Archive for December, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Cookie boxes for my neighbors!

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Christmas Crack

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Candy Crunch (aka Christmas Crack)

The original Southern recipe for this candy used soda crackers. What a great easy idea! In recent years it’s become fashionable to call it Christmas Crack.

But I make it for every holiday It's especially nice for Passover since it can be made with matzoh.

Candy Crunch
Approx. 3 sheets Matzoh or enough crackers to cover bottom of a tray
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup (6 oz. bag) semi-sweet or white chocolate chips; faux chocolates also work well
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans or almonds (optional)

1. Line a jelly roll pan (approx. size10×15) with foil, then pan spray or grease the foil.
2. Line prepared pan with Matzoh or crackers, cutting pieces to fit. Don’t worry about slight irregularities.
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
4. In a 3-quart heavy-bottomed pot, combine the butter and brown sugar. Stir constantly over medium heat until it boils. Continue cooking for at least five more minutes. I use a candy thermometer and cook to 270 degrees. Immediately pour over crackers/Matzoh. Spread evenly.
5. Carefully place pan in oven, reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for about 10 minutes. It’s ready when it bubbles all over. If it begins to look dark brown in some areas, reduce the temperature to 325 degrees.
6. Remove from oven, let sit for two minutes, and then sprinkle with chips. Use more if you prefer. Let stand five more minutes then gently spread the softened chips to cover. Sprinkle on nuts, if using.
7. Cool, then cut or break into pieces. Store well wrapped.

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Holiday Cookie Trays!

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Last week the Hudson Valley Baking Society made cookie trays! (photo courtesy of Denise Van Aken)

It took teamwork

and planning

then a dinner break for Annie’s wonderful soup

followed by more work!

More work and lots of fun! Our annual event raises money for the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.

Happy Holidays (photo courtesy of Megan Showers)

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Non-Toxic Does Not = Edible

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Over the years I’ve occasionally received questions about the use of non-toxic decorations, such as gold and silver dragees. I wrote about this last year and it’s important enough to repeat:

For consumer safety we should never use a decoration labeled non-toxic. Edible means your body treats the product as food while non-toxic products are made from plastic and are not digestible. This is very confusing to the average consumer but as food handlers it is our responsibility to understand the difference and not use these products.

We see these pretty items everywhere: in bakery cases, magazine ads, on the internet, TV food shows.  The public trusts that these decorations (made of fine plastic particles) are safe to eat.

Many glitter decorations sold as non-toxic are made of fine grain plastic and are not edible. These product packages are often labeled “remove before eating” but once the cake or cupcake gets to the consumer, there is no label. “Sparkling glitter which is used to decorate cakes and sweets could contain ground-up plastic or powdered brass… which is made of … inedible polyester plastic of the type used to make drinks bottles.”

As the food trend becomes more popular and many people with no understanding of safety issues start selling their unregulated products, this issue becomes more serious. If it isn’t marked FDA approved, then it isn’t edible.

Dragees have been sold for years but are not legal for sale in many areas of the US.

When a decorating product sold in baking aisles is labeled “non-toxic” it implies that the item is edible. NOT TRUE.

“People with certain health issues such as diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, or IBS, must be careful about consuming foods such as seeds that can stick in the creases of the intestinal lining. Seeds don’t digest easily and plastic doesn’t digest at all. If those small things get stuck in that lining, even in a healthy person, serious infection can result.” For more information read “All That Glitters is Not Edible” and “Storm in a Cupcake.”

Edible glitter if made from sugar, from Planetpals.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Visit Planetpals for a recipe to make home-made glitter from salt or sugar.

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Triangle Slice ‘n Bake Cookies, Thanks Martha

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

I was looking through some cookie pictures and saw triangular shaped cookies. They looked like the slice ‘n bake variety and yes indeed, they were.

Thank you so much Martha! These cookies present a unique visual. I didn’t bother with her recipe since I already have good basic recipes.

I mixed a small batch of vanilla refrigerator dough.

In this trial batch I used red cherries and pineapple.

When scaling up I added red and green cherries.

I added chopped walnuts to the chocolate dough.

Next week after the cookie trays are made I will post photos highlighting these unique cookies.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Customers are always looking for new and unusual items.

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Pfeffernuesse Cookies, Tis the Season

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Spicy bits of Pfeffernuesse heaven!

Pfeffernuesse are small, round, peppery cookies drenched in confectioners’ sugar. They’re a traditional German Christmas cookie with a long shelf life.

To make ten dozen medium puffs of spicy heaven, I quadrupled the recipe in Home Baking for Profit. Unfortunately, after baking all week preparing specialty cookies for our cookie trays, I ran out of several ingredients: molasses, whiskey, cloves, and nutmeg. Instead of running to the store I subbed honey for half the molasses, rum instead of whiskey, and cardamom instead of cloves and nutmeg.

The results are excellent! And they will taste even better after mellowing for a couple of weeks.

Before coating with confectioners' sugar these cookies are not that attractive.

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Home-Based Baking at its Best! When making holiday treats start with the longest shelf life products: fruitcake, Lebkuchen, Pfeffernuesse, shortbread, and sugar cookies.

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