Christmas Baking for the Christmas Baking Impaired

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Butter Tarts in Progress! I preheated the oven to 400. Separated the frozen tart shells (but left them in their little foil containers) and jam-packed as many as humanly possible on to a cookie sheet. Yes, I buy the frozen ones because it cuts the tart making stress in half.  I learned my lesson the hard way, because no matter what, tart shells and filling never EVER come out even.  Before I perfected my method,  if there was too much pastry I would mix up more filling, and if the pastry ran out I would have to make more of that to use up the filling, and this would go on and on until I got fed up and poured myself several drinks and said to hell with it.  So yeah.  Frozen pastry is the way to go.

I put raisins and chopped pecans in the shells first.  There’s nothing more annoying than picking a tart that has only three raisins in it.  Or maybe I’m the only one who would get annoyed by that.  Anyway,  on to the filling.

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2 eggs

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup corn syrup

2 T melted butter

2 tsp vanilla

1 T vinegar

a pinch of salt

I’m sure there’s some fancy order in which you’re supposed to do this, but I throw everything into a gigantic measuring cup with a pouring spout and combine it with a hand mixer.  (I save my arms and wrist muscles for the fudge mixing which comes later.)

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The reason there’s a pouring thing on my ‘mixing bowl’ is because I have also learned from trial and error that using a spoon is messy and inaccurate.  And often involves a lot of finger licking.  And if you fill these things too full (try for 3/4) they bubble over and stuff burns on to the cookie sheet and you have to toss it and buy a new one.  Just kidding.  But it is a pain to scrub the stupid thing clean.  They are supposed to take between 12 and 15 minutes to bake, so I set the timer for lucky 13.

imageSee that original pan on the far left?  Notice how many more butter tarts I had to make to use up all the filling?  See what I mean?? A good thing about taking pictures of this process is that I clean as I go.  Sort of.  You of course cannot see what is behind me on the kitchen table and in the kitchen sink at this point.

imageThe fudge recipe I make is super simple and easy.  There actually should be no other kind of recipe allowed anywhere.  Especially at Christmas.  I should be giving you quantities in metric, but I learned to cook with cups and spoons, so this is just easier.  I am all about easy.

1 & 2/3 cups white sugar

2/3 cup evaporated milk

2 T butter

1/2 tsp salt

Bring these ingredients to a rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Boil for five minutes.  Do not try to make yourself a cup of coffee during this process, or attempt to take a picture during the rapid-boiling constantly stirring part.  No one I know is that coordinated.

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This is what it looks like after five minutes.  I doubled the recipe, by the way.  I hate doing things twice.

imageWhile everything is still all bubbly and hot, stir in

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups miniature marshmallows

1 & 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

(or chopped pecans which never made it into the butter tarts)

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Stir until the marshmallows and chocolate chips are melted, or until your arms or your spoon breaks, whichever comes first.  Spread in a parchment paper lined pan.  Choose a really beat up old piece of crap you’ve had in your cupboard for a hundred years because it is so photogenic.  Let cool.  Four hours or longer is good.  Cut into squares (some of which will crumble because you were impatient and did not wait for four hours) and store in an air tight container in the fridge.

Pray that the fudge and the tarts won’t all be gone before you leave to visit your grandchildren.

Art du Jour 23

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This was interesting to do because the paper is textured. And blue.  Her face is completely made up by me.  Sometimes it’s fun to just start drawing with no model or photo and see who you end up with.  In this case it appears to be a ballerina who stayed out in the cold just a tad too long.

Speaking of weather, which we weren’t, but we are now, our snow is melting!  Water is running down the driveway.  So I can’t go out, because what if it suddenly freezes and I slip on the ice and fall down and kill myself?  I can use the weather as an excuse for pretty much any scenario.

In other unrelated news, today I started organizing my pantry cupboard because I’m sick of trying to find things while other things hit me in the face.  All I wanted to do was make note of the baking supplies I have so that I don’t duplicate them.  Then I reorganized another cupboard and the fridge and finally the fridge freezer.  For just two people, we have a hell of a pile of food.  I probably have enough raisins to last me for the rest of my life.

So now I’m all prepared to go shopping, and for once, the list of things I don’t need is longer than the list of things I do for the things I want to make.  Like butter tarts totally loaded with raisins.  Whether you like them that way or not.  What else can you do with a ton of raisins?  I’m open to suggestions.  As long as they aren’t too complicated.

Hope your Thursday is going well and that you’re happy and warm wherever you may be.  Not like the blue Christmas fairy up there with her frozen eyeballs.

Number Eleven in the Book of Days

Why does December always seem to go blasting by us like a rocket ship on crack?  Not that I’ve ever seen one of those, but it’s the eleventh already?  Really?

Gingerbread

Gingerbread (Photo credit: Stuck in Customs)

Today was another very productive day for me at work where I compiled several long lists of things I have to get done in the next 14 days.  The gifts are pretty much finished (YAY!!) and now we’re on to ingredients for things that I just might get around to making, if I have the ingredients.  I try to bake shortbread cookies and butter tarts, and make at least one pan of fudge.  And that’s it, because the adults complain that they shouldn’t be eating any of those things.  (They also complain if they’re missing.)  And it’s best not to have an unlimited supply of sweet stuff and risk having the kids go into a sugar coma.

I even got around to doing some menu planning and thinking about kid activities like building a gingerbread house and making a fruit punch.  (To which the rest of us can add copious amounts of vodka after they go to bed.)  And that reminds me that we have to take a trip to the liquor store and make some kind of educated guess as to how much red wine grandma will need to make it through the holidays.

Here’s some great music to do your Christmas baking by – but I’ll warn you now, it will make you want to add a dash or two of Jamaica Rum to your gingerbread.