|Red Stag Hunting in Scotland|
Being a woman on a budget with a four-slot toaster already in my kitchen, my mind is not on this kind of sport, instead I'm intent on trophies of another sort—those that come from the stove to give as gifts for family and friends. My pursuit of the best holiday baked goods is helped along by the ancient wisdom found in favorite cookbooks, on Web sites, blogs, and word-of-mouth, one woman to the next.
For a modern-day guide designed to help those interested in baking holiday treats to give as gifts, check out the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board’s new seasonal blog. It includes recipes for homemade treats and packaging ideas. A collection of guest food bloggers and baking enthusiasts from across the country also have posted some of their own tasty concoctions, along with several new recipes from America ’s dairy farmers, including:
• Penuche Pumpkin Cakes – Rich pumpkin cake topped with buttery penuche fudge and pecans, half candy, half cake. Bake in individual jars, jazz up with a festive ribbon and a label – one of several free downloads available on the blog.
• Smoked Almond Chocolate Shortbread—A rich, buttery crust topped with California almonds, a dense fudge-like chocolate and a sprinkling of coarse-ground sea salt. Shortbread is the unofficial dish of Scotland. (No. It's not haggis!)
Servings: Makes about 75 caramels
2 cups apple cider
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon apple pie spice*
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cubed
Freshly ground cinnamon or course sea salt (optional)
* If you cannot find apple pie spice, substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon allspice.
Pour cider into small saucepan and simmer over medium heat until reduced to 1/3 cup; approximately 35 to 40 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Line 8-inch square pan with buttered parchment paper or aluminum foil. In small bowl, combine heavy cream, salt, apple pie spice, cinnamon and reduced cider; set aside.
In large, heavy-bottom saucepan, combine sugar and corn syrup. Cook over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Insert candy thermometer and simmer until syrup reaches 234°F.
Remove from heat, remove thermometer and very slowly whisk in cream mixture (mixture will foam and may spatter). Add cubed butter and stir or whisk until cream and butter are fully incorporated. Return pan to heat, reinsert thermometer and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until temperature reaches 250°F.
Remove from heat and pour caramel into prepared pan; let mixture cool slightly, then sprinkle with freshly ground cinnamon or sea salt, if desired. Cool completely at room temperature or refrigerate until set. Once set, remove caramel from pan lifting out by parchment paper or foil. Cut caramel into 3/4-inch squares. Wrap each piece in small wax paper square, twisting at each end. Store caramels in airtight container in cool place or refrigerate up to 2 weeks.
Visit the blog at TheGiftofGoodness.com and Web site ButterIsBest.com (Whether butter is best is debatable every month of the year, except December when it's totally OK!) to find more holiday cookie and candy recipes.