Hehe! I’m giggling after typing the title to this post (as if I have the chefly [that's a word right] prowess to actually have a test kitchen).
Anyhooo… one of my favorite things about the holidays is all the many treats and goodies that said holidays give you excuse to make/eat. Back a few months ago (while in the midst of Gifted Magazine-making-mayhem) my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease (individuals with Celiac can not eat any gluten in their diet). It was a tough blow for both of us, but my little brother also has the disease so at least it was not a foreign diagnosis to us.
So with the holidays now upon us (and me still trying to figure out what to cook other than pan after pan of rice), I figured that my days of tasty food excursions would be over. But not so! I have discovered that there are actually quite a few regular recipes (not specifically designed for those with Celiac) that we can still make. Yay! So the other night we decided to try two of them out, and here is my breakdown on these holiday treats:
These cookies looked delectable on the pages of Martha Stewart’s special holiday cookies magazine (but honestly, what doesn’t in her magazines). We gathered up the ingredients and launched into step one: Blanching the hazelnuts. The magazine’s simple one line directive goes something like this: “Lightly toast hazelnuts in the oven for about 12 minutes until their skins crack, remove from oven, and vigorously rub nuts inside dish towel to remove skins.” Taa-daa! This tiny sentence completely belies the now apparent fact that hazelnuts really really like their skins and are none to thrilled to be rubbed and probed out of them. For hours I toasted, briskly rubbed, throttled, cajoled, and finally pleaded with the nuts to release their darn coats – eventually resigning myself to scraping the skin from each individual nut off with my fingernails. Fun stuff, right?! Next came the chopping and the mixing which was simple-as-can-be compared to the hours long battle I’d just been through. Finally the prepared dough had to rest in the refrigerator overnight before baking the following day.
So the verdict: The cookies are tasty…I’m not gonna lie. But finger crunching, nail chipping, 2-day waiting period good – maybe not so much. These will be a one-of in my house; so darn it I’m going to enjoy them. Heaven knows I earned it!
And now we move on to the really gooey, I mean good stuff…
My friend’s husband loves sweet/salty food pairings so I decided that I wanted to make him a box full of salted caramels for Christmas. I’ve made caramel candy one time previously (about 8 years ago), and a few jars of yummy caramel sauce this past summer, but even so I was feeling pretty nervous about my ability (caramels can be tricky – or so I believed). I purchased a copy of Food Network Magazine because of the Fleur De Sel Caramels recipe by Ina Garten found inside (I didn’t know it was available online at that point).
It turns out that hunting down the actual Fleur de Sel was the trickiest part of the whole project. Once found (this is the brand I bought and it’s super yummy) I gathered up my ingredients/supplies and set to work. I followed the directions carefully (the magazine article and online story has a lot of helpful photos) – though I didn’t let my sugar brown quite as much as in the photo shows (it was starting to smell as though it could be on the verge of burning). The project went surprisingly fast and smoothly (my daughter even helped me with the parts that didn’t involve boiling sugar). Once cooled I am happy to report that the finished morsels got four very hearty (albeit sticky) thumbs up. This recipe is definitely going into my holiday cooking binder. Yummers!
As I said above, this project was initially intended for my friend’s husband, but I came to realize that these would also make great teacher gifts (or even secret Santa treats). Of course a holiday gift wouldn’t be complete without the gift packaging, so I created some tags to go with my presents. I purchased the candy boxes from our local Michael’s craft store, lined them with colored tissue paper, filled them with parchment paper-wrapped caramels (parchment paper can be found in the baking isle of grocery stores), attached a bright red ribbon around each one, and then glued on my labels.
I created several PDF files of my labels if you’d like to make your own parcels of these sweets for lucky friends/family this holiday. There is even one sheet of printable labels that are completely blank. Just hand-write in your own text for whatever tasty gifts you decide to use them on. Enjoy!
- Download Fleur de Sel Caramel To/From Labels
- Download Fleur de Sel Caramel Holiday Greetings Labels
- Download Blank Holiday Treat Labels
All images by me (Ez Pudewa).