So, every year I have a Christmas tree decorating party for a small group of clients, colleagues and friends. My last post was about some of the appetizers and entrees I’ll be serving at this year’s. But after those are done, what about dessert?
I’ll have about 20 people coming, so I like to make quite a lot of cookies and squares. First of all, I think the Christmas buffet table should look like a dinner scene at Hogwarts in a Harry Potter movie, almost groaning with the weight of delicious things to eat. Secondly, if there’s anything left over, which does happen, I can box it up in pretty Christmas boxes and tissue the next day and drop it off at the homes of those who couldn’t make it, or as client pop-by gifts.
The key, I’ve found, is variety — I always make decorated gingerbread and sugar cookies, but also classic squares. And because I’m busy, I’m happy to take shortcuts!
One of those shortcuts is that I buy oatmeal cookie mixes (the type where you only add water), then add nuts, chocolate chips and raisins or dried cranberries and bake them according to the directions on the package. You can see these mid-left in the platter below;they are failproof and fast. I can have these in the oven while I’m working on something else.
This year, I made sugar cookies and gingerbread, and decorated them, but since I have no patience when it comes to making Royal icing, I buy the pre-made icing in tubes from SuperStore. This is the type where you can screw on the tip you want to use, which makes things a lot easier!
Not shown are the polar bears and moose because my idiot dog managed to get at the platter and ate a whole dozen of them! They were so finicky to make (because of legs and ears that so often break off) that I decided to heck with it – I don’t have the patience to make them again this year. Next year! But here are the cutters I use – they’re pretty cute. I ordered them online from a company in the U.S. and they are great.
The shortbread cookies (shown below) are based on two recipes that were shared with me by a couple of Twitter pals, Jill Skinner and Bill Oates. The two recipes are very similar. Bill’s is as follows:
1 C butter
3/4 C icing sugar
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1-1/2 C Flour
1/2 C Corn Starch
Roll out onto plastic wrap to 1/4″ thick and refrigerate for 30 mins. Bake at 300 for 20 mins.
I went for a little more flour, as per Bill’s recipe, so that the dough was a bit stiffer, because I wanted to use a press to make the design. but I used a little less icing sugar (as per Jill’s).
Before baking, I used a press to put a snowflake design on each one. These are sold at HomeSense, Southgate Mall, for about $6 and make a great stocking stuffer! I bought a bunch of them and am giving them to clients as gifts. Now I wish I’d bought them all!
I also made mini butter tarts from a fabulous recipe given to me by another Twitter pal, Mike Vlasic, who says it was his grandmother’s. This may be my favourite new dessert recipe. Foolproof and delicious!
I used Tenderflake mini-tart shells (they come in packages of 18) and because I didn’t have corn syrup on hand, I used maple syrup instead. You can put raisins or currants in; these ones have currants. These are delicious little bites — absolutely lovely!
Another super simple recipe is for white chocolate pistachio cranberry bark. You melt two bags of white chocolate over low heat, then add dried cranberries and shelled pistachios and spread it on wax paper, then pop it in the fridge. When it’s solid again, break it up into pieces. (Photo courtesy of the Brown Eyed Baker, who gives actual measurements in their recipe!)
The two squares I made both have Kraft mini-marshmallows in them: classic Rice Krispie squares, with the white mini-marshmallows, and butterscotch confetti squares, with the coloured ones. And yes, I dyed the classic Rice Krispie squares green, to be festive! Those are the Butterscotch Confetti squares below – these are a real sugar hit, so make sure to cut them into small squares.
The Butterscotch Confetti square recipe (picture above) comes from my friend and fellow boxer, Heather, who posted it on Facebook. (As you can see, I rely on social media a lot for ideas when I’m baking!)
1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup hard butter
8 ounces coloured mini marshmallows
1 Heat the butterscotch chips, peanut butter, and butter.
2 Stir until smooth. Watch it; peanut butter burns quickly!
3 Cool a wee bit.
4 Stir in marshmallows.
5 Pat into a greased 8×8-inch pan and chill.
6 Cut into squares.
The Rice Krispie squares recipe is the same one on the box: 3 tbsp of butter, melted together with 4 cups of mini-marshmallows in a sauce pan on low heat; then stir in 6 cups of Rice Krispies.
The only difference is that I add one tsp of vanilla and a few drops of green food dye for colour. (I have tried using red dye but it just ends up pink). I also use an 8 x 8″ pan instead of a 9 x 13″ pan, so the squares are nice and dense and I press them down using a layer of wax paper and a meat tenderizer to push them down flat. (Useful tip: To clean the saucepan, just heat some water in it and all the sticky parts will release without scrubbing.) I’ll cut these into squares just before the party.
I’m making only *one* cake – the easiest and tastiest one I know of — a Fruit Cocktail cake. You mix, in one bowl, 2 c flour, 1 c sugar, 2 tsps baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 lightly beaten eggs and one 14 oz can of fruit cocktail plus liquid. You can bake this in a Bundt pan or a 9 x 13″ baking pan, greased. Bake for at least 45 minutes at 350C — I find it usually takes closer to an hour. It should be dark brown, and pull away from the edges.
I let this one cool before flipping it out of the pan. (Use a butter knife to loosen it around the edges first, but it should come out smoothly.)
Just before serving I will pour a caramel sauce over the top: also super easy. It’s brown sugar, butter, and cream, heated to just bubbling in a saucepan. Might add a little brandy or rum. Either way, it’s simple and delicious!
And finally, I’ll have a fruitcake (store bought) plus a cheese plate and crackers. My friend, Viola, who goes back over 40 years with me (we lived in the same residence at Mount A in the early 70s) is going to bring some assorted cheeses with her, and fresh grapes.
This should be great! I’ve asked my guests to bring an ornament for the tree and some socks to donate to the Sock it to Christmas! sock drive, plus whatever they want to drink. I’ll do the rest!