Sunday, April 12, 2009

Coconut Pineapple Cookies

(Makes about 36)
In addition to the basic dough you will need:
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup pineapple preserves (use raspberry or apricot if you prefer)

Add 1 cup of the flaked coconut to the basic dough mixture and mix well. Shape the dough into 1 1/2" balls and roll in the remaining coconut to coat them. Place the balls 1" apart on lightly greased cookie sheets. Make a deep indentation in the center of each cookie with your fingertip.
Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cookie is firm and the coconut is lightly toasted. When cooled, fill each hole in the center of the cookies with the preserves.
You can vary this basic dough to make a wide variety of Christmas cookie recipes. Add other flavorings like maple, ginger or cinnamon. Add chopped dried fruits like apricots or dates. Or bake them plain in holiday shapes and decorate with colored icing.
Christmas is such a wonderful time of year. Here's hoping these quick and easy Christmas cookie recipes help keep the pressure off the cook.

Cherry Coconut Chocolate Squares

(Makes about 54 squares)
In addition to the basic dough you will need:
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flaked coconut
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, well drained and coarsely chopped

Line a 13"x9" baking pan with foil.
Stir cocoa powder into basic dough mixture. Press evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the crust looks dry.
In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, almond extract and baking powder until well blended. Stir in coconut and cherries. Pour over the baked crust.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until top just begins to brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Lift it out on to a cutting board using the foil ends and cut into 1 1/2" squares. Squares can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Orange Cookies

(Makes about 32)
Add 1 tablespoon of grated orange zest to the recipe. Shape into a log that is about 1 1/2" in diameter and refrigerate for 4 hours.
Slice dough into 1/4" thick slices. Place on cookie sheet. Cookies can be decorated with candies, rolled in colored sugar, or cut into pretty holiday shapes before baking. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Basic Cookie Dough Recipe

1/2 cup (or 1 stick) butter (or margarine) at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the flour. Beat with an electric mixer, scraping the sides of the bowl several times, until the mixture is light and fluffy. With mixer at a low speed, add the flour gradually, beating just until everything is well blended.
Place the mixture on a baking sheet using a tablespoon measure and press down with a spoon to flatten a bit. Or roll our and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. Bake at 350ºF for about 12 to 15 minutes, until golden.
This basic cookie mixture is also the base for the following cookie recipes (all baked in a preheated oven at 350ºF).

Baked Delights-The Perfect Christmas Food Gift

Food is perhaps one of the nicest gifts people can accept during Christmas season. Aside from being a likely staple piece on the table during Christmas Eve, Christmas food gifts can mirror good taste to gift-givers.Even though it is still months before Christmas time, it’s never too early to think about the food items you can give out as gifts.
Popular edibles you can give as presents for Christmas are baked goodies, candies, chocolates, and specially-baked breads. Homemade cookies and Christmas fruit cakes are also part of the category which you can hand out to friends, relatives, co workers and associates.
Throughout the years, potential Christmas food gift ideas or stuff people hand over includes sophisticated boxes of chocolates in several Christmas shapes like a Christmas star, Frosty the Snowman, or the traditional Christmas tree; an assortment of fruits, unique and stylish arrangements of fruit baskets, conventional Christmas hampers that is loaded with nice treats such as ham and cheese, fruit cakes and puddings, tarts in different shapes and sizes, holiday shaped shortbreads, and one or two bottles of wine.
Christmas food gift giving can be made personalized into different variations. One example would be the Wine and Gourmet food gift basket that may include gourmet pepper and crackers, a smoked salmon with gourmet cheese spread or a Sesame Crackers food gift which consists of a selection of garlic and cheese mix.
You may also want to consider giving a Christmas food gift that includes a wide selection of various nuts such as almonds, pili nuts, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts, and many others; a Candy food gift basket may consists of several variations of candies and sweets treats; or a Healthy Christmas food gift that includes snack boxes such as bottles of preserved fruits, maple syrup, honey, jams, fruit tarts and fruit-filled pies.
However, in the middle of the so-many potential Christmas food gift stuff, cookies—in special shapes, taste, and dimension—are constantly on top of the list. Here are a few of the cookie essentials you need to know prior to giving out this most well-liked Christmas food gift.
1. Decide on the recipient’s preferred cookie. Knowing your recipient’s most desired cookie will make it simple for you to purchase or set up your gift. If not, go for typical cookie favorites such as the fresh ginger cookies, the fruitcake cookies, the holly Christmas cookies, the Christmas tree cookies, and the chocolate chip or the oatmeal cookies.
2. Make the appearance eye-catching. Be artistic in packing up your cookies by trimming it with ceramic, metal, or plastic stamps or baking molds or by adding up exceptional add-ons to the finished product like colored sugar, finely chopped walnuts, or colorful candy sprinkles. Make sure that you adorn the exterior of your cookie box with unique labels, exclusive cards, and colorful and vibrant stickers or a lovely wrapping paper.
3. Take full advantage of your effort. If you are baking the cookies all by yourself, make sure that you are set up to bake a large collection of cookies by chilling a number of rounds of this dough ahead.

