Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday Baking for Friends and Neighbors

This weekend sends us back to the kitchen to bake for our friends and neighbors. Christmas is only a few days away and it was time to get serious. I wanted to be a little non-traditional this year and make new recipes instead of the same ones I usually make. I started today by making Baklava. Moved on to Chocolate Chip Meringue Kisses and finished tonight by making Peppermint Swirls with Anthony's help. We put together small platters for our friends and neighbors who are single or retired and larger platters for families. I also tossed a few tangerines on the plates for color. I think they turned out nicely and I hope that they are tasty too. Naturally Miss. Raisin had to supervise our progress in the kitchen.


1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
1 pound chopped nuts
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 inch pan.

Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 - 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 - 8 sheets deep.

Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.

Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

Chocolate Chip Meringue Kisses

3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 225° F.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium until foamy. Increase speed to high and gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time; continue to beat until stiff and glossy, 2 to 3 minutes. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Drop mounds of the meringue mixture (each equal to 2 tablespoons) onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Bake until firm and dry, 75 to 90 minutes. Cool completely on the baking sheets.

Peppermint Swirls

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/4 teaspoon red food color
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat butter, powdered sugar and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in flour. Divide dough in half. Stir peppermint extract and food color into one half of dough. Divide each color of dough in half.

Shape each piece of dough on generously floured surface into rope, 12 inches long. Place 2 ropes, 1 red and 1 white, side by side. Twist ropes. Repeat with remaining 2 pieces of dough.

Cut twisted ropes into 1/2-inch pieces; shape each into ball. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten to about 1/4-inch thickness with greased bottom of glass dipped in granulated sugar.

Bake cookies 7 to 9 minutes or until set. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack; cool.

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