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Monday 9 December 2013

Christmas baking - its that time of year again for cookies, banana bread, salted caramel chocolate brittle and more!

I was way too swamped last year during the holidays to post up pics of our latest Christmas baking - so here's some of the pics now (though some treats disappeared long before they had a chance in front of the camera heehee!) so you can start getting ideas for what you'd like to bake for your Christmas baking swap.  Its so easy and fun: get a group of fellow foodies that know how to operate an oven, everyone makes 1-2 items for everyone, and at the end of the day, you get a wonderful assortment of homemade sweets and treats!!  We had out very first swap in 2011 and you can click here for the pics and recipes.  Our 2012 swap was a bit smaller since we had lots of folks moving to different parts of the city, but we still had some favs reappearing and lots of new goodies too!

Kathychee made some tasty homemade Almond Roca bars, but I forgot to take a picture of them before I dug into them :P  KimChee's super moist walnut studded banana bread pulled a vanishing act soon after we snapped pics of it... sooo banana-anna-bo-anna good!

My boyfriend announced after one bite of Anniekins and Dal's Toberone shortbread cookies, that we were not going to share these. He actually asked me "where can we hide these"?

Buttery rich shortbread with little bits of Toberone pieces throughout... after I stole a cookie to eat from his firm grasp on the cookie container, I told my boyfriend he better share with me lol! Nom!

KimChee also made some super cinnamony snickerdoodles (top) and cookies with a Rolo chocolate embedded within (bottom) with the help of her young nephew... and since he thinks "more is better!!!" that probably accounted for the extra cinnamony goodness in the snickerdoodles!

My contributions was one of my favs - a Skor bar toffee milk chocolate cookie.  I initially made 8 dozen. Then my taste-tester boyfriend aka cookie monster decimated the cookies...

and I had to make another 8 dozen so I had enough to give out to everyone.  Fresh baked cookies transforms males of any age into 2 year olds lol!  This year, I'll be making them again, but I may make the toffee from scratch as Skor Bar toffee has traces of almonds, which means my girlfriends with allergies have been missing out the last few times I've made these cookies.

And my favorite this year was trying out Kate Morgan of FramedCooks' recipe for Chocolate caramel cookie brittle... which I just call salted caramel chocolate brittle, or really damn addictively good for short :D

Thanks Kate for putting up with my questions to clarify: Canadians have larger sticks of butter than our American friends.  Our larger butter "stick"  is equivalent to 4 of the smaller "quarter" sticks folks use south of the border (that they call a full stick).  Guess its cuz its colder up north? Its a good thing I clarified or I would have ended up with runny caramel rather than a brittle LOL!!!  I made 2 versions of this, the first being a dark dark chocolate version, which I unfortunately didn't cook quite long enough (cook longer too cuz we're up north?) and it was a more soft but still tear-able into pieces brittle that had to set overnight in the fridge.

And version # 2 was my fav and a hit amongst my girlfriends - milk chocolate.  I had lots of large Aero bars left over from Halloween, and they worked in a pinch when I only had a few morsels of my usual Hersey's baking milk chocolate.  This batch of caramel I cooked a little over twice as long on the stove, and it turned out wonderfully, snapping into pieces, well, brittle-like as it should :D

The soda crackers (sounds like a weird ingredient) adds in a bit of structure, lightness and just the perfect amount of salt to this chocolate caramel brittle... just try to only have one bite. It took enormous amounts of willpower not to pig out on them and package them up nicely for the Christmas swap lol!

Chocolate caramel cookie brittle aka salted caramel chocolate brittle recipe from FramedCooks with my usual additions: clarifications and meandering tips :P

1 sleeve saltines aka soda crackers (use salted ones!)
2 American sticks butter =1/2 large Canadian stick of butter = 1/2cup of butter
1 cup brown sugar
12 ounces or 2 cups of chocolate chips or morsels or finely chopped chocolate (dark, semi-sweet, milk - your choice!)
Optional toppings
-smash up some peppermint candy canes or cinnamon heart candies depending on the holiday
-toasted chopped nuts: pecans, walnuts, almonds, macadamia, hazelnuts, peanuts...
-toasted coconut flakes
-chopped up dried fruit: craisins, raisins, dried mangos, pineapple, apricots, blueberries, crystalized ginger...

1. Preheat oven to 400F
2. Line 11inchx17inch or 9inch x 13inch baking pan with tin foil.
3. Lay out all crackers in a single layer into the pan, sides touching
4. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and heat to boiling, boil for 7-8 minutes, stirring frequently.
5. Pour butter/sugar mixture over crackers, making sure to cover all of them thoroughly.
6. Pop into preheated oven and bake for 7 minutes.
7. Take pan out and pour all chocolate chips/morsels evenly onto molten caramel layer.  Use a heatproof spatula to spread the chocolate out evenly.  You can melt and then pour chocolate on, but I'm lazy and this is easier.  Add in optional toppings if you like as the chocolate is setting and press in gently.  If you add in while the chocolate is molten hot, your topping will either sink or melt into the chocolate too much.
8. Cool on a cooking rack and then refrigerate until completely cooled and hardened (1hr-overnight).  Drizzle accent chocolate: white, green, dark, milk chocolate... if you want once its set.

9. Break into pieces and try not to eat them all, all at once :D

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