So, this isn’t really a treat to eat, more like a project to share. Which definitely doesn’t mean I won’t be eating it. Straight out of the jar with a spoon. Who doesn’t like salted caramel anything? Answer: NO ONE. Because it’s deliciously amazing. And bourbon is a staple in my kitchen and my life. And on the 5th Day of Christmas I bring you more ways to have all your friends and family say, “you’re amazing.” Because who doesn’t want to hear that your baking skills have merit and are totally kickass? No one. You are amazing and you too can be a holiday baker extraordinaire. Let me show you how.
Salted Caramel goes with everything. And it’s ridiculously easy to make. Bringing this to a holiday gathering will immediately get you bonus points with the in-laws, boyfriend’s parents, or that person your trying to seduce. Basically anyone in all walks of life will be amazed by your culinary creation and you will be queen (or king) for a day. It’s no secret that I’m partial to baking with alcohol. Bourbon is just SO.GOOD. And ladies, if you develop a taste for whiskey or bourbon, people will just think you exude class and coolness. Even if you’re awkward and inappropriate. Bourbon just makes you cool. Kind of uneasy about pouring in some bourbon in your caramel sauce? That’s fine, Salted Caramel Sauce is still out of this world. But let me just impart some baking wisdom: adding in alcohol takes this sauce to a whole new level. I choose to use bourbon because it’s slightly sweet with a bite to it, and with notes of vanilla, caramel, and smokiness it really ups the ante. Flavor, people, it’s all about the flavors. This goes with and on everything. You will be the hero of the holiday feast.
So if some of you are wondering if I only deem homemade candy and chocolate appropriate for the holidays, let me change things up for Day 4 of the 12 Days of Christmas. I am seriously in love with gingerbread. Peppermint is all fun and delicious but it gets a little boring. mainly because it’s EVERYWHERE and in EVERYTHING. Peppermint is like the popular girl of Christmas: totally cute and light and fun. White and Red colors! A minty freshness mixed with chocolate! Everyone loves me! Now, gingerbread is the late 20s/early 30s career lady we all aspire to be. She’s cool without being too cool, but always timeless and classy. Obviously delicious, but not overly sweet. Some people don’t like her, but she honestly doesn’t give a f*ck. There’s a cool factor with gingerbread and get on this flavor train because you won’t regret it.
This gingerbread cake is the best. Seriously. It comes from the genius of Claudia Fleming, formerly of the Gramercy Tavern, one of the most iconic restaurants in New York City. I have yet to go and experience it because it’s most definitely for grown ups and if you couldn’t tell, I’m kind of not quite there. I love gingerbread because it isn’t overly sweet but still hearty, delicious, and spicy. If you haven’t realized by now, I’m a huge fan of cooking with alcohol. Now, if you’re worried that the alcohol taste will effect the finished product, fear not. The Guinness adds a robust texture and heartiness without getting you drunk. I will say that this recipe is very finicky. Please, please, follow all directions very carefully. I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly to prevent the cake from sinking in the middle, which has happened nearly every other time I’ve made this. The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder but I decided to reduce it to 3/4 tsp which was actually perfect. My first batch was rising like a pro and then it sank down in the last five minutes. It was very sad. But this one, perfect. Perfect looking, perfect tasting. Just perfect. I’ve added my own baking notes below, which you can see in italics, to help you along the way. If you’re ready to graduate from cute holiday candy to robust, sophisticated cake, this is the one to do it. No better gingerbread will ever consume your belly.
I make fudge every year. Even before I began the foray into peppermint bark, fudge was my holiday candy jam. And why not? It’s delicious and stupid easy to make. I may be a cupcake master, but I don’t shy away from the simplest recipes for candy making. And having discovered Marshmallow Fluff at a young age (it’s a key ingredient in my moms amazing whoopie pies) I did what any typical kid would do: use the recipe on the side of the fluff jar and WOW my friends and family with amazing fudge.
But then I grew up and developed a taste for the finer things in life. Like Nutella. And combining the flavors of Nutella with the ease of making fudge around the holidays totally amped up my fudge game. This is a little more time consuming than regular chocolate fudge. You know, instead of taking 5 minutes it takes 15. But it’s definitely worth it. This fudge is a newbie to the holiday baking team but all the regulars gave him a warm welcome. The awesome power of Nutella is strong and that is so prevalent here. If you have 15 minutes of free time and want to really impress your peoples, make this fudge. Get ready for the wide-eyed fascination that occurs with with anything Nutella.
Day 2 of Little Red Mixer’s 12 Days of Christmas celebration I bring you something everyone loves. Peanut Butter Cups! Unless you are allergic to peanuts. And that just sucks. Or you could substitute peanut butter for cookie butter. Actually do that. Cookie Butter is always a good idea. But the peanut butter-and-chocolate relationship is timeless. Everlasting.
Peanut butter cups are delicious and ridiculously easy to make. It’s a little bit more of a process than peppermint bark, but just as simple. And you’ll have eaten half a dozen before you know it. You could just get a bag of Reece’s PB Cups, or those super fancy ones from fancy chocolate stores. But these are so much better. And easy peasy to make. You’ll get used to the wide-eyed expressions of wonder when you present these to friends or enemies. This recipe makes a ton of mini peanut butter cups so I made some giant ones too. If your biggest problem of the week is too many peanut butter cups (is that even a thing?) then I think you’re doing alright.
As soon as Thanksgiving is over I go into full-on, mad scientist, baking mode. I’m not even joking. I stock pile butter, chocolate, and all things peppermint and just go crazy in the kitchen. I’m one of those people that thinks homemade gifts are best. I mean, do we really need more crap in our lives? Probably not. More food stuffs? Always. If someone wants to provide me with a box of totally wanted calories, I’m not going to refuse that. This is why I’m a rower: so I can eat all the things.
So let me bring you my new series: 12 Days of Christmas Treats. I’m still eating and rating cupcakes, but I’m also baking so many things. For the next 12 days I’ll be showing you my favorite things that I make every year, without fail, and also some new additions to the list. And up first is a holiday favorite, synonymous with the holidays as The Rockefeller Tree, holiday shops in Bryant Park, or spiked hot chocolate. I do live in New York City, after all.
Peppermint Bark is the easiest thing to make because it involves 4 ingredients and also limited cooking. Actually all you need is a microwave. Or you can get all fancy and double boil this into amazing layers of pepperminty chocolate. This is always the first thing I make and ultimately have to make more because I go through half a batch before I actually get to making gift boxes for friends and family. I’m actually on my 2nd batch as we speak. I’m in love with this and you will be too.