Posts Tagged ‘holiday baking’



When I was in my full-blown homemade Christmas celebration years, I would make lots and lots of candy. The candy was always a hit simply because most people had never tasted homemade. Some of it came from my childhood – my mom’s favorites were popcorn balls, bourbon balls, and divinity. Of her favorites, I only liked popcorn balls which I often used as tree decorations. Divinity was too sweet – even for me – and I have never liked any sweet that is flavored with alcohol. And most of the others were recipes I had gathered from old cookbooks or good home cooks. Peanut brittle and chocolate fudge were on my top-of list. Of all of these goodies, chocolate fudge is the only one that I continue to make every Christmas. It is easy to make, the recipes yields quite a bit (the amount depends upon how small you cut the squares) and is always a welcome holiday gift.

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (bits or a block chopped into small pieces, use the

highest percentage you can find to help cut the sweetness of all of the sugar)

2 cups toasted walnuts or pecans, optional

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

20 large marshmallows

4 cups sugar

Two 5-ounce cans evaporated milk

Lightly butter a 6 cup baking pan (square or rectangular) or a platter. Set aside.

Combine the chocolate with the nuts, if using, butter, and vanilla in a large heat-proof mixing bowl. Set aside.

Combine the marshmallows and sugar in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the evaporated milk and place over medium heat. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Continuing to stir, boil for exactly 6 minutes.

Immediately remove from the heat and, beating constantly with a wooden spoon, pour the hot mixture into the chocolate mix. Beat vigorously for a few minutes or until the fudge is creamy. Quickly scrape the fudge into the prepared pan or platter, pushing slightly with the back of the spoon (or a spatula) to spread the fudge evenly.

Cool for at least 1 hour before cutting the candy into small squares. Store, in layers separated by waxed paper, for up to one week or, refrigerated, for up to 3 weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving

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Griddle Scones_DSC_7141


This recipe comes from An American Family Cooks, my family cookbook which is published by Rizzoli. I will, from time to time, share recipes from the book. If you enjoy them and would like more, the book can be ordered from your local bookstore, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon.

This is my oldest family recipe. Unfortunately I did not know my mom’s mother who brought the recipe with her from Scotland where it had been taught to her by her Aunt Ann. The recipe card still reads “Gram’s Aunt Ann.” These scones would not be recognizable as such in modern bakeries that bake giant, fluffy fruit-filled mounds called scones. Most scones today have absolutely no relation to these flat, griddled gems which are somewhere between pancakes and biscuits. In fact, the recipe card says “Have griddle same heat as for pancakes and fry on a dry griddle.” They should be eaten hot off the griddle with sweet butter and homemade jam.


3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 scant teaspoon baking soda

Sugar to taste

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons butter

Enough buttermilk to make a soft dough, usually about 1 cup


Combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Add the sugar and salt – I use about 2 tablespoons sugar and no more than ¼ teaspoon salt. Cut in the butter using your fingertips.

Slowly add the buttermilk, beating with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.

Lightly flour a clean work surface.

Scrape the dough onto the work surface and divide it in half. Pat each half into a fairly neat circle about ¼-inch thick and then cut each circle into 6 wedges.

Heat the griddle over low heat until very hot.

When hot, add the scones, a few at a time, and cook for 3 minutes to just set. Then, increase the heat slightly and cook for another 4 minutes or until the dough begins to puff up a bit and the underside has begun to color. Using a spatula, turn and cook for an additional 6 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Watch carefully, adjusting the heat as necessary, to keep the scones from burning.

Remove from the heat and serve hot with butter and jam.

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Recently spending some time with my Irish-speakin’ almost daughter, Anne, I decided that she should make us some traditional Irish bread.  So she decided to make a recipe that her  dad, Kevin, shared with her when she moved to New York.  It is so easy to make and so good for you.  Ideally, the bread should hang around the kitchen for a day before cutting into it.  I never let that happen – I’m cutting into it and slathering it with sweet butter as soon as it is cool enough to handle.  The loaves make great toast and the muffins are a complete breakfast in a few bites.

Makes 3 loaves or 2 dozen muffins

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
    1 large egg, at room temperature        
4 cups (21 ounces) all-purpose flour
    3½ cups (1 pound) whole wheat flour
    ½ cup steel cut oatmeal
    ½ cup wheat bran
    ½ cup oat bran
    ½ cup wheat germ
    3 heaping teaspoons baking soda
    3 teaspoons sea salt
    2 to 3 teaspoons Demerara sugar (or dark brown sugar, if you can’t find

Preheat the oven to 400ºF for loaves or 365ºF for muffins.
Using nonstick baking spray, lightly coat the pans.  Set aside.
Combine the buttermilk with the egg in a small mixing bowl, whisking to blend completely.  Set aside.
Combine the all-purpose and whole wheat flours with the oatmeal, wheat bran, oat bran, wheat germ, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl, stirring to blend.  Add the buttermilk mixture and, using a wooden spoon, stir to mix thoroughly.
Spoon the dough into the prepared pans, filling either the loaf pans or muffin tins no more than two-thirds full.  Transfer to the preheated oven and back the loaves for 10 minutes.  Then, lower the heat to 365ºF and continue to bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  If baking muffins, transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and tap the breads from the pans and place on a wire rack to cool.  The muffin tins can be placed directly on wire racks and the muffins left in the pans to cool.
Allow to rest for a day before eating.



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