With Christmas right around the corner everyone is decorating houses, wrapping presents, baking cookies and so many more festive, fun thing! Even though I am personally Jewish and do not celebrate Christmas I love making tons of treats in honor of the “most wonderful time of the year” with friends and family!
My top two favorite desserts that I am going to share with you is gingerbread cookies and houses and peppermint bark. I love the crunchy goodness of these delicious
First is gingerbread cookies and houses! The tradition of gingerbread houses began in Germany after the Brothers Grimm published their collection of German fairy tales in the early 1800s. One of these tales was the story of Hansel and Gretel. They were children left to starve in the forest, who came upon a house made of bread and sugar. The hungry children feasted on its treats. After the fairy tale was published, German bakers began baking houses containing ginger and employed other people to decorate them. The houses and gingerbread cookies became very popular during Christmas.
While you can buy gingerbread houses in a box in many different stores here is the recipe for gingerbread cookies below…
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup shortening, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the shortening, molasses, brown sugar, water, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, until they are completely absorbed. Divide dough into 3 pieces, pat down to 1 1/2 inch thickness, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 inch apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. When the cookies are done, they will look dry, but still be soft to the touch. Remove from the baking sheet to cool on wire racks. When cool, the cookies can be frosted with the icing of your choice.
Now I am going to share all about peppermint bark! While the treat itself does not have a history of why we eat it on christmas there is a little connection between the two. The peppermint (a blend of red and white) on the bark represent the colors of a candy cane. Then there is a huge history of why we eat candy canes. This is absolutely one of my favorite treats because of the crunch and sweetness it bring to my mouth!
- 12 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
- 1 pound good-quality white chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 candy canes or 12 round hard peppermint candies, crushed
- Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil
- Heat 1 inch of water in a saucepan over low heat until steaming.
- Put all but 3/4 cup of the semisweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the saucepan of steaming water (do not let the bowl touch the water) and stir until one-third of the chocolate is melted. Remove the bowl from the saucepan; keep the steaming water over low heat. Gradually stir the reserved 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate into the bowl, a few pieces at a time, until all of the chocolate is melted.
- Wipe off any moisture from the bottom of the bowl. Stir 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract into the chocolate, then quickly pour into the prepared baking dish and spread in an even layer. Firmly tap the dish against the counter to remove any air bubbles. Set aside at room temperature until almost set, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, put all but 1 cup of the white chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and repeat the melting process over the steaming water; dry off the bottom of the bowl. Stir in the remaining 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract; pour over the semisweet chocolate and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle immediately with the crushed candy canes, gently pressing them into the white chocolate. Set aside at room temperature until firm, about 1 hour. Lift the bark out of the pan using the foil and break it into pieces.
Almost merry christmas and enjoy your holiday break!!