Oh Christmas Treat, Oh Christmas Treat!

With the shopping, cooking, gift wrapping and party planning you’re doing this week I’m guessing your free time for blog browsing is at a minimum. So, I have a little blog treat for you – a picture post!  Pictured below are my Christmas goodies: a whole lotta sweetness, a little hint of spice, and a few Food Science tid-bites you just might find nice.

Merry Christmas!!

Pretty Pretzels

This treat is one of my mom’s famous creations – pretzels coated in caramel, rolled in nuts, and drizzled with chocolate. Let me just say, my mom rocks! These pretty pretzels taste pretty spectacular.

A Food Science tid-bite: The caramel is so easy to make (even my dad can do it). Unwrap pre-made caramels, heat, and stir. The trick to a soft texture is to add only enough heat for the caramel to melt. If the caramels get too hot, the sugars recrystallize and you’ll get a finished texture that may threaten to chip every taster’s sweet tooth.

 Candied Orange Peels

These were a new experiment for me this year. The result? A new guilty pleasure – I couldn’t stop eating them! I actually tried two recipes – one using peel with the white pith, and the other recipe without pith. Of course, I had to try dipping a few in chocolate…

A Food Science tid-bite: The pith of an orange contains natural pectin. Pectin is the stuff that makes gummy candies so soft and chewy. (Sometimes gelatin or starch is used commercially, which serves a similar purpose as pectin.) So, of course, the candied orange peel recipe with pith turned out to be a much softer treat, reminiscent of a fresh gummy candy. If you like a chewier texture, I recommend you remove the pith from the peels.

Christmas Cookie Cut-outs with Buttercream Frosting

Because no holiday treat tray is complete without. Enough said.

A Truffle Shuffle (any Goonies fans out there?)

I simply cannot describe how much I adore truffles. Pictured are white chocolate truffles with Irish Crème liqueur and dark chocolate truffles with Kahlua – all chocolate coated, so you never know which one you’re gonna get.

A Food Science tid-bite: Melted chocolate is required for truffles. My favorite method to produce a silky batch of melted chocolate is the microwave. Melting by double-boiler is the classic method, but (if not watched carefully) the chocolate can easily develop burnt notes from overheating, or quickly morph into a seized mess if even a drop of moisture is introduced to your batch.

Amaretti Cookies

Almond paste, sugar, egg whites, and a pinch of salt – that’s it! Can you believe the recipe for these adorable cookies is that easy? I sandwiched the tiny almond lovlies with homemade orange marmalade.

Cranberry Pistachio Shorties 

A classic go-to in every recipe box, the shortbread cookie is an incredibly versatile recipe, featuring a subtle sweetness and crumbly texture.

A Food Science tid-bite: Use lemon zest…often! Lemon (like salt) is a natural flavor enhancer in many recipes. It’s heightens the flavors of other ingredients in the recipe, producing a brighter, fresher, more complex flavor profile. Look forward to a future post on flavor enhancers. 

My Sweetness, the Hubs

Just in after scooping the driveway, the Hubs is guzzling down a mug of homemade hot chocolate. (I’m no dummy : ) )

Recipe sources:

Martha Stewart Candied Orange Peel
Ina Garten White Chocolate Truffles
Alton Brown loosely adapted from Chocolate Truffles
For those cooks who haven’t already discovered it, check out Smitten Kitchen. I used her recipes for both the Amaretti Cookies and the Shortbread Cookies. www.smittenkitchen.com.

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