Can you stand one more Christmas post? If not, click away.
One of my favorite things about Christmas is the baking, specifically the cookies. When I was younger, I would bake multiple batches of cookies: sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies (mine were bunnies and teapots and various things more interesting than plain old people), two types of shortbread, chocolate chip cookies, and random other recipes that sounded good to me.
The arrival of children in my life has changed that tradition a bit. A lot, actually. So much that this year, I struggled to find time to bake at all. But baking at Christmas is important to me, so somehow, time was made to produce a few batches. We leave a plate of cookies out for Santa, you know, and perhaps he reads the New York Times and would be offended by store bought cookies.
So, we baked some cookies for Santa's plate. And our tummies. I am a bit of a cookie monster- I can easily skip cake, brownies, and all other types of treats, but it takes a great deal of willpower for me to turn down a good cookie! Particularly a sugar cookie.
In fact, we left a plate of cookies, a glass of milk, a note, and a picture for Santa.
Here's a close up of the cookies:
They are, from the top left: a caramel-oat bar (made by me and Petunia), a sugar cookie (made by me and Pumpkin, decorated by Pumpkin), a piece of chocolate shortbread (made by me), and a slice of ginger crunch (a New Zealand delicacy, made by Hubby and Pumpkin).
Hubby uses the Edmond's ginger crunch recipe, but doubles or triples the amount of icing. I use the sugar cookie and butter frosting recipes from the The Fannie Farmer Baking Book (a great cookbook to have on hand if you like to bake).
The caramel-oat squares are from an old copy of Betty Crocker's Cookie Book- the same book that provided the sort of dairy free brownies that got me through the dairy prohibition while nursing Pumpkin. These bars are super easy and fun for a toddler to help with- Petunia enjoyed mixing the ingredients and helping to spread the chocolate chips on top. The Google search for these turns up a bunch of things using some new Betty Crocker mix, so here is the recipe:
2 cups oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (Petunia loved packing the brown sugar. I had to help, of course)
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup dark corn syrup (eh, I only had light, and it worked fine)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips (I probably use closer to 9 oz. Note that the bag you buy at the store is 12 oz. We had an accidental but fortuitous innovation here this year. I bought mini chocolate chips. As you'd expect, they melt faster, which makes the step that uses them faster and more satisfying for a toddler)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Grease a 9x9x2 inches baking pan. I grease even a non-stick pan. What's a little more butter?
Mix oats, brown sugar, melted butter, corn syrup, vanilla and salt. Spread in greased baking pan and bake until bubbly, about 8 minutes. (Nice and short- good for toddler attention spans!)
Immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips. Let stand until soft (very quick if you're using mini chips!) and spread evenly. A rubber spatula works best.
Refrigerate at least an hour. Cut into bars. If you wait too long, this will require some muscle. Store in fridge.
The chocolate shortbread recipe is from The Cookie Jar Cookbook, which I no longer have. But I had copied the recipe out into my recipe notebook. I couldn't find it on Google (OK, I didn't look that hard), so here it is. You can thank the 15 years ago me for the lack of detail- but my batch turned out well.
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup butter softened
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Sift flour, cocoa, and salt together and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add vanilla and bat. Add dry ingredients and mix (I had to finish this with my hands- basically squishing the dough together until it all mixed).
Press dough into ungreased 10x10xwhatever pan. (This recipe is fairly forgiving of pan size, actually- my notes say that I sued to make it in two round cake pans. They were on the small side, though, and my current ones are bigger, so I used a 10x10 baking pan and it worked well.)
Bake ~35 minutes, until it is firm to the touch and the center springs back when gently pressed. The edges shouldn't darken.
Cut while still warm.
Santa must have liked our cookies, because he left both a camera (real, not a toy! Hooray for cheap electronics from China) and a Ken doll (in the stocking) for Pumpkin. He did not bring the Barbie princess castle she had asked for. We suspect it wouldn't fit in his sleigh- which is a good thing, because it also wouldn't fit in our house. My mom had the brilliant idea of repurposing her toy shelves, which are cubby shelves from Target), into a castle. Pumpkin loves this. They even built a moat with her train tracks.
Petunia got a CD player/karaoke machine, which she seems to like, but not as much as the hand pump operated owl flashlight that her aunt in NZ sent to her.
We gave Pumpkin a "My first LEGO" house set, which she used a bit, with help. We gave Petunia some play doh of her own (she had been sharing her sister's) and some toys to stamp letters, numbers, and various patterns into play doh. She loves the play doh, but hasn't seen the point of the stamps yet. Both girls got many more toys and books and clothes from various extended family members, all of which were appreciated. Petunia even let me read one of her new books tonight, which is a remarkably fast uptake for her. It usually takes months to introduce a new book. I wish I were exaggerating.
I gave Hubby a home brew starter's kit. My idea is that if he has a hobby like that he'll stop hassling me about how much time I spend blogging.
Hubby gave me some CDs and a fancy case for my Kindle Fire. So I won this round. (He won last year with a surprise gift of a Kindle. Overall, we're probably about even.)
My parents and my sister went together to get me something with which to work off the effects of all those Christmas cookies:
It is awesome and way more fun than that stupid dance exercise DVD I've been using.
Christmas was almost completely tear free, although Petunia did insist on wearing butterfly wings and antennae for most of the day.
All and all, it was a good Christmas. We are very fortunate to be able to celebrate in the way that we do. I hope Christmas was also good to you, if you celebrate. We'll be back to rants and other such posts soon!