Kamikaze Holiday Baking Part One - Something Old

Illustration by Red Passion
It's been a wild few days of kamikaze holiday baking. My back hurts, the house is a mess and I think I've inhaled an indecent amount of powdered sugar, but Danielle and I did it.  The freezer is full of treats.  I have a stack of small holiday plates and some holiday bags to hold them.  Now it's time to clean up the house, put up the tree and decorations. Then the fun really begins as Danielle and I get to enjoy handing them out.

Here are my Something Old recipes to honour past traditions.  I actually refuse to admit how long ago I acquired the oldest one, but suffice it to say it was way before I met Glen. There is something grounding about having a few recipes span the generations.  Enjoy and PLEASE do not be afraid to alter recipes to your own taste.  I do it all the time.  To those who are gluten free, I am sorry there isn't something here for you.  Maybe next year I will add a recipe or two in this area..

If you didn't read my first holiday baking post - Kamikaze Holiday Baking - My Story and Tips For the Brave at Heart - I would take a moment as it's full of tips if you intend to take the plunge and power bake.  It's all about preparation.


No Bake Haystacks

OH how I loved Haystacks as a kid!  They really are more candy than cookie. As an adult I enjoy treats a little less rich, but the nostalgia gets me every time I eat one.  I couldn't find my mother's recipe anywhere so had to search the internet.  The biggest problem is that every recipe has different proportions and of course people have played with the original by adding chocolate, marshmallows, chopped peanuts and more. After a couple of tries, the version below tastes just like my mum's - the traditional recipe way way back in the beginning. NOTE - be careful to by BUTTERSCOTCH CHIPS - not Peanut Butter Baking Chips. I made this mistake once at least!

1             Bag Butterscotch Baking Chips (about 11 oz or 300 grams)
1/4 cup    Smooth Peanut Butter
4 oz        Chow Mein Noodles (those crispy ones in the bag or can)
Small amount of tiny muli-coloured sprinkles (I like the festive look of rainbow rounds)
Wax paper

Place some newspaper topped by wax paper on your table.  Melt the butterscotch chips.  You can use either a double broiler or a heat proof bowl on top of a pan of simmering hot water.  When melted, stir in the peanut butter.  Place the Chow Mein Noodles in a large bowl.   Pour the butterscotch mixture over the noodles and gently, but quickly mix until all noodles are evenly covered. Drop by tablespoons onto wax paper (might need to re-shape a bit with your spoon) and top with a dash of sprinkles.  I do a row of drops drops, top those with sprinkles and then repeat.  If the haystack cools before you put the sprinkles on, they won't stick.  Once cool, store in an airtight container, preferably in the refrigerator or the freezer.
No Bake Peanut Butter Bars

I had to search for the recipe on this one as well as my mother's original was lost.  It's pretty much the same as when it first was invented with the exception of a bit of peanut butter to the chocolate topping.  In looking at the comments, one that continued to arise was that the bars were hard to cut - the chocolate was breaking and pulling off the base.  So I decided to add that bit of PB to the chocolate and also changed the way I cut them. First I lined the pan fully with aluminum foil to make it easy to remove them.  Then instead of putting the pan in the refrigerator for an hour to cool, I left it on the table until the chocolate was set.  Once set, the bars were cut with a sharp knife.  Next it went into the refrigerator for an hour.  The bars were easy to remove and the chocolate stayed perfect.  The only issue was peeling the foil off the bottom.

Base -
1 C        Butter
2 C        Graham Cracker Crumbs
2 C        Powdered Sugar
1 C        Peanut Butter

Topping -
1 Pkg      Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (about 11 oz or 300 grams)
4 T          Peanut Butter (I have no idea why the recipe says 4 T as that is 1/4 Cup!)

Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil including up the sides.  In large bowl melt butter, then stir in graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar and peanut butter.  Press evenly into the bottom of the ungreased pan.  In double broiler or in heat proof bowl over simmering water, melt the chocolate chips and then stir in the peanut butter until smooth.  Spread evenly over the base.  Let sit until chocolate is firm on table.  Cut with knife and then refrigerate for 1 hour.  Carefully remove from pan and place in an airtight container. Note - I might consider next time making the chocolate top layer just a bit thicker so balance the flavours.


Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don't bake much so rarely come up with my own treats, but this one is mine. That said I am sure there are tons of recipes like it as I just used a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe and made a few changes. Something similar is probably on the back of the mint chip bag.  Chocolate chip cookies were the number one dessert at our house.  As my brothers and I grew we played around with the recipe making is softer or stiffer depending on our tastes at the time.  Here is my contribution to this genre.