The History Of Fruit Cake

With Christmas just right around the corner, more and more people are turning their attention to making fruit cakes to give as gifts to friends, co-workers, and neighbors. This delicacy is traditionally associated with holidays and weddings. However, let us take a glimpse of its origin to make us appreciate this special Christmas delicacy more. Fruit cake has been made for thousands of years in several countries, but it's only in the last 80 years or so that it became a running Christmas joke; this is because the fruit cake that is produced in volumes and sold in department stores is dry, hard and bland.
Fruit cake has been made back in the days of ancient Rome in one form or another. Back then, it wasn't called "fruit cake" until the Middle Ages, when people started to put preserved fruit, spices and honey responsible for the sweetness the cake. When the American colonies became a source of inexpensive and rich sugar in the 16th century, people in the colonies and Europe found out that fruit would keep for a long time when preserved using a large amount of concentration of sugar in sugar-water syrup. Thus, an over production of preserved fruit was created which, in turn, made the preserved fruit inexpensive and made the baking of fruit cakes more famous. Nuts weren't used greatly in making fruit cakes until the 18th century when Europeans begin adding nuts in the cakes at harvest to guarantee good luck and a good harvest the following year. Since then, dried fruits and nuts always go together in making a fruit cake.
There are so many special kinds of fruit cakes and different ways to make them; the recipes for them would rapidly fill a very thick book! Recipes for fruit cakes differ widely depending on what country they come from and the kind of fruit that's available in that country. There are innumerable fruit cake recipes from the United States, mostly because we produce so many different kinds of fruits and nuts. The most famous recipes here are the light fruit cake and the dark fruit cake; so named because of the color of the fruits and nuts used in making them. There are also fruit cake recipes that have been handed over from mother to daughter over the years and are a special part of their Christmas traditions.
A fruit cake that's made with utmost care by hand and allowed to age, tastes absolutely good and looks splendid and is a proof to the baking skills of the person who made it.
Fruit cakes tastes best when they're prepared well in advance of the holidays. They need a longer period of time, usually a few weeks to a few months, to age appropriately. When a fruit cake is put away it picks up the taste of the brandy or the juice it's soaked in; it also makes the fruit cake much moister and preserves it.
So, try your hand at baking the traditional fruit cake this holiday season. You'll surely be making a little bit of history!

