastinators when it comes to holiday baking. Every year it’s the same story. I efficiently plan my cookie and party menus; shop for the ingredients; and then find dozens of reasons why I can’t spend an entire day or two in the kitchen. Something (like writing this column) always distracts me.
But soon, company will be here expecting holiday goodies. So it’s time to get serious and get baking. As usual, I’ll make a big pan of fudge that I can serve to guests and freeze the leftovers. That way I can bring out a few pieces at a time during the winter whenever a chocolate urge hits. I’ll make a batch of Mexican Sno-Balls for my husband and probably some lemon bars for me.
This year I’m also adding some different recipes from an old favorite cookbook “Gifts from the Christmas Kitchen.” These recipes are super easy and delicious. The Buttery Almond Cutouts are rich and tender; disguised and decorated in holiday shapes everyone will love them. The Thumbprint cookies are a variation on the ones rolled in nuts (or the really old recipe that we rolled them in corn flakes).
Finally, if you need a few hostess gifts, mix up a batch of the Caramel Spice Cakes and bake in small loaf pans instead of the regular large size. Just cut down on your baking time and watch them carefully. As an added bonus, the recipe’s base is a cake mix! Now how easy is that? Christmas will soon be over but the memory of home-baked goodies will linger on. Enjoy!
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sour cream
3 teaspoons almond extract, divided
1 teaspoon flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Beat sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add sour cream, eggs, 2 teaspoons almond extract and vanilla; beat until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; beat just until well blended.
Divide dough into 4 pieces; flatten each piece into a disk. Wrap each disk tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.
When read to bake, preheat oven to 375° F.
Working with 1 disk of dough at a time, roll dough out onto floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut dough into desired shapes using 2-1/2 inch cookie cutters. Place about 2-inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 7-8 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are brown. Remove from baking sheets to wire rack to cool.
To frost: Combine powdered sugar, milk, corn syrup and remaining 1 teaspoon almond extract in small bowl; stir until smooth.
Divide icing among 3 or 4 small bowls; tint with desired food color. Frost cookies. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
Note: This frosting recipe is a great basic recipe to have in your baking box of tricks. Use it to frost cookies, drizzle over coffee cakes or wherever you need a touch of sweetness.
1 package yellow cake min
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
3 cups crisp rice cereal, crushed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Raspberry or strawberry preserves
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Combine cake mix, oil, egg and water. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Add cereal and walnuts; mix until well blended.
Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls about 2-inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Use thumb to make indentation is each cookie. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon preserves into center of each cookie.
Bake 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool cookies one minute on baking sheet; remove from baking sheet to wire rack to cool completely.
1 package Spice Cake Mix (Duncan Hines preferred)
1 package vanilla instant pudding and pie filling mix (4 servings)
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups pecan pieces, toasted, finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Maraschino cherry halves
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour two loaf pans.
To prepare cake: Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water and oil in large bowl. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer 2 min. Stir in toasted pecans. Pour batter into pans. Bake at 350° F. 55-60 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 15 min. Loosen loaves from pans. Invert onto cooling rack; turn right side up. Cool completely.
To prepare glaze: Combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and whipping cream in small heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium heat; boil one min. Remove from heat; cool 20 min. Add powder sugar and vanilla extract; blend with wooden spoon until smooth and thick. Spread evenly on cooled loaves. Garnish with pecan and maraschino cherry halves before glaze sets. Makes 2-4 loaves.