Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas 2011: Part 2

And now, after Part 1, it's time for Part 2 of my Christmas 2011 busyness in which I outline the other goodies that I made to eat and/or give away as gifts.

A Chocolate Butterscotch Rocky Road Fudge Wreath.

Fudge Wreath - 1
Fudge Wreath - 2
Fudge Wreath - 3

I made this as a last minute dessert for a small get-together to watch Christmas shows on TV. It was made with leftover odds and ends, like semi-sweet chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, marshmallows, and salted mixed nuts. I added some Smarties to the top for colour. (I’ve been putting Smarties on just about everything lately. I like their colours better than M&Ms.) I made it according (roughly) to this Rachael Ray recipe for a five-minute fudge wreath. It's very simple. I used a 6-inch round cake pan and a can of mushrooms covered in foil and sprayed with Pam to make the hole in the center. For something that was thrown together at the last minute it was really, really good.

It was so easy and so good, in fact, that a couple nights later I made another fudge wreath for a Christmas party thrown by my coworker.

Fudge Wreath - 4

This one is a dark chocolate rocky road fudge wreath. For decoration I made some holly and berries using red Smarties and green spice drops that were snipped in half with scissors and molded by hand to look like leaves. I wrapped it up and made a nice little gift out of it.

Fudge Wreath - 5

I used the remaining rocky road fudge to make a Christmas tree.

Tree Fudge - 1

Remember my Christmas Tree Cake from my last post? It was baked in two foil tree-shaped pans that came with plastic lids, so I used one of the lids lined with plastic wrap to make this fudge tree. Originally, I only intended to have plain Smarties on top, but then I put on a dusting of powdered sugar “snow” and multicoloured nonpareil sprinkles. It looks pretty either way.

Tree Fudge - 2

The fudge tree was cut into squares and half of them were put on a small plate along with some big gumdrops to give to a relative. The remaining fudge was kept for my family's Christmas Eve dinner.

I also made Nigella Lawsons’s recipe for bar nuts to make a savoury snack mix to bring to my coworker's party.

Bar Nuts

I changed a few things in the recipe: I used brown sugar rather than muscovado; rather than plain unsalted butter I used garlic butter that I had made ahead of time for another purpose (unsalted butter, fresh grated garlic, salt, pepper, and parsley); I put in only 1 tablespoon of chopped rosemary; I added a half teaspoon of garlic powder; and my nut mixture was about three-quarters salted peanuts in addition to some pecans, walnuts and cashews, so I reduced the salt in the mix down to a half teaspoon. Before packaging the nuts to bring to the party, I added a couple handfuls of small pretzel rods.

Marshmallow Snowmen.

Marshmallow Snowmen
Marshmallow Snowmen - 2

I based them on this recipe. I used royal icing to put on the black nonpareils for the eyes, halved some orange and black round sprinkles with a knife to look like carrot noses and coal mouths, and used coloured round sprinkles for buttons. Flattened red spice drops were used for the bases of the hats with a green spice drop smooshed on top. I love the expressions on their faces. They look as if they’re trying to make the best of a bad situation by apprehensively singing a Christmas carol together as they await their inevtiable fate of being eaten by a small, hungry child.

Marshmallow Snowmen - 3

I wrapped them up just like the fudge wreath above and the plate of cookies in my last post so that they could be given as a gift to my 5-year-old cousin.

A tray of gingerbread men who, unlike the snowmen above, look genuinely happy to be here.

Gingerbread Men

I made back in November to decorate my Christmas Eve cake, which you'll get to see in a moment. I just wanted to introduce them here to build the suspense! Heh. The tray is an old Christmas tray that my mother had for years and had put away in storage until I rescued it. It's been beaten up a bit and has scratches on it from years of use, but it reminds me of all of my great Christmas memories from childhood, which is why I continue to use it and cherish it.

At the last minute today I decided to make some mint chocolate truffles roughly based on this Kraft recipe, which I've used several time before.

Mint Chocolate Truffles - 1
Mint Chocolate Truffles - 2

I made the base truffle mixture as directed in the recipe, but I had to substitute chopped unsweetened chocolate and icing sugar because I was out of semisweet chocolate chips. I also added some peppermint flavouring so they're super minty like a candy cane. I covered some truffles in Christmas-coloured nonpareil sprinkles and the others in a sparkly mixture of regular and purple sanding sugar. And like most everything I've made this year, I packaged some and gave them away as a last-minute gift.

Mint Chocolate Truffles - 3

Here's my Christmas Eve Cheese Tray, which is becoming an annual Christmas tradition.

Cheese Tray - 1
Cheese Tray - 2
Cheese Tray - 3
Cheese Tray - 4

I made my olive cream cheese penguins and a cheeseball Christmas tree again like last year. Instead of making a cheeseball igloo, however, this year I made cheeseball snowmen. Rather than use the Philadelphia Herb and Garlic Cream Cheese as I have in past years, this year I made the basic cheeseball mix for the tree and snowmen myself from scratch with softened cream cheese, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper, and toasted walnuts and pecans. The Christmas tree cheeseball has bacon bits and cheddar cheese added to about two-thirds of the mix and is covered in dill with pieces of carrot and red pepper for ornaments. The snowmen are made from the remaining basic cheeseball mix with parmesan cheese and a bit of finely grated cheddar added. They have small pretzel rods for arms, carrots for noses, olive eyes, and red pepper and olive hats. I used small cookie and fondant cutters and a knife to cut stars, half-moons, hearts, triangles, circles, reindeer, flowers, and leaves from cheddar, mozzarella, and marble cheeses, and processed cheese slices.

And last but not least, here is what will likely be my final baking project of 2011. Behold my Christmas Eve Cake!

Christmas Eve Cake - 1
Christmas Eve Cake - 2
Christmas Eve Cake - 3
Christmas Eve Cake - 4

This cake is based on Wilton’s Very Merry Go Round Cake. It’s a small 6-inch chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream filling and icing, with vanilla buttercream accents. The cake is decorated with my homemade regular and mini-sized gingerbread men, candy canes, starlight mints, gumdrops, and other festive candies.

And now with nothing left to make or bake or wrap up or fuss over, I'm going to go and enjoy what's left of Christmas Eve by spending time with my family and trying not to obsess over what I'm going to make for next Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

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