best of (a holiday round-up)

DSC_0433

Season’s Greetings! It’s really happening. Since I’ve adopted the tradition of giving mostly food gifts, my kitchen becomes a factory of sorts this time of year. While I really love to do a little bit of experimenting during the holidays, I have a few go-to treats that I can’t do without. Here are a few of my favorites. If you’re looking for some last minute gift ideas, this is for you.

DSC_0278

granola – I’ve heard that this granola has become somewhat legendary in certain circles. People tell me that it’s become their favorite and that they’ve passed the recipe on to others, which makes me incredibly happy. Granola is surprisingly easy to make and totally customizable – add whatever seeds or nuts or dried fruit you like. I love this granola mixed in with a big dollop of plain Greek yogurt. And if you put it in a Mason jar and tie it with some pretty ribbon or fancy twine, you’ve got yourself the perfect gift.

DSC_0118

vanilla marshmallows – The first time I made these marshmallows, I was shocked by how insanely good a plain marshmallow could be. These are perfection. Pair them with a tin of hot cocoa, or some graham crackers and a bar of dark chocolate and you’re all set.

DSC_0407

fleur de sel caramels – I could not let a holiday season pass without whipping up at least one batch of these caramels. Rich, chewy caramels topped with a sprinkle of fleur de sel – need I say more? I know a handful of people who look forward to seeing these caramels every Christmas, and I can’t say that I blame them.

DSC_0078

quince jam – My obsession with quince is relentless. Every Christmas, I make some sort of quince treat; whether it’s membrillo or jam or jelly, I just love this stuff. Since quince pairs really nicely with cheese, I like to give jars of quince jam with a wedge of Manchego. It’s the perfect gift for the foodie(s) in your life.

DSC_0211

rugelach – Rugelach is one of my all-time favorites. These little crescent-shape pastries are one of those treats that really get me going, especially because they’re not super easy to come by in these parts. A tin of ruggies is such a treat. Your friends and family will be impressed.

I know we’re nearing the big day, but I might have one or two new goodies to share with you before then. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that I get everything done over here. In the meantime, I hope you’re getting all of your holiday shopping and/or treat-making taken care of and enjoying these days with loved ones. I’m hoping to sneak in a little down time – I’m so ready for some warm, spiced apple cider (with a nice big splash of bourbon). Happy Holidays, my dears!

 

Advertisements

vanilla marshmallows

We’re back…

I really took it to heart when I heard someone say that this is the time of year for the Earth to rest. It’s not that I’ve actually done much resting, though I do like the idea of rest, but I have taken a bit of a break. Part of it had to do with my oven being out of commission. And I also burned out a little after all of those pies I made for Thanksgiving. But the holidays are officially here and I’ve been really anxious to get back in my kitchen.

Let’s talk about marshmallows. I like marshmallows. As an adult, I don’t typically find myself eating plain marshmallows. But when combined with other ingredients, marshmallows are one of my true loves. I love s’mores and rice krispy treats and scotch kisses and rocky road. These goodies would be nothing without marshmallow. After buying a package of fancy marshmallows at Whole Foods last year, I decided that I needed learn how to make my own.  And when I saw the marshmallow recipe in the Baked cookbook, I knew it was time.

Let me just say that eating a homemade marshmallow makes you feel like you’re eating a marshmallow for the first time. It’s like you’ve never had a marshmallow in your life prior to that moment, like those jet-puffed marshmallows you stuffed in your face as a child weren’t even marshmallows. Homemade marshmallows are soft, fluffy, and perfectly squishy and melty when you put them in your mouth. They make you say, ” OMG,” out loud, like it’s a reflex.

Making your own marshmallows is surprisingly easy, especially considering the payoff. The hardest part was waiting the six hours for them to set – I was dying to sample them! If you want to impress yourself and your loved ones this holiday season, make some marshmallows. I know I will. I can’t wait to distribute these bad boys. And I also can’t wait to throw one in a bowl of hot cocoa.

vanilla marshmallows

adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

makes 48 large marshmallows

vegetable shortening

12 sheets gelatin

2 cups sugar

1 cup light corn syrup, divided

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting

Grease a 9x13x2 inch pan with vegetable shortening. Set aside.

Fill a medium size heatproof bowl with very cold water and ice cubes. Place the gelatin sheets in the water and set aside.

Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and place on the stove over medium-low heat.

In another medium saucepan, add the sugar, 1/2 cup corn syrup, and 1/2 cup of water and stir gently, making sure not to splash the ingredients onto the sides of the pan.  Put the saucepan over medium-high heat.

Put the remaining 1/2 cup corn syrup in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Set aside.

Check the temperature of the saucepan of water.  When the temperature reaches 220°F, drain the water from the gelatin and gently wring any excess water from the gelatin sheets. Place the bowl of gelatin over the saucepan of simmering water and stir until the gelatin is completely melted.  Remove the bowl from the pan.

Turn the mixer on low speed and slowly pour the melted gelatin into the corn syrup. Keep the mixer on low.

Place the candy thermometer in the saucepan with the sugar mixture. Bring the sugar mixture to the softball stage on the candy thermometer, 235-240°F. Remove the candy thermometer from the mixture and remove from the heat.  Turn the mixer to medium speed for 1 minute, then slowly pour the sugar mixture into the gelatin mixture. When all of the sugar mixture has been added, turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for about 5 minutes. The marshmallow mixture will begin to turn white and fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt and turn the mixer up to its highest setting for another minute.

Working very quickly, pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan. Use an offset spatula to spread the mixture evenly. Sprinkle with a bit of sifted confectioners sugar and let sit for at least 6 hours.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the marshmallow and gently pull with your hands to remove. The marshmallow will come out in one large piece. Lay on a flat surface dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

Place 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl.

Using a chef’s knife, cut the marshmallows into a 6×8 grid. Roll each marshmallow in confectioners’ sugar. Keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.