Dec 272014
 

I love making homemade gifts for Christmas – some years almost everything I gift is homemade and some years it’s only a little token. This year I’ve got a serious sweet tooth going on so I had to try my hand at marshmallows and caramels.

homemade marshmallow

First up were the marshmallows – I have had the cookbook “Marshmallow Madness” for a few years now and for some reason I was too intimidated to try them before now. Even though the author is completely reassuring and the recipes are straightforward I just thought it couldn’t be simple to make marshmallows. How wrong I was! It’s so easy to do! I kind of felt like it was life-altering to make homemade marshmallows and I also kind of can’t wait for the summer so I can try out s’mores with my own marshmallows. I also kind of can’t wait to make some of the other flavored varieties – I just need an upcoming holiday or other reason to gift them so I don’t eat the whole pan. Maybe Valentine’s Day?

homemade apple cider caramels

I’ve also wanted to make caramels for a long time. We made them once when I was a girl and we must have overcooked them, because they ended up hard as a rock (like break your tooth hard) and so I’ve been scared to tackle those again too. The lure of making Apple Cider Caramels was too much though, so I finally overcame this other candy fear and got to work.

Months ago, in anticipation of making these caramels I made Boiled Cider, using the homemade apple cider that our family made earlier this fall. Then, armed only with a candy thermometer, I set out to tame the caramels. And guess what? They also weren’t all that hard, and they were absolutely amazing! I could have eaten the whole batch but I’m glad I didn’t – instead I wrapped them up for gifts as well. I definitely sense more candy-making in my future!

homemade caramels sheet

Galletas de Navidad or Tita’s Christmas Cookies

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Dec 152014
 

galletas de navidad christmas cookies

Do you have a special cookie recipe that you just absolutely must make each Christmas? One that actually defines the holidays for you? Maybe your family is like ours and each parent brings their own must-have cookie to the mix. For us the special Christmas cookies are the Chocolate Drops that my grandma and now my stepmom makes each December, and Tita’s Galletas de Navidad (Abuelita’s Christmas Cookies). Because Tita lives so far away from us it’s up to me to make the Galletas de Navidad and bring the taste of Christmas into our home.

We’re not sure where the recipe for Galletas de Navidad came from – Tita grew up eating them but we don’t know how the recipe came into her family. They’re vaguely german – somewhere between pfeffernusse cookies, lebkuchen and springerle. We roll the cookies out and cut them into shapes, then glaze them with a lemon sugar icing. The warm Christmas spices of cinnamon, anise and nutmeg give a great traditional flavor and the cookies keep well too.

Galletas de Navidad / Tita’s Christmas Cookies
makes approx. 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBS cinnamon
  • 2 TBS cocoa powder
  • 1 TBS ground cloves
  • 1 tsp anise seeds steeped in 1 TBS hot water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1/4 cup water
  • 5 cups flour

Directions

1. Cream together the butter and sugar.

2. Mix in the honey, egg, cinnamon, cocoa powder, cloves, salt and anise seed (with the water it was steeped in).

3. Mix in 3 cups of the flour and the baking soda with its water.

4. Mix in the remaining 2 cups of flour one at a time.

5. Chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

7. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness, cut out shapes with cookie cutters and put them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

8. Bake cookies for 8 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then cool completely on racks.

9. Ice with your favorite sugar cookie icing or (our favorite) a simple confectioner’s sugar and lemon glaze.

galletas de navidad christmas cookies