Last week was exhausting. Here is what worked:
Mexican Chocolate Crinkle Cookies - Phenomenal. Not just as in "we both know I'm a phenomenal dancer." The best cookie I've made in a long time. Better than World Peace Cookies. Seriously. When I made those I couldn't stop eating the dough, but these are better.
Lebkuchen were wonderful as well, but very complicated. It cemented its status as something that is the quintessential Christmas cookie (say that twelve times fast). Using all kinds of holiday spices, it is finicky enough that you're a better woman than me if you're willing to make them for just any old weekday. And we all know I'm willing to make just about anything for any old weekday. One of my taste testers said they reminded him of German stollen, but in cookie form. Another, who lived in Germany and has had The Real Deal, was impressed by them, knowing the work that they require.
Fudge was great, a little on the skinny side.
I was happy with just about everything I made. Especially the mexican crinkle cookies. Wow. Look for that recipe here sometime soon - as soon as I bake some more and have them pose for me.
The marshmallows had a great flavor, but their texture was a little funny. Because I added actual pumpkin puree to the meringue-candy base, they were wetter and less springy than a person expects from a marshmallow. They got consumed, no worries there. My brain began to wander... how to make hot chocolate's perfect companion a little fancier. With peppermint.
Adding peppermint oil to the marshmallows makes them ideally suited for your warm mug and fireplace winter routine. If I get my act together next year, they will accompany me to Christmas, wherever I am.
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my home to yours (maybe I should make this a permalink or something).
stand mixer with whisk attachment or hand mixer
kitchen scissors or your favorite cutting tool
2 Tablespoons corn syrup (get over it, you gotta use it to make candy)
about 3/4 cup corn or potato starch for dusting the marshmallows
1/4 cup powdered sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract (go easy, you don't want this to taste like a breath mint)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup cold water
2 1/4 oz. packets unflavored gelatin
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 egg whites
Line the 9" square baking pan with parchment paper. If you're using the powdered sugar, sift together with corn starch. Cover the bottom with about a third of the mixture, reserving the rest for later.
Add 1/3 cup of the water and sugar to a medium saucepan over medium-medium low heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. Let boil without stirring until mixture reaches hard ball stage (265F).
Meanwhile, dissolve the gelatin in the remaining water, and begin to whip the eggs on medium high speed. The timing should be such that your egg whites are glossy, just forming stiff peaks as your sugar mixture reaches the desired temperature. I know, its tricky. You may have to change heat settings or mixer settings if you notice one progressing ahead of the other. Just when the sugar mixture is approaching 265F, throw the gelatin mixture in the microwave for 15 seconds to liquify it. Once it reaches 265F, remove the mixture from the stove. Now, turn your beaters down to medium speed. Add the sugar mixture, then add the gelatin mixture. Beat for three additional minutes to fully combine. Add the peppermint and vanilla and beat until combined.
Pour the fluffy stuff into the prepared pan, just barely touching up the top with a spatula. Use about half of what remains of the corn starch mixture to sprinkle over top. Let set uncovered for at least 3 hours or up to twelve.
When marshmallows are set, gently pull parchment paper from the sides to loosen them from the pan. Using kitchen scissors, cut into 1" strips, cubes, diamonds, whatever shape you want for that matter, rolling in whatever remains of your starch-sugar mixture. To store: they keep well in a cool dry place. Marshmallows will absorb whatever liquid is around, and their texture changes accordingly. That said, they are more difficult to make when its raining. They keep fine uncovered on my kitchen counter-They might get a teeny bit harder on the outside, but I really couldn't tell much texture change. Apparently the humidity in my kitchen is just perfect for marshmallows.
*It can be done without a thermometer, if you're willing to put in the work. To test your mixture, drop a small amount of it in a glass of cold water. Now remove it. What does it feel like? Can it be rolled between your fingers? Does it completely retain its shape regardless of the effort you put forth to smoosh it? In this instance, you're looking for hard-ball stage. This means the small peice you drop in the water will be somewhat pliable, but you will have to put a good amount of pressure on it. It is as the name implies, a hard ball.