holiday season is a time to indulge in special treats that take some
time to prepare and fill the house with enticing seasonal
Listening to carols while working makes cooking more festive,
especially if you are cooking up sweets for friends and family.
Cooking: Special treats for the holiday season
The following recipes make luscious and beautiful gifts and are also
good to have around to serve as dessert or with coffee.
The easiest to make is chocolate bark. There is an
variety of ingredients that you can use to be creative, including
I used a mixture of semisweet and dark chocolate for this recipe.
Don’t be intimidated by the thought of working with
The invention of the microwave takes all of the terror away.
perfectly melts chocolate chips in no time at all, eliminating the use
of a double boiler. White chocolate, however, is a little
trickier, so I do use a double boiler for it.
8 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
8 ounces good bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews, broken in halves.
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cherries
Melt the two chocolates in a microwavable
bowl. Start with 45 seconds, check, and continue in five
intervals until you reach the right consistency. You don’t
to wait until all pieces are melted since they will melt when you stir
the mixture with a wooden spoon.
Meanwhile, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Pour the
chocolate over the paper and spread to form a rectangle about 9 by10
Sprinkle the nuts and dried fruits over the chocolate.
press into the chocolate so they do not break free when the bark is
cut. Set aside for two hours until firm. Break the
into rough chunks or cut into 1- by 3-inch pieces. Serve at
marshmallows can be messy to handle but are oh-so-good with hot
chocolate -- what a great gift pairing.
You can use food coloring and cookie cutters to create even more
festive marshmallows but I warn you that this is a very sticky
job. The toasted coconut in this recipe makes the
even more decadent!
From Ina Garten
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup of water, divided
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
7 ounces sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water
bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow
the mixture to sit while you make the syrup.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup water in a
small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar
dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup
reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from the
With the mixer on low speed, pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved
gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the
is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix
Sprinkle half the toasted coconut in an 8- by 12- inch nonmetal
pan. Pour in the marshmallow batter and smooth the top of the
mixture with damp hands. Sprinkle on the remaining toasted
Allow to dry uncovered at room temperature overnight.
Remove the marshmallows from the pan and cut into squares.
the sides of each piece carefully in confectioners’ sugar.
uncovered at room temperature.
Equally messy to handle and a little more dangerous to make are
caramels. This is not a recipe to share with the
You will be working with high temperatures and care is needed to
From Ina Garten
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup of water
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan
loaf pan with parchment paper, then brush the paper lightly with oil,
allowing the paper to extend over 2 sides.
In a deep, heavy saucepan (6 inches in diameter by 4 1/2 inches deep)
combine the sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil
over medium-high heat. Continue to boil until the caramel is
warm golden-brown color. Don’t stir - just swirl the pan to
as it will burn quickly at the end!
In the meantime, bring the cream and butter to a simmer in a small pan
over medium heat. Remove from the heat, set aside, and keep
When the caramelized sugar is the right color, a deeper brown, slowly
add the cream mixture to the caramel. It will boil up violently.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium heat for 5
to 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees (firm ball) on a
Very carefully (It
pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate until
firm. If it is very hard when it comes out of the fridge let
rest at room temperature until it is workable.
When the caramels are cool, use the parchment paper to pry the sheet
from the pan onto a cutting board. Strip off the paper and
the block into strips. They can be rolled or cut into little
Cut parchment paper into 4 ½- inch squares and wrap each caramel in a
paper, twisting the ends. Store in the fridge or at room
Enjoy the process and the end result will taste all the better for your
Happy holidays and peace in the new year.
Foster lives in Hatteras village with her husband, Ernie. Together they
operate The Albatross Fleet of charter boats. They actively support the
sustainable practices of the island’s commercial fishermen and the
preservation of Hatteras Island’s working waterfront. Both
to cook seafood and entertain friends, and Lynne loves to experiment
with recipes for locally caught seafood.)