It was one of those nice kind of Saturdays where you really don’t have a plan you necessarily need to stick by, but you make them as you go. I did decide the night before that I’d try (but not pressure myself) to get up early and out the door to do groceries before the onslaught of Christmas crowds show up. That thought alone was enough to have me out of bed and out the door at a reasonable hour. I was even able to hit the post office and be home before 9:30 a.m., no line-ups for either.
It felt good to post the last Christmas card. Or was it? I’m forever forgetting some nice person in the Christmas card extravaganza each year. Halfway through my baking today I gasped, “oh no, did I forget them?” The problem this year (and I think last year too, if my memory serves me correct, but likely doesn’t), is that I only decided to keep a list about 3/4 of the way into writing and mailing cards. So there has been a lot of, “I wonder..” going on, and I will just say now that some of you may have been among those I wonders and therefore be receiving two Christmas cards this year. And let me only hope that the rest of you at least receive one.
It was that kind of crisp, sunny afternoon that one would hope a walk in the forest would bring, but it had us a bit tied to home to receive the electrician to shed light on our front walkway on these dark winter nights. Though already knowing this was to be, we had planned an unplanned afternoon in the abode. So I baked. I used to labour and frenzy over Christmas baking and feel I needed to have at least a dozen squares done up and frozen for the “in case they drop in” guests that never actually do in this day and age as in my mother’s. Now I just bake when I feel like it. It’s a much nicer feeling.
After cranking up the Christmas music, I pulled out a sheet from our Family Fun magazine (December/January 2008) of three easily made treats we did for a church Christmas tea we hosted the first year we arrived in TN. At the time, I said to my mum over the phone that I wasn’t sure how many would show up from our wee church we’d just started going to that spring since we really didn’t know people too well yet. She gave me a heads-up warning (as an experienced hostess extra-ordinaire) to be careful about my thinking and expect the unexpected. And that’s truly what happened. Thinking maybe I’d get a handful of responses, we had over 30 ladies and girls show up at my door all outfitted in Sunday best and ready for a ladies’ and girls’ tea party.
Because I have such fond memories of my TN times, I thought I’d revisit the recipes and post some of them here for you:
Sugar Plum Drops
1/2 C raisins
1/2 C dried apricots
1/2 C chopped dates
3/4 C dried cranberries
3/4 C pecans
1 C blanched almonds
1/4 C orange juice, no pulp
1/2 C granulated or sifted confectioners’ sugar
Combine the dried fruit and nuts in a food processor and pulse until a coarse mixture. Add orange juice and pulse until mixture sticks together. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls and it says to roll in sugar but I rolled in unsweetened coconut. Refrigerate. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.
Raspberry Crumble Cakes
1 C unsalted butter at room temp
1/2 C sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C rolled oats
1/2 C chopped walnuts
1/4 raspberry jam
Oven at 375 F. Grease 9-inch square pan. Beat butter and sugar until well blended. Add flour and salt and beat just until the dough forms clumps. Don’t over mix. Flour hands then place dough on a piece of waxed paper and squeeze into a ball (the warmth of your hands will soften dough enough to hold it together). Divide dough into thirds. Crumble one third in a bowl and set aside. Combine the other two and and press into a greased pan using a spoon to smooth surface. Bake it until edges are lightly brown, about 10 mins.
While shortbread cools, mix oats and nuts into the reserved dough with your fingers until mixture is crumbly. Spread raspberry jam (it’s okay if it’s still warm), then evenly cover the jam with the crumb topping. Bake the bars until the topping is golden brown, 24 minutes (why 24? why not round off to 25 like we learn in math?). While the shortbread is still slightly warm, cut it into 16 squares, then cut each square in half diagonally. Once the triangles cool completely (remember they’re very fragile while still warm..the instruction I failed to read, leaving half of mine on a separate non photographed plate), lift them from the pan with a spatula. Makes 2 1/2 dozen
1 C butter, softened
1/2 C confectioners’ sugar
2 1/4 C flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp lemon zest(from one lemon)
1 C walnuts, finely chopped
confectioners’ sugar, to coat
Heat oven to 400 F. Cream together the butter and 1/2 C of confectioners’ sugar. Add the flour, salt, zest, and nuts, stirring until a dough forms.
Shape the dough into 1-inch balls, placing them an inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet (I use parchment paper on the cookie sheets). Bake them for 10 mins.
Allow cookies to cool slightly (not completely) and roll each one in confectioners’ sugar before transferring it to a wire rack. Roll them in sugar again (or not) once they’ve completely cooled. Makes 3 1/2 dozen.
I plan on serving these up at our mini co-op Christmas party this coming Monday. So there you have it, my often featured co-op friends, no surprises, now you know what’s being served up with the tea and apple cider on Monday. Notice there’s at least one non-sugar option there?
And to end the day of ease and enjoyable baking experience (which always helps by having others help too as you can see from the pics), I had a wee look through the Irish Tea Time recipe booklet I’ve been meaning (for a long time) to make something from. Since I knew we weren’t to touch the other goodies for a few days, I made an Almond Cake to have with our afternoon tea. What a nice treat to end the pleasant day with my favourite tea cup and saucer (one mum came across in Niagara-on-the-Lake that was the exact pattern her own mum had back in Ireland) full of Celestial’s gingerbread tea, and a bite of Almond cake.
And do you see the tea cozy on the table? There’s a great story behind that one. But I’ll leave that for another time and post.