At the beginning of Christmas week, I baked up boxes full of treats for my neighbors, as is our annual tradition. We all exchange sweets, and for two weeks, the counters are just loaded with cookies and candy. Tom's fudge and Kristen's buckeyes are my absolute favorites, but mostly I love the tradition of baking for each other.
Usually I'm pretty organized, but I was all over the map in deciding what to bake this year. First I planned on tart cranberry jam, but it wasn't quite enough on its own. I thought about adding mini loaves of pumpkin bread, but... nah. I had been wanting to make chocolate-covered cherries, so that was a start. I also wanted to explore non-chocolate flavors. Ultimately, I cobbled together a variety of random recipes I came across in the blogosphere, and I think they came out pretty festive.
Here's a look at all the sweets:
Chocolate-chip cookie dough fudge. Tasted OK, but honestly, if it's not chocolate fudge, I'm not really interested. It looked cute, though.
This was sort of a cheat since I've made the cranberry tea cookies before. But they're just so good!
Gooey butter cake squares. Recipe courtesy of Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar, so I had high expectations. I was pretty shocked when the base included cake mix, since I can't think of the last time I used a cake mix. Unfortunately, though I liked the idea of them, I could taste the chemical-y mix. Plus, I think I overbaked them, so they weren't as gooey as they were described.
Salted caramel is everywhere right now, and these bars featured salted caramel poured over a shortbread crust. Idea = great; execution = not-so-good. I followed the directions very closely because making candy still unnerves me. But the caramel was way too salty, and it did not set up firmly enough. I added the chocolate drizzle to offset the other problems, but the caramel still oozed and the salt was just too much. Although I wouldn't repeat the recipe in this form, I reworked it with some additional tips, and I will talk about that more in another post.
The chocolate-covered cherries were my favorites! They take a couple of days to "cure" while the fondant inside liquefies. And you really have to dip them thoroughly or the cherry juice leaches out after a couple of days. Lessons well learned.
I assume my neighbors ate whatever suited their tastebuds and - given there was no cookie shortage that week - dumped the rest. I'm glad I tried new recipes even if they weren't all keepers. Happy belated holidays, and look forward to moving on to some new successes!