When it’s snowy and freezing outside, ’tis the season for holiday baking! It is December and believe it or not, we already had the first snow of the season. With the holidays coming up, I added a bunch of festive things to my grocery list. That way when school’s out, I’ll be ready to whip up some holiday treats 🙂 .
I think there is something special about holidays that makes us wanna bake – whether to relive childhood memories of homemade goodies or to put an extra touch of love into the food for our loved ones. Now, I have to admit, I am not a baker 😛 . I think I do a fairly good job at cooking, but I tend to stay away from baking! That’s why, for Christmas every year, I usually put together a holiday dinner at home with family and close friends. However, this holiday season, I was somehow inspired to get into my kitchen, don my apron and turn flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and what not into something delicious.
Check out the results of my first ever holiday bake-a-thon…
Christmas Fruit Cake
Back home in India, I have always seen fruit cakes or plum cakes usher in the Christmas season. Bakeries and specialty food stores will be selling lacs (millions for the rest of the world) of them during the holidays. Naturally, when I decided to bake this year, fruit cake just had to be a part of it!
This cake is all about Christmas. Butter and sugar are creamed together until soft and fluffy and eggs, flour, candied fruits (“tutti fruiti” as we call it) are then beaten in. You can add almonds, walnuts, or spices like nutmeg or cinnamon if you like. The mixture is baked in the oven at medium-low temperature. The cake rises to a wonderful golden brown color and the kitchen smells of the holidays!
Take on this holiday season with my rich homemade fruit cake. It is incredibly delicious and, if you are anything like me, you will keep baking it after the holidays are long gone.
Makes 1 loaf/bundt pan of cake
2 sticks or 1 cup (1/2 pound) unsalted sweet cream butter, softened or cut into cubes
1 ¼ cups sugar
¼ cup light /heavy cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¾ cup tutti fruiti (candied fruit)
½ sliced almonds (optional)
PAM for baking spray (optional)
9x5x3-inch loaf/bundt pan
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Butter or spray with PAM for baking spray one 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
Cream the butter and the sugar in a large bowl of an electric mixer or using a hand mixer on low speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
Seperate egg whites and keep aside.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat together the egg yolks with the vanilla and cream until light and frothy. With the electric mixer on medium-low, gradually add the egg yolk mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and mix for about 4 minutes.
In another bowl, combine the flour and baking powder.
With the electric mixer on medium speed, alternately add the flour mixture, a third at a time, and the egg whites, a third at a time, to the butter and egg mixture, beating for 2 minutes between each addition.
Lastly, add the candied fruit and gently stir to incorporate it well.
Bake in the oven (middle rack) for 1 hour 30 mins or more till the cake is golden brown and the knife comes out clean after inserting in the center. If not, bake another 10 minutes, and check again.
*Important: Make sure the rack is placed in the middle or central level position otherwise the cake will form a hard dark brown burnt crust. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
Glacéd Sugar Cookies
December kicks off the month-long cookie-baking marathon here in the US. I think the holidays are just an excuse….Well, whatever the reason, it is a great time to share these with friends, family or to devour them yourself. They can be your perfect dessert for holiday dinners or a great snack with a cup of coffee or some wine. Delicate rolled cookies seem to be fun for making, decorating and eating…but somehow I have never tried my hand at it!
Given that this was my first time, I wanted to have fun making cookies and not stress out. So I took the semi-homemade approach – using a store-bought sugar cookie dough and thoroughly enjoyed the latter part of icing them. If you want to make your own dough, there are a lot of sugar cookie recipes you can find on the internet, cookbooks or magazines.
This holiday season kick back and have a big bite of my delicious, scrumptious cookies.
Makes about 50-60 bite-sized cookies
1 (16.5 oz) roll of Pillsbury Refrigerated Sugar Cookie Dough
¼ cup all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
Glacéd Icing & Decorating
1 cup confectioners /powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk (any kind)
2 tbsp lite corn syrup
1-2 drops of pure vanilla extract
food coloring (available at craft stores like Michaels, A.C. Moore)
decorating sugars (available at Wholefoods)
a rolling pin
a 1 inch round or your choice of cookie cutter
Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, knead together the cookie dough and 1/4 cup flour until smooth.
Lightly flour a work surface. Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick.
Using a the cookie cutter, cut out circles from the dough. Knead together any scraps of dough and roll out again. Continue to cut out pastry circles until most of the dough is used up.
Place the dough circles on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are slightly golden around the edges, about 6-8 mins.
Cool for 5 mins and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Reserve the parchment paper-lined baking sheets for icing the cookies.
Glazed Icing & Decorating
To prepare the basic while glazed icing, whisk sugar and milk until smooth and then stir in corn syrup and vanilla extract. It should be of flowing consistency. If it’s too thick you just add more milk and if it’s to thin, you add a little more powdered sugar.
Take your glazed icing and separate it into bowls if you want to color it. Follow the instructions on the box and add the food color to the icing.
To glaze the cookies, take a small spoonful of the icing and pour it onto a cookie and gently spread it out to the edges of the cookie using the back of the spoon.
Top with decorating sugars and leave them out for an hour or two to dry.