I can't recommend the winter bark enough--it's as simple as melting chocolate and it is really tasty. From my few experiences with making chocolate bark, my observation is that the quality of the finished product lies completely with the quality of the ingredients. I know, this is true of all cooking, but since there are so few ingredients in this treat, it makes all the difference. You can find the recipe and cute packaging ideas here. Yum. I bought the big pound of bittersweeet chocolate with almonds at Trader Joe's, and left out the peanuts. The almonds and dark chocolate make it a very healthy option for Christmastime snacking. Right? right.
I made a variety of Christmas cookies. I didn't venture into any new recipes, but just the tried and true, soft, tasty, I-want-to-eat-a-whole-batch sort of cookies.
I made Ina Garten's Outrageous Chocolate Cookies:
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped [I use chocolate chips]
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat chopped chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl in 20-second increments, stirring in between, until almost melted; do not overheat. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla on high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; beat in melted chocolate. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks.
3. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 to 3 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are shiny and crackly yet soft in the centers, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheets 10 minutes; with a thin metal spatula, transfer to racks to cool completely
*Don't worry if the batter seems thin. It should look more like brownie batter than cookie dough.
Here is a great chocolate chip cookie recipe. I use 1/2 cup shortening and 1/2 cup butter, rather than doing 1 cup butter. The cookies firm up a bit better. It's a winner.
And, finally, here is my mom's trustworthy gingerbread people and gingerbread house dough recipe:
1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
1 cup molasses
1/2 cup hot water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger
5 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Cream together sugar and shortening. Beat in molasses and egg. Add the hot water.
2. Sift together dry ingredients and gradually add to the wet mixture; at the end, I always end up using my hands to mix this together.
3. Form dough into 3 large balls, wrapping them in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to use them.
4. Bake at 350 degrees, 6-8 minutes for gingerbread mean and a little more for larger pieces, or until lightly browned.
Here's her Royal Icing recipe, which is great glue to hold together gingerbread houses:
3 egg whites (room temperature)
3 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
1. Combine and beat at a high speed for 7-10 minutes. This dries very quickly, so keep covered with a damp cloth.