Saturday, December 17, 2011

Every year I find myself spending hundreds of dollars on Christmas gifts. I love my friends and family, but, even I can't argue that sometimes it's smarter to save a little money for a rainy day.

This year, instead of flocking to the nearest big-box conglomerate, I've decided to take a much more personal approach to the gifts I'm giving out, by making everything homemade. Just because your gift is homemade doesn't mean that it can't taste delicious or look just as professional as something you could buy in a store.

Below, is my recipe for Peppermint Truffles. I was trying to think of the perfect gift to give to one of my friends this weekend and this dreamy treat popped into my mind. Not only does the peppermint make this gift seasonally appropriate, but, it's inexpensive and not too difficult to replicate. If you're short on cash but willing to get a little creative, consider trying something a bit daring this year- make your own gifts!

Peppermint Truffles

1 lb Powdered Sugar
1/4 cup Evaporated milk
2 Tbsp room-temp Margarine
2 tsp Peppermint extract
1/2 tsp Vanilla
Candy-coating chocolate

In a large bowl, whip together the margarine and powdered sugar. Slowly pour in the milk and beat until smooth. Add both extracts. Freeze for 1 hour.

Use a melon baller to scoop the mixture into tiny, uniform balls. Use your hands to further shape the balls. Place on top of a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Melt your chocolate either in a double-boiler or the microwave- make sure to watch it carefully otherwise it will burn. Place one ball at a time into the chocolate. Use a spoon to completely coat it (if your truffle cracks or has holes, the filling will seep out.) Scoop up the truffle using the melon baller and tap out some of the chocolate (the hole in the melon baller will help facilitate that but you will need to clean the baller routinely). Flip the truffle onto another sheet of parchment paper. Use your index finger to swirl the chocolate on top. If during this process your filling becomes too difficult to dip, i.e. it sticks to the baller, put the tray back into the freezer for a couple minutes. If your chocolate starts to become lumpy and harden, pop it back in the microwave for 10-15 seconds or until it becomes smooth again.

Within 5 minutes, the truffles should be firm and ready to eat! They do not need to be refrigerated because the chocolate you're using will not melt at room-temperature. This recipe makes 20-25.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Good Morning, readers. I hope this chilly Tuesday morning finds you well.

Christmas is just a mere 18 days away. No doubt, most of you are busy planning out your social calendars or scrambling to finish up the last of your holiday shopping. These days, I find myself focusing more on what I will be baking this holiday, rather than what I will be wearing and buying. Who cares about presents when you have an awesome cake to eat Christmas morning? My thoughts exactly.

Over the next 3 weeks, I'll be posting updates about my baking adventures as well as sharing some of my favorite holiday recipes. Got family visiting? Need a cheap gift to give to your friends? Got the annual office Xmas party coming up? Never fear, I'll have all the recipes you need to get through the holidays.

This week, I'm tackling breakfast. What do you eat Christmas morning when you have your entire family coming over to open presents? Something fast, sweet and filling. I'm a huge proponent of breakfast breads and coffee cakes but I thought, this year, I would try something new- crumb cake. Crumb cake is a delicious hybrid of a cake and coffee cake. It's a moist, fluffy and buttery cake with a crunchy crumb topping, often sprinkled with powdered sugar or drizzled with frosting. Below, is a recipe I've modified from Ina Garten. I've switched out the blueberries for raspberries, added some vanilla yogurt and included a frosting that can be drizzled liberally over the top of your cake. Make this the day before and all you'll have to worry about Christmas morning is finding a large enough spatula to shovel out your family's slices.

Raspberry Crumb Cake
(Adapted from Ina Garten)

  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed Brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose Flour

  • Cake-
  • 6 Tbsp room-temp unsalted Butter
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 2 room-temp Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla extract
    1/3 cup Sour cream
  • 1/3 cup Vanilla yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cups Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 cup fresh Raspberries

1 cup Powdered Sugar
2 Tbsp room-temp Butter
Coconut Milk

Grease and flour a 9" cake pan. I suggest using a spring-form pan.

Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.

  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, sour cream and yogurt. 

  • In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the raspberries and stir with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. With your fingers, crumble the topping evenly over the batter. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely.