When our sons were growing up, selecting a fragrant, tabletop-size Christmas tree was an annual tradition. It was “Mommy’s tree.”
We would place it on a small table in the kitchen bay window, which faced the street, and adorn it with tiny white lights, culinary-inspired ornaments, and copper-colored glass balls.
Each evening, as soon as twilight set in, I would light the tree, knowing it would bring a smile to passersby, while lending its cheerful glow to our kitchen. Long after everyone else went to bed, holiday music and the tree kept me company while I baked late into the nights.
Ask anyone – I’ve always had a passion for baking, but never more than during the month of December.
Right after Thanksgiving, I stock my pantry with flour, sugar, chocolate, and sprinkles in every hue, and take inventory of my spice cabinet to ensure I have a fresh supply of whole nutmegs, ground cloves and ginger, and Saigon cinnamon.
The latter is more pungent than everyday cinnamon, makes a noticeable difference in the spicy, holiday flavors we all love, and is available in the spice aisle of most supermarkets.
Homemade treats make a thoughtful gift for neighbors and friends, and for our families, they’re part of what makes the holidays memorable.
When I recall Christmases long past, I always think of my grandmother Henrietta’s eggnog pie, and butter cookies with a delicate flavor I can still taste, but cannot replicate no matter how many times I try.
I’m also reminded of my grandmother Kathryn’s paper-thin, spicy gingerbread cookies and the anise-flavored Swiss Springerle cookies she served each Christmas, which inspired the Springerle cookies I bake and ship to family and friends each year.
Chocolate is a special tradition from my kitchen – dark chocolate cakes covered in rich, chocolate ganache or a thick layer of creamy buttercream frosting, butter cookies dipped in chocolate and garnished with nuts or multi-colored sprinkles, and handmade chocolate coconut truffles flavored with Grand Marnier or cognac.
One taste, and no one would guess these gorgeous chocolate confections are an easy, one-bowl, microwave recipe.
It starts with bittersweet chocolate chips, melted in the microwave. After stirring in a few simple ingredients, the mixture is rolled into balls, coated with sprinkles, and chilled until ready to serve. Tucked into clear cellophane bags or tiny boxes tied with gold ribbon, they’re an elegant, decadent gift-from-the-kitchen.
Merry Christmas and the Happiest of Holidays from my kitchen to yours!
For additional recipes and entertaining tips, please visit christyrost.com or follow Christy Rost on Facebook and Twitter @ChristyRost.
• 1 12-ounce package bittersweet chocolate chips
• ¾ cup sweetened condensed milk
• 2 ½ tablespoons Grand Marnier, optional
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• dash of salt
• 3 cups sweetened flaked coconut
• 1 ¼ cups chocolate or white sprinkles
• 1 tablespoon butter
Place chocolate chips in a large microwave-safe bowl and heat 1½ minutes at 50 percent power. Stir, heat 1 minute more at 50 percent power, and stir again. If the chocolate has not melted completely, heat 15-30 seconds more at 50 percent power.
Remove the bowl from the microwave and place it on a towel or potholder to keep the chocolate warm. Quickly add condensed milk, Grand Marnier, vanilla, and salt, and stir until well blended. Fold in the coconut, one cup at a time, until it is thoroughly combined.
Pour the sprinkles into a shallow bowl. With buttered hands, roll teaspoons of chocolate mixture into 1-inch balls; then roll them in the sprinkles. Place truffles on a tray lined with parchment or waxed paper, and chill several hours or until they are firm.
To serve, place truffles in foil or paper petit four cups. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 10 days.
Yield: 45 truffles