>> Tuesday, November 27, 2007
So it is that time of year again where everything goes at warp speed. First its Thanksgiving and planning the perfect meal. Then its time to gear up for Christmas, shopping, decorating, cooking, finding the perfect tree. Cyndee thought I was nuts wanting to go to the tree farm the day after Thanksgiving, but at least its one more thing I can now cross off my list. And I must say our tree looks magical! It really gets me into the Christmas spirit. But it all happens so fast and it all seems to happen at once.
This time of year also brings another particular challenge for me. But this is a challenge I truly enjoy, even if it is a bit stressful! Every year in December I bake and sell beautifully decorated and packaged cookies for the Cheswick Companies Christmas open house. Its a good way for me to make a little extra Christmas money and, more importantly, its a great way for me to be creative and truly enjoy my passion for baking! I love coming up with new ideas, even if they don't always work out. Last year I made cookies in the shapes of buttons and then threaded them onto beautiful paper using licorice. Unfortunately the cookies crumbled as I was threading them, but they didn't go to waste, I just put them on the half price table! I still think its a good idea, I just need to find a cookie dough that can hold up to licorice string!
I have been waiting for my box to arrive from King Arthur Flour so I can start my baking and get the show on the road! If anybody out there does not know about King Arthur Flour, they not only make great flour (the only kind I use) but they also sell quality baking ingredients that make all the difference between a good cookie and a great cookie (or whatever you happen to be baking). So my box finally arrived and I thought I would point out a few of my key ingredients that you really can't go wrong with.
The first thing is Espresso Powder. Espresso Powder turns anything chocolatey into decadence. I use it to make my very popular Double chocolate Espresso cookies. These seem to sell out every year, and with good reason, they are amazing!
This brings me to my next ingredient, Cocoa powder. The quality of the cocoa you use , or any kind of chocolate for that matter, makes a huge difference in the end result of your baked goods. Some recipes call for Dutch process cocoa and some recipes call for Natural cocoa powder, there is a difference so make sure you pay attention to what the recipe calls for. If the recipe does not specify I usually go with Natural cocoa powder, like in the Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies.
Snow White topping is like a confectioners sugar but won't disappear. This is really great for me because I package most of my things in cellophane and it holds up nicely.
Meringue Powder replaces the egg whites in the icing I use to decorate my cookies.
Vietnamese Cinnamon replaces regular cinnamon. Has AMAZING flavor. Also melts much nicer on cinnamon-sugar toast!
Sparkling White Sugar coarser than regular sugar and adds a beautiful sparkle to any decorative cookie.
Real White Chocolate A lot of the white chocolate (chips) you find in the grocery store is not chocolate at all! It really does make a difference using real white chocolate.
And last but not least, Flour. This really is good flour and it makes a big difference in the end result. I can get it at my local grocery store and it really is worth the extra cost.
So those are some of the tricks I have up my sleeve to make beautifully delicious Christmas cookies. In the coming weeks I will be posting some of my favorite cookie recipes. So if your looking for something to bake for the holiday season be sure to check back! And if you live in the area and would like to sample some of my creations or purchase some of the Cheswick Companies beautiful Christmas creations be sure to come to the open house! Details on the Cheswick companies web site. Happy Baking and Tree Hunting!