I have been known to go a little crazy with Christmas baking.
(In searching for photos of previous gingerbread creations, I found an 8 page file called “Gbread House Ideas”. That about sums it up.)
I take gingerbread houses a little more seriously than most. I like to bake my own from scratch rather than use a kit, which always sounds like a great idea but ends up being a bit chaotic. It takes about three days for everything to come together, and usually there is a glass trapped inside of the house to support a wall, or one year I had to use a dummy cardboard wall because I’d miscalculated my stencils.
I have also had some pretty intense gingerbread cookie sessions. One year I made Martha Stewart (of course) inspired intricately piped snowflake cookies. I was up until 2 AM piping swirls onto hundreds of gingerbread snowflakes. I assembled them into little bags and spent the following work day walking around downtown Vancouver and hand delivering bags of frosted snowflakes to friends and industry people I’d only met a couple of times. (This was right around the time I realized I was miserable in my job but wasn’t entirely sure how to cope with it. Another post for another time.)
In years past, I have done home drop offs of cranberry pumpkin loaves and trios of seasonal fudge (that one was last year). So this year, by usual Magee Christmas baking standards, was pretty mellow. Let’s review.
I only gave two cookie gifts this year. One was for a “sustainable” Secret Santa (which was widely open to interpretation and included homemade goods), and the other was mailed to a friend across the country. Rather than choosing Christmas themed cookies, I just chose cookies that I liked. Both were from the Dahlia Bakery Cookbook (as was my pumpkin pie from Thanksgiving).
I like these cookies because they use actual fresh ginger, not the powdered spice. I like mine on the soft side – so soft that you can bend them and they don’t snap. Mmm. They don’t look as pretty as the pictures from the recipe I linked to above, but they tasted fantastic.
These ones are decadent and incredibly crumbly – the ones I mailed probably arrived in a million little pieces. They are SO GOOD. They’re a triple chocolate threat cookie: they contain cocoa powder, chunks of chocolate, AND chocolate chips.
One of the primary reasons I don’t do as much Christmas themed baking is because Cedric isn’t a gingerbread fan (I know, what a weirdo). His favourite baked good is the chocolate chip cookie. We usually have a roll of dough in our freezer so we can cut off a couple of pieces and have just a few fresh baked cookies after dinner, when the mood strikes. I’m not particularly loyal to one recipe because I find they all taste great and it’s fun to try new ones.
At least, that’s how I felt until I found the recipe for the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. The guy who wrote the post is a true inspiration to me – read it see what I mean.
I was moved to try his recipe, although disaster struck partway through when I ran out of brown sugar (GASP!). I had to compensate with extra white sugar. Side note: I like that this guy’s recipe measures ingredients by weight, not volume.
The directions say to refrigerate the dough before baking for up to three days, or AT LEAST overnight. But come on – we’re only human. We made a few cookies after refrigerating the dough for an hour or so. The verdict? They were good – really good – but I didn’t think they were any better than other recipes I’d used in the past.
And then, a few days later, I made some more. By now, the dough had time to settle – and they were the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. Full stop. This shall be my new go to recipe.
My final baked good of the season (for now – I have one more recipe I want to try) is actually not a baked at all (hence the “no bake” in its title).
This recipe is TOO easy to put together. All you need is a food processor. It’s one of those recipes where you use dates and maple syrup instead of sugar, but hey – it all tastes the same (i.e., delicious) to me. It happens to be gluten free and vegan, so it’s a good recipe for those with diet restrictions. (Unless the diet restriction is a nut allergy).
The bottom layer is peanuts, dates, cocoa powder, and salt.
The next layer is peanut butter (I make my own – just put peanuts in a food processor. It’s that easy, folks) with a bit of salt and maple syrup.
The third and final layer is chocolate, coconut oil, and coconut milk.
If you like Reese’s peanut butter cups (and who doesn’t), you will like this.
So… maybe I should make my next post a trail running post to balance things out, huh?