ENTERTAINING: ‘TIS THE SEASON , PART 1

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Easy & Elegant Christmas Tree Centerpiece ♦ Walnut Chocolate Fudge
Spritz Cookies –  The Holiday Classic

 

By Mary Canovas

“´Tis the Season”  of celebrations and entertaining with elaborate dinners, cookies and sweets, while crafting,  decorating and baking, with little time to spare to finish buying and wrapping gifts and so much more.  ´Tis the season for seeing old friends, embracing family, remembering loved ones of days gone by, sharing family traditions and stories;  the season of giving – not only to our loved ones but also to those who are not as fortunate or are alone and need a friendly phone call or invitation.

It´s that time of year we think more of others and less of ourselves, when we happily give more than we receive and are blessed with a deep sense of wonder as we see the gleam in children´s eyes mirroring our own childhood expectations.  

From our family to yours, the Happiest Christmas and New Year
filled with love to last all year long!

 

Easy & Elegant Christmas Tree Centerpiece

A different kind of Christmas tree centerpiece – just right for an elegant table setting for any event and especially for Christmas as they make the loveliest Christmas trees.  They sparkle and shine in any light – sunshine, LEDs or multicolored fairy lights. The best news – they´re so easy and so inexpensive , you can make a dozen of them, in all sizes, in no time at all.  And you can decorate them easily with sequins or glitter. Use them, alone or in groups, as a centerpiece on your dining table, or to decorate your office desk or in your entrance hall. Just three materials:  construction or cardboard paper, aluminum foil (kitchen grade) and a glue gun.

Materials:
• Cardboard paper or construction paper  (or styrofoam cones)
• Aluminum foil
• Glue gun
• Optional: sequins, white glue and glitter …

How To:
• Make a paper cone or use a Styrofoam cone.
• Cut a piece of aluminum foil larger than the cone.
• Clump the paper into a ball lightly.
• Carefully open the ball and extend. Do not press to hard – you want to retain the wrinkles.
• Lay the cone on the sheet of aluminum.
• Glue the edge of the sheet, Roll the cone around and glue halfway and at the end.
• Cut off excess on the side and bottom and fold excess foil inside the cone.
• Leave “as is” or decorate.

 

Walnut Chocolate Fudge

Walnut Chocolate Fudge has been around for a long time. An American candy that was invented by university students in the 1890s, it is a traditional treat, especially at Christmas.

What is fudge? It´s not a candy, nor is it a cookie. It is almost like a caramel but softer with the deepest and most chocolately, chocolate flavor you can imagine in a tiny bite.  

Ingredients:
• 510 grams or 3 cups chocolate – any kind: semi, milk chocolate, dark chocolate or a mix.
• 400 grams or 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 100 gr. – 2 cups mini or regular size marshmallows cut into smaller pieces
• Pinch of salt
• 1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
• 130 gr.- 3/4 cup Chopped walnuts

Directions:
• Line a mold of 8 to 9 “or 20 to 22 cm with paraffin or oven paper.
• In a heavy saucepan on low heat or in a double boiler or bain marie, heat chocolate pieces, condensed milk , salt, marshmallows and  butter – stirring constantly.
• Do not allow to boil, remove from heat when chocolate is melted and ingredients are well mixed.  Then, add walnuts and vanilla, stir gently.
• Pour into prepared pan, cool for 2 hours or until firm.
• Remove the fudge from the mold and remove the paper.
• Cut into squares.  Serve and keep covered in the fridge.
• You can also make this fudge into balls like truffles and decorate with nuts, sugar etc.  for the holidays.

 

Spritz Cookies –  The Holiday Classic

Butter cookies – spritz cookies –  Spritzgebäck are of German and Alsatian origin dating back to the 16th century. They are the classic Christmas cookies in all English and German speaking countries. Unlike regular butter cookies or sugar cookies – which we use to decorate, they are tender, with a truly exquisite flavor. In Spain, similar cookies are the “pastas de té”.   

Once you have made our recipe, you´ll taste the difference and I believe you will never go back to pastas. Use only butter for this recipe – it is the secret of Spritz cookies´ texture and its extraordinary flavor. They can be made in advance (with or with decorations) and frozen, so you can have them on hand for the holidays. You can make different colors of dough by adding food coloring – for example green with the shape of tree etc. and decorate with sprinkles, cherries, nuts, chocolate, etc.

Ingredients: 3 dozen
• 3 large egg yolks at room temperature
• 2 tablespoons milk or cream
• 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Almond extract . (NOTE: if you do not want to use almond extract add an extra half tsp of vanilla. Or you can also use lemon extract instead of almond.)
• 1 cup – 230 g of unsalted butter, at room temperature. (NOTE: If using butter with salt don´t add salt.*)
• * 1/2 teaspoon salt. (NOTE:  only if using unsalted butter.)
• 11/4 cups – 250 g of sugar
• 2 3/4 cups 340 gr. of sifted flour
Optional: to decorate – edible food coloring, colored sugar, nuts, ganache, tempered melted chocolate, sprinkles, pareils, maraschino cherries etc .

Directions:
• Preheat the oven to 190 ° C – 375 ° F.
• Place cookie pans in the refrigerator. Don´t butter them or use oven paper – just cold pans.
• Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until the mixture is fluffy.
• Add the yolks, cream/milk and vanilla and almond extracts beating until all ingredients are  fully incorporated.
• Add sifted flour and salt and beat until everything is well mixed.
• You can separate a part of the dough to color with a few drops of food coloring.
• Use a cookie press to make different figures. Always keep the machine perpendicular to the tray and press until the dough comes out. ** If the dough is too soft and the figures are not well defined, cool the dough in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
• Take the cookie pan out of the fridge and place cookies at 5 cm or 2″ from each other.
• Decorate with sprinkles, pareils, sugar, nuts, cherries etc. **
**Or decorate after they have baked and cooled with melted chocolate (which has to be tempered) – or ganache – and sprinkle top of chocolate with sprinkles, nuts etc**
• Bake between 8 to 12 minutes or only until the edges are a little brown.
• Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.
** If you´re decorating with melted chocolate, do it after they have cooled.
• Cookies can be kept in a closed container about 2 weeks at room temperature or can be frozen up to 3 months.