3/4 C        White Sugar
3/4 C        Brown Sugar
1 C           Butter of Margarine (2 sticks), softened
1 tsp         Salt
1 tsp         Baking Powder
2               Large Eggs
1/2 C        Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 tsp         Peppermint Extract (pure or artificial from grocery store baking section)
1-3/4 C    Flour
1 Pkg       Chocolate Mint Baking Chips (packages vary, but about 11 oz or 300 grams)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream together both sugars and softened butter until smooth.  Add salt, baking powder, eggs, cocoa powder and peppermint extract.  Mix until all ingredients are combined.  Stir in flour and when dough is formed, gently add the chocolate mint baking chips.  Drop by rounded tablespoons (my daughter prefers to roll them into balls) onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 9-11 minutes.  Cool on racks and store in air-tight container.
Viennese Crescents

After all these years I have absolutely no idea where I found this gem, but it's still one of my favourites.  I know the recipe looks wrong, but it really doesn't use any egg or baking powder/soda.  The vanilla sugar in the traditional recipe is made with a real vanilla bean and in the past this has worked well for me. But this season it didn't!  A bum bean? I have no idea. As they are very expensive, I was not amused.  So I went to Galloways and purchased vanilla powder which did the trick.  1 cup powdered sugar mixed with 1 tsp. vanilla powder and voila.  These are a bit messy as they are dredged in this sugar concoction, but wonderful all the same.

Cookies -
2 C         Flour
1 C         Butter or Margarine Softened
1 C         Finely Ground Almonds (I would purchase as they are never as fine home-made)
1/2 C      Powdered Sugar
1/8 tsp    Salt
1 tsp       Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp    Almond Extract (baking section in grocery story)

Vanilla Sugar -
1 C       Powdered Sugar  (note original recipe is 2 cups sugar to 1 Vanilla bean but this made
                 way too much and I had tons left oveor)
1           Vanilla Bean or 1 tsp Vanilla Powder
Small mesh hand strainer

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Make the vanilla sugar in a large Ziploc bag.  Add the powdered sugar along with the either the vanilla bean (split, scrap seeds into bag and then cut pod into pieces and add to bag) or the vanilla powder (just add to the sugar and stir).  Mix well, seal and set aside.

To made dough, cream the butter, almonds and powdered sugar until smooth.  Add salt and both extracts and mix until well combined.  Add the flour and gently combine until dough is formed.  I usually seal this in Ziploc bag and let sit in the refrigerator until I am ready to bake - at least a half hour - but this is not a necessary step.  I think it is easier to work with after chilling.  The baking time will vary depending on whether you chill the dough or not.

Take small amount of dough and roll in hands to form a ball (no more than 1 inch, but I usually go a bit smaller).  Then roll into a log.  A 1 inch ball will make a 3" log.  I would guess I do about a 3/4" ball and a 2 to 2-1/2 inch log.  Curve slightly into an arch shape - like a smile - and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 - 12 minutes.  The timing depends on the size.  If you make them smaller, I check them at around 8 or 9 minutes.  You can't tell from the top.  What you need to do is gently lift one cookie and look at the underside which should be a light brown.

When they come out of the oven, place them on a sheet of aluminum foil and while hot, sift the vanilla sugar over them using the small mesh hand strainer.  Turn them over and dust the bottoms.  I actually repeat this a second time.  You should have a nice, thicker layer of sugar adhered to the hot cookies.  Cool on a rack and then place in an airtight container.

Thumbprint Sugarless Cookies with Jam

SIGH!  I had to change this one slightly.  This recipe is probably 30 years old.  It came out when people were first looking at non-commercial substitutes for sugar.  There was a fruit concentrate that looked like honey that was used in the original recipe.  I never could find that product so always substituted honey. It also was made with a very finely milled whole wheat pastry flour. I used to be able to get this at the grocery store, but not this year.  I did find one a Galloways labeled Whole Wheat Cake and Pastry Flour, but It was much coarser and darker than what I found in the past. When I mixed up the dough, it had a very mottled look that was off putting and the raw dough had a bitter flavour for some reason.  Don't know if it just wasn't milled fine enough or if the flour was old, but the taste wasn't great.  So back to the drawing board.  I used regular unbleached flour and honey and they turned out fine.  Here is the current reincarnation.

Dough -
1 C          Butter or Margarine
1/2 C       Honey, Agave syrup, or other comparable thick syrup'y sweetener
2              Large Eggs
1 tsp        Vanilla
1/2 tsp     Salt
3 C          Flour
1 T          Brandy, Optional - adds a really nice smell

Other -
Finely Chopped Walnuts - about 1-1/2 cups.
1-2          Egg whites beatern until frothy
1 small jar sugarless jam in your favourite flavour (raspberry is a nice colour for the holidays)
           (Note - I have found some brands of sugarless jam thicker than others.  When possible -
           try to find one that is not too runny.)

Combine first 5 ingredients (plus Brandy if you choose) and mix until well-combined (a bit tricky).  Gently combine the flour until dough is formed.  If you want to be more traditional, you can sift the flour and salt together before adding.  I always seal in a Ziploc bag with all air pressed out and chill for at least a 1/2 hour, but not really necessary.  Roll into 1 inch balls, dip slightly in egg white and then roll in finely chopped walnuts.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake in for 3-4 minutes.

Take tray out and place on top of stove or table.  Quickly press your thumb firmly into the centre of each cookie - creating a hole where the filling will go. You may need to alternate thumbs every few cookies as they are hot.  Return to over and back 5 minutes longer.   Keep an on eye on the cookies as all ovens vary.  The bottoms should be just slightly brown.  Place the cookies to cool on a rack.  Fill the centres with sugarless jam.  Store in airtight container.  If you are freezing these, be sure and freeze in a single layer and then you can layer them with a sheet of wax paper in between.


Check back in a few days for the Something New Recipes.  There are some interesting additions to our traditional holiday baking this year that add variety to the tastes as well a the look of the plates we will be creating.