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Oct 25, 2012 04:24 AM

Lets talk about baking for the holidays

Are there certain things you bake for certain holidays?

I want to start some baking traditions. I have little kids that love to help me bake. I am going to start by making those pumpkin shaped rice krispie treats. OK so that is not really baking. But my kids love RKT. WHat things do you do?

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  1. One thing that I make for Christmas every year and that is great fun to make with children is Struffoli. This is an Italian pastry that is made from a dough containing only eggs and flour (in my version -- there are many kinds out there, but you are essentially starting with a pasta dough). The dough is mixed, allowed to rest, then flattened out and cut into strips. Here's the fun part for kids: the strips are rolled between the hands until they are long, narrow snakes. Then the snakes are cut into little pieces (about the size of the tip of your pinky) with a knife (and a table knife will do here for little kids. You do the next part -- fry the pieces in oil, and remove when brown. They will pop in the hot oil almost like popcorn. When they are all cooked, you make a mixture of half honey and half sugar, and cook until the sugar dissolves. When it does, add some cinnamon, mix that in, and pour all the cooked pieces of dough into the honey mixture, stirring to make sure all the pieces are coated. You the sprinkle some nonpareils over them, and put all the pieces onto a platter. You should try to make a conical shape with them by pressing them together with your hands. Kids love eating these and love pulling the pieces off one by one and popping them into their mouths.

    1. I used to bake intricate gingerbread houses with my grandmother when I was a child, but I haven't done that in years. Instead I've started my own traditions and always make a croquembouche for our Christmas party. The sheen of the caramel drapes is magical illuminated by Christmas lights. I would love to make vanillekipferl, hazelnut shortbread and polvorones, but I don't have the proper equipment and so end up buying these and turron every year.

      4 Replies
      1. re: JungMann

        Not sure what polvorones are, but do the first two really require special equipment?

        1. re: foiegras

          Polvorones look to be another take on Mexican Wedding Cakes and their ilk, almond version. Same with the other two - ???? I don't see a special equipment need, us out, JungMann.....

          1. re: sandylc

            I actually make many batches of vanille kipferl and hazelnut shortbread every year and my fanciest equipment is a KA mixer. Are we missing something here?

            1. re: sandylc

              Mexican Wedding Cakes are a version of polvorones, which in turn are a type of mantecado, very fragile cookies of toasted nut or grain flour mixed with just enough lard or butter to keep the cookie together. When done right it requires the most delicate fingers to undo the wrapper without crumbling the cookie. Patience is rewarded with rich, tender cookies that immediately melt on the tongue. There is a special polvoron mould that handles the dough with the proper gentleness. I've tried making them in small ramekins and other moulds before and without fault they just fall apart when I try to unmould them.

              Kipferl, I guess, don't actually require special equipment, but the hazelnut cookies I am thinking of fall in the family of Spritzgebäck and require a cookie press to make a trayful of different shapes.

        2. If everyone is back home, we make Taiwanese Sun Cakes.

          1. Thanksgiving is ALL about pie for me. Every year I think I'm going to branch out, and then every year all I want is pie.

            Christmas is another story. I still spend Christmas with my parents every year, but I don't get there until the 23rd or 24th. By that time, my mother has already done all the baking/cooking that I grew up with, although lately she has been leaving certain things until the day before so that I can help (and so there are some super-fresh treats for my sister, who doesn't arrive until the 25th and has the biggest sweet tooth of anyone I've ever met). Anyway, she (we) makes buckeyes (a peanut butter and chocolate candy from Ohio, her home state), caramels, fudge and usually one other type of candy, and then bakes a variety of cookies, including sugar cookies that are iced with buttercream and decorated with the tackiest assortment of non-pareils, dragees, sanding sugar and cinnamon candies you can imagine. : ) This was always our job as kids and it's still my job when I arrive, although I have slightly classed up the decorating job with my mad piping skillz. My niece (the first grandchild) will probably be old enough to "help" decorate this year, and I'm sure my mother and sister are looking forward to carrying on the tradition with her.

            Anyway, buckeyes and caramels are also great for kids to help with because they are labor intensive but easy - the buckeyes are a simple PB and powdered sugar dough that is rolled into balls (perfect job for kids) and then dipped in melted chocolate (also fun for kids, if you don't mind the mess). The caramels obviously require boiling sugar, which is unsuitable for young children, but once they're poured, set and cut, they need to be individually wrapped, which is a TOTALLY ANNOYING job that is perfect for little kitchen slaves. I can't tell you how many hours I spent as a kid, sitting at the counter with my dad, wrapping caramels while my mom was busy with another batch of whatever. I'm happy to post recipes if you like!

            1 Reply
            1. re: biondanonima

              Oh, yeah, the caramel wrapping. It's why I haven't made them for a few years!

            2. Make big batches of fairlt traditional holiday cookies... chocolate chips, peanut butter (with fork imprint on top), pizzelles, gingerbread (in the form of dog bones).

              When SIL first got her KA stand mixer, was RAVING about it?!? MADE me take it home on T-Day with promise that I'd return it the following weekend. I was IN LOVE!! Made 4-6 different cookie doughs in NO time with no elbow grease necessary. Stashed in freezer and thawed/baked at my leisure.