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Last year I started a new tradition- treat boxes for the holidays. This is the time of year when people say “to hell with my diet” and dive hog wild into the sweets. I love baking sweets, but only when they’re appreciated. Nothing kills my joy more than when I offer somebody a carefully crafted homemade treat and they snatch their hand away with an “I can’t eat that, sorry.” But not this time of year. Being in the “giving spirit” also means being in the “receiving spirit.” I take advantage.
This year’s treat boxes were stuffed with an eclectic mix of goodies. I started off with Hazelnut Linzer cookies with raspberry and apricot jam (recipe inspired from here). Linzer cookies are a traditional take on the famed Austrian dessert, the Linzer torte. The cookies look like stained glass windows and are crunchy and slightly dry. The perfect accompaniment to a nice cup of herbal tea. I added crushed hazelnuts to my dough to give them a nuttier punch.
Next up were the chocolate and vanilla flavored marshmallows. Last year I made peppermint marshmallows, which were very well received. Homemade marshmallows taste so much better than store bought. They’re creamier, lighter, fluffier yet denser (an oxymoron?) than their StayPuft cousins. Every time I make them I can’t help but think of Ghostbusters and pretend that my marshmallows will expand and come to life in the form of a cute but angry monster. (Vanilla marshmallow recipe here, to make chocolate I added chocolate flavored extract instead of vanilla and coated them in a 50/50 mix of powdered sugar and powdered dark chocolate).
The most time consuming undertaking were the macarons. I still have a love/hate relationship with macarons because they’re gorgeous, and delicious, and you can come up with endless combinations, but they take patience, persistence, and the knowledge that chances are you’ll screw up a batch or two and you’ll have to make another. I took a risk this year and tried pistachio macarons (made from ground pistachios in place of some of the ground almonds) with quince buttercream and jam and a hint of cardamom. The flavor combination was all my idea and I think it worked out. I only messed up one batch this time, but I did break a few precious cookies while trying to fill them. They were beautiful though. Recipe follows below.
For the chocolate fix (every good treat box needs something chocolate), I made dark chocolate truffles with a Chambord/raspberry filling. These came out lovely. I bought some new molds just for the occasion. After freezing the Chambord centers I hand-dipped each pyramid shaped truffle in tempered Valhrona dark chocolate. Then I brushed on gold luster dust for the extra wow factor. My chocolates were divine. (Dark chocolate truffle recipe here)
Finally, white chocolate chip macademia nut cookies rounded out my box of goodies. Soft, moist, slightly under-baked gooiness.
And there you have it. 2 days of baking, 96 marshmallows, 48 Linzer cookies, 48 macarons, 48 white chocolate macadamias, and 72 hand-dipped chocolates later, I had my 24 treat boxes, complete with Sweet Peas by Tamara enclosure card. Ready to gift. ‘Tis definitely the season to indulge.