Few Tips In Baking A Christmas Fruit Cake

Generally, fruit cakes are labeled as typical Christmas dish, but always remember that fruit cakes have century’s old tradition behind it. Did you know that back in the 13th century, dried fruit started to arrive in England from Portugal and the east Mediterranean? During the later half of 1700s, English people gave fruit cake slices to women who sing Christmas carols. Fruit cakes were commonly used in celebrations from the turn of the 18th century. It became a tradition in England for single wedding guests to put a slice of dark fruitcake under their pillow every night so they could dream of the person they will marry one day. The oldest fruit cake company in the United States, is the Collin Street Bakery, in Corsicana, Texas. It was set up in the year 1896.
The fruit cake has enticed people all over the globe for centuries. As soon as you take a lip smacking bite, you will experience a taste of culture and valued traditions over the years. The fruit cake which I would like to offer you is loaded with fruits and nuts in proportion to the batter. The kind of fruit cake that I bake will make you savor the rich French cherries, the almonds, the California nuts, the pineapples, orange peels and lemon added with a dab of brandy. In this article, I won’t be discussing how the fruit cake is made since it’s a common recipe that almost everyone bakes during Christmas, instead, I will be citing important points and techniques that you could use to make the fruit cake more enticing.
For people who would want to go for a stronger aroma and sharper flavor, then you can make a darker version of the fruit cake. A dark fruit cake mostly contains prunes, dates, cherries, walnuts, brown sugar and molasses.
However, if you prefer the subtle taste, then you can also make a light fruit cake. Unlike dark fruitcake, the light one mostly contains granulated sugar, golden raisins, pineapples, apricots and the light corn syrup.When you go for a trekking and camping, make sure to put a lot of fruit cakes in your backpack. Your friends will surely love you for this simple delight. The best thing about fruit cakes is that it they last for months and still maintains its essential flavor.
Always remember that in preparing a fruit cake, it is important to take your time to make it perfect. Thus, patience is the key. It is important to prepare the nuts and fruits that you will be using and soak it with liquor or brandy over them. Keep the mixture well covered for about two or three days. Though some recipe would only require an overnight marinate of nuts and fruits, I strongly recommend soaking for a day or tow to infuse the flavor of brandy in the fruits and nuts. After 2 to 3 days, you may start preparing the batter and bake them. Just remember that the fruit cake should be baked on a low temperature. Covering the pan with waxed paper will keep the sides of the cake from burning.

Christmas Cupcake Decorations

Everyone loves Christmas and you'll probably agree that decorations are a major part of the holiday. And what would Christmas be without all the baked goodies and sweet treats? As for me and my family, this involves cupcake decorations. The inclination to over-indulge in such sweets is more common around the holidays. So, I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy these artistic and quirky Christmas cupcake ideas - crafting as well as eating them.
• Begin with your favorite cupcake recipe by baking them or buying a ready-made one from your favorite bakeshop. Generously top them with white frosting, add some shredded coconut, dust it with a powdered or confectioner’s sugar and voila! a mini-winter-wonderland in a yummy cup.
• These are great for parties all year-round and particularly at Christmas time. The idea is to form a miniature Christmas present at the top each cupcake. Use an assortment of icing colors; red licorice works well for the ribbons and bows. Pitch in a small amount of sprinkles, if preferred.
• Santa's face never look so yummy! Top each of your favorite cupcakes with a red frosting on one side and white on the other. Put some mini marshmallows at the border separating the two colors, forming it as Santa's hat brim. Cautiously use brown chocolate or green frosting to form his face on the white side of the icing. You may use, round candies for Santa's eyes and nose. Thin out strips of various edible goodies such as fruit roll-up cutouts, and thin licorice whips, to use as Santa’s smiling lips.
• These snowman cupcakes are definitely going to be a hit. White icing should be placed to form the base making it look like a snow on the ground. Put a big marshmallow, and then add a little one above to shape the body of Frosty the Snowman. Insert a toothpick vertically through both marshmallows to hold Frosty together. Use small candies of your choice for her eyes, nose, held in place with a small bit of frosting. Try on a small piece of Tootsie Roll for his hat. Frosty won't likely melt ... but I’m sure she won't last long, either!
• For this next one, we will try to make a Christmas tree made of cupcakes. You'll need about one and half dozen cupcakes, and a rightfully big, festive platter to hold them all. Top all, except the last four, of your cupcakes with a green icing. The last four should be frosted in brown chocolate. Basically arrange the four brown-topped cakes at one end of the plate, shaping a tree trunk. Arrange your green cupcakes above the brown ones, in a shape of a triangle forming the shape of a tree. As for the decorations, use small chocolates candies of different shapes and colors. As usual, you can't go wrong using grated coconut as snow, and red licorice makes a great garland. Try on some tubes of gel icing, in an assortment of colors, which can be bought at any supermarkets, party supplies stores, and baking supplies stores.I am hopeful that these will inspire you to come up with your own fantastic, artistic, and one of a kind creations!

