Hello bloggies! Thank you for all of the lovely comments about my cranberry apple holiday pie…it was a big hit at the office holiday party last night! This was my first time using all butter in the crust instead of a combination of butter and lard (I just can’t bring myself to buy a tub of lard anymore, even if it does produce a heavenly crust!!!). It tasted great, but the bottom of the pie was really hard to cut. Any ideas why? Would it be the difference in using just butter and no lard? Maybe I should have bought a veggie oil shortening to substitute instead… Any suggestions you have are much appreciated! 🙂 I read a great article in the NY Times Dining & Wine section about the importance of butter in baking, if anybody is interested the article is here. I’m dying to try this recipe that they provided too!
We had an awesome dinner over at my boss’ house last night. Salmon, green beans, risotto and a beautiful salad. I don’t have any pictures as it was a small gathering and neither my boss nor co-worker know about the blog. That’s going to be a theme in this post, I’ve been running around like a crazy woman and haven’t had time for meal pictures. Don’t worry though, I’ll make up for it with holiday treat photos! 🙂 Other than dinner last night and a lovely breakfast at our friend Amy’s house this morning you wouldn’t be interested in my eats these last couple of days anyway, especially since my breakfast yesterday consisted of marshmallows, hot cocoa, and more marshmallows! 🙂
The hubb and I were really busy yesterday making boxes for our friends and co-workers. I decided a week or so ago that I wanted to do something really simple for everybody, so picked out a couple of recipes from Good Things Catered and A Kitchen Story. These two ladies have some awesome recipes to share, so be sure to check out their blogs! Of course, the gift boxes wound up being far from simple but we had a great time working on them together.
We started with marshmallows Saturday night. Katie’s recipe is perfect, I didn’t change a thing. A note of warning if you want to double the recipe (which I did), still make the recipe in individual batches. One batch will completely fill your mixing bowl by the time it is done, so you’d never have enough room for two.
Make sure to be quick with getting the marshmallow goo from your mixer to the pan and smoothing it out, it starts to harden pretty quickly. After we had our batches settled in their pans (we made 2, one vanilla flavored and the other peppermint), we let them sit overnight to set. In the morning, I released the marshmallow from the pan to cut it into little ‘mallows.
I tried several different methods of cutting, and didn’t have any knives that worked for me. The hubb suggested that I use my stainless steel scraper, and it was perfect. The key is to push the blade straight down through the marshmallow, don’t pull it through like you would cut a cake. The ‘mallow is just too sticky and it deforms if you try to pull a cutting utensil through.
They turned out beautifully, and are so amazingly good. You’ve never had a marshmallow if you’ve only had the store-bought variety…these are 100 times better.
After cutting the marshmallows (and eating quite a few!) we moved on to dark chocolate bark with cherries and walnuts. Four batches of bark. I’ve never made bark before so I followed Kristin’s recipe exactly, the only thing I changed was my method of melting the chocolate. We used a double boiler on the stove top rather than the microwave.
The chopped cherries, walnuts and crystalized ginger were perfect compliments to the dark chocolate.
The chocolate-y goodness spread out nicely on the sheet pan, but at this point I was still skeptical of how the bark would turn out. I was worried that when we cut it into individual pieces it would shatter into much smaller pieces than I was hoping for.
But it came out perfectly. I was shocked at how easy it was to cut and how nicely it sliced into small pieces. And the flavors are amazing together, not too sweet.
We also made hot cocoa with Katie’s recipe, although I was in such a rush at that point that I wasn’t taking any pictures. Nothing too exciting though…other than the vanilla sugar. It turns out vanilla sugar is pretty hard to find in Charlottesville, especially in the quantity that I needed (16 cups, I made 4 batches of cocoa). And the small amounts you can find are expensive, I found out why when I bought vanilla beans to make my own vanilla sugar. The beans are $5 each!!! I bought 4, and then read after the fact that Katie recommends 1 bean per 2 cups of sugar, so I actually needed 8. That coupled with the fact that you really need 1-2 weeks for the vanilla flavor to seep into the sugar and I only had 6 days before needing to make my cocoa means that my hot cocoa mix isn’t nearly as vanilla-y as it should be. I’ll definitely be trying this recipe again next year and will follow it properly because I think it has the potential to be amazing.
We packed all of our goodies up in recyclable packaging – brown paper boxes, shredded paper grocery bags and paper ribbon. I had to use cellophane baggies for the marshmallows and bark because I couldn’t think of anything else that would be as pretty…
This was so fun. I love doing projects like this with my hubb. It probably took us two full days with all of the candy making, shopping for ingredients + materials and assembly of the boxes, but it was so worth it. We’ve had great reactions from our friends and had such a great time putting the gifts together!
Ok lovelies, I’m off to another holiday party tonight, this one is for the hubb’s office. And tomorrow morning, at a VERY EARLY 5am, we are loading the car up with luggage, presents and dogs for our 13 hour drive to FLORIDA!!! YAY!
Have a fabulous evening… 🙂