Holiday, Recipes, What I made today

Sweets for the holidays

Are you making cookies, candies, gingerbread houses and treats for the holidays? Well you are not alone and to help guide you here are a few of my favorite ideas.

During the holidays when I was young you could usually find me up on tables devouring decadent sweets that were around our house. Most children anxiously await gifts but not me. Christmas morning I couldn’t wait to get my hands on my stocking filled with chocolates. As I’ve gotten older, I appreciate the more decadent desserts like holiday cookies, candies and cakes and the time and energy put into them. It wouldn’t seem like Christmas without some of my traditional favorites; sugar cookies, gingerbread houses, cream filled cream puffs and Chocolate dipped strawberries. These seem to be the usual suspects in our house. I try my very best to share these holiday traditions and their recipes with those around me.

 

A few different ways you can give holiday sweets to those who are on a diet:

  1. decorative gingerbread houses,
  2. dark chocolate covered fruits and nuts
  3. a box of sweet and unusual fruits like Asian pears.

For those of us who can’t live without a few rich desserts:

  1. make them yourself and control what you put in them.
  2. reduce the sugar in the recipe and use more natural sugars (like agave nectar, cane and brown sugar).

 

One more thought:

Give a gift that’s delicious and good for you such as dark chocolate. Sweets made with dark chocolates are loaded with powerful antioxidants that help prevent your body from harmful free radicals. It can be difficult watching your waistline when there’s a constant stream of people giving holiday treats as gifts.By using dark chocolate instead of regular chocolate, you are helping more than you are hurting.

TIPS, TRICKS, IDEAS and RECIPES:

Gingerbread Houses or Graham Cracker Houses

(c) HMFG copyright 2015 photo by Mary Moran

(c) HMFG copyright 2015 photo by Mary Moran

If you want to make the gingerbread yourself, make it a few days ahead of time. Bake it on the first day and let it harden. On the second day, put it together and on the third day, decorate it. You can take your gingerbread house one step further after decorating it and shellac it so that the person receiving the gingerbread house can keep it as a keepsake. All the sweets without the calories. A gingerbread house can also be a great gift from your kids. There are even gingerbread kits that get rid of the hassle of baking and leave you with the decorating. Check out Mary’s Gingerbread House Tips.

 

Dark Chocolate Pistachio Bark

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dark chocolate or white chocolate
  • ½ cup toasted unsalted pistachios
  • Parchment paper
  • ½ sheet pan

Directions

  1. Cut your parchment paper to fit your ½ sheet pan.
  2. Grease the parchment paper.
  3. Set aside.
  4. Fill a small pot a quarter of the way with water and get a clean stainless steel bowl that fits over the top.
  5. Be careful to NOT let any water get into the bowl.
  6. Tempering the chocolate is not necessary but if you desire a shinier chocolate you can (the process of preparing couverture for dipping, coating, molding, and other purposes is called tempering*) keep the water on medium low to prevent over heating the chocolate. Place the chocolate into a bowl and slowly melt it.
  7. Keep an eye on the chocolate so that it doesn’t get too hot and become hard and dull. Add in the pistachios and lightly mix.
  8. Spread over the parchment paper using a greased spatula and let cool until hardened. Once it is hardened break it into many pieces.
  9. Check out Chef Mary’s Web site to find out how to temper.

 

Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies are another one of those great gifts that always seem to fit any occasion and they are always wonderful for the holidays. The fanciful cookie cutters that are available allow you to have any shaped cookie you desire and if you are not happy with the shapes available, you can always create your own cookie cutter. I had a client who wanted key cookies and through an online source I found a company that makes cookie cutters from your personal drawings. I always ended up with some cookies browner on the edges than other cookies. I later learned that this can usually mean that the oven is too hot, the dough is rolled out to thin on the edges or that I baked them too long. Here are few tips to help you make your sugar cookies perfect cookies.

 

Tips for Sugar Cookies

  1. Roll the dough evenly
  2. For crisp sugar cookies roll the dough to a thin thickness
  3. Bake them on very clean cookie sheets so they don’t absorb the flavor
  4. Follow the directions carefully
  5. For softer sugar cookies roll them out to a thicker thickness and bake them for a shorter time period
  6. Keep them stored in a tightly sealed container if they are without icing to prevent them from becoming soft.
  7. Ice them the day you want to serve them
  8. Short on time? Make the dough ahead of time and keep it refrigerated
  9. Make sure that you have enough cooling racks for the amount of cookies you want to bake.

 

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

(c) HMFG copyright 2015 photo by Mary Moran

(c) HMFG copyright 2015 photo by Mary Moran

Ingredients

  • 1 large container of rinsed and dried strawberries
  • 1 pound of desired chocolate (dark for a healthier version)
  • ¼ cup white chocolate for decoration

Directions

  1. Cut your parchment paper to fit your ½ sheet pan.
  2. Grease the parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. In a small pot filled a quarter of the way with water and a clean stainless steel bowl that fits over the top. Fix like above
  4. Be careful to NOT let any water get into the bowl.
  5. Tempering the chocolate is not necessary but if you desire a shinier chocolate you may do so (the process of preparing couverture for dipping, coating, molding, and other purposes is called tempering*).
  6. Keep the water on medium-low to prevent over heating the chocolate.
  7. Place the chocolates into 2 different bowls and melt them one after the other. Keep an eye on the chocolate so it doesn’t get too hot and become hard and dull.
  8. Once the chocolates have been melted, dip the dried strawberries into the chocolate and gently place on to the parchment paper to dry.
  9. You can use forks prongs as a decorating tool by dipping the prongs into the white chocolate and gently splattering the strawberries from a few inches away.
(c) HMFG copyright 2015 photo by Mary Moran

(c) HMFG copyright 2015 photo by Mary Moran

Cookie and candy recipes:

  1. White and dark chocolate chip cookies
  2. Sticky green cookies
  3. Oatmeal lace cookies
  4. Cake pops
  5. White pistachio bark
  6. White and dark chocolate moose
  7. Chocolate brownie
  8. Chocolate ganache tart
  9. Cupcake cones
  10. Macaroons

 

If you liked this article check out our How to make a crudite and How to make a charcuterie platter.