Christmas Fruit Cake Recipe

Christmas usually means spending more time in the kitchen. It is the time where we prepare the traditional feast and bring out our recipe books to try out new dishes. It also means giving a lot of goodies and baked stuff – and sums up to frequent baking. Ever year, I bake my traditional
Christmas cake and it entails a lot of picky details to be able to finish a perfect and delectable treat. Normally, Christmas cake should be prepared well ahead of time to set out its moistness and flavor. I usually procrastinate and bake it a week just before Christmas. However, this year
I am determined to do it the right way. So yesterday the kitchen gave off a gentle spicy whiff as the cake was slowly cooked for four and a half hours. Just one hint of its aroma is enough to conjure Christmas up.
Just before Christmas I habitually take out the unfailing old Delia Smith cook book to look into the cake recipe and the quantities needed for the marzipan. Her recipes almost always work and are perfect, if not always inspired. Now she has long been replaced by the younger, and sexier Nigella. However, her books are still at the back part of my shelf, where I can easily locate and grab should I need to check on details of some dishes. In this article, I will share my traditional fruit cake recipe which I usually prepare for Christmas.
Delectable Fruit Cake Recipe
--- Ingredients ---
450 grams or 1 pound of currants
175 grams or 6 ounce of sultanas
175 grams or 6 ounce of raisins
50 grams or 2 ounce of glazed cherries (optional)
50 grams or 2 ounce of mixed candied peel - chopped
3 tablespoons of brandy
225 grams or 8 ounce of plain flour
½ teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon of mixed spice
225 grams or 8 ounce of unsalted butter
225 grams or 8ounce of soft brown sugar
4 pieces of large eggs
50 grams or 2 ounce of chopped almonds
1 dessertspoon of treacle
1 grated rind of lemon
1 grated rind of orange
--- Instructions ---
The night before you plant to make the cake, marinate all the dried fruit and peel with brandy. Place it in a covered bowl and put it aside over night or for at least twelve hours.
Grease and line a 20 centimeter or an 8 inch round cake tin or an 18 centimeter or a 7 inch square one.
Sift the flour, salt, and spices altogether. Cream the butter and sugar altogether in a large mixing bowl until it is light and fluffy (make sure to do this thoroughly). Beat the eggs and add them gradually to the creamed mixture, making sure to beat well each time. Next, gently fold in the flour and spices. Add and stir in the dried fruit and peel, treacle and the grated lemon and orange rind. Pour the mixture into the cake tin, spreading it out evenly. Tie a band of brown paper around the outside part of the tin and cover its top with a double layer of greaseproof paper with a hole cut in the middle of it. Bake the cake at 140oC/275oF for 4 ¼ to 4 ¾ hours. Never open the oven door to test until at least 4 hours have passed. Once the cake is baked, set it aside to cool. Once it has cooled wrap it in a layer of greaseproof paper then foil. Delia Smith suggests adding it with brandy once every week by poking a couple of holes with a skewer then letting few teaspoons of brandy infuse in.
The cake should now be well-wrapped in greaseproof paper and foil and kept on a shelf in the store cupboard. A week before Christmas I usually make the marzipan to go with it. I’ll be sure to get a lot of help with it, as the children compete to collect up any scraps that fall off or are trimmed.