Brighten Your Holiday with Complex Flavors

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The holidays are for enjoying the small pleasures that come once a year, and there are none sweeter than homemade goodies, baked or brewed. By using a multitude of flavors in your Christmas recipes, you’ll wow your friends, family and co-workers alike.

 

Fruitcake, the French Way

Fruitcakes are traditional gifts around the holidays, but so often get overlooked and go stale on your kitchen counter. To spice things up, try pain d'epices, fruitcake's sophisticated French cousin. The holiday spice bread marries gingerbread, dried fruit and toasted nuts for an elegant, yet rustic take on the classic.

Warm Up with Mulled Wine

A mug of mulled wine makes for a warm blend of sweetness, spice and citrus, perfect to snuggle up with as you watch the snow fall outside. Combine red or white wine, cider, cinnamon, citrus, cloves, star anise and honey (or another sweetener of your choice) in a saucepan on your range or cooktop, then boil, serve and enjoy.

Big Flavor in Small Bites

Since the holidays are full of big meals and heavy dishes, bite sized treats are always a nice way to explore new, unexpected flavor combinations. For results that are anything but cookie cutter, try these tray-served delicacies.

Coconut Lime Snowball Cookies

Ingredients

8 oz unsalted butter, softened

½ cup powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp lime juice

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tbsp lime zest

½ tsp salt

1 cup sweetened coconut flakes, toasted

1 ½ cups powdered sugar for rolling

How to make it

Using an electric hand or stand mixer, beat softened butter in a large bowl until creamy. Add in ½ cup powdered sugar, mixing gradually, along with vanilla and lime juice. Beat until combined. Slowly add flour, lime zest, and salt, mixing until just combined. Gently mix in toasted coconut. Cover dough and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 and position rack in the center of the oven. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone nonstick baking mat. Scoop and roll chilled dough into balls about 1 inch in size. Place them on baking sheet, 1 inch apart from each other. Bake for 14-18 minutes, until cookies are golden brown on bottom and pale on top.

Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Put remaining powdered sugar in a bowl and roll warm cookies in the sugar to evenly coat. Cool completely, then roll in powdered sugar again. Garnish with slivers of lime zest.

Yield: 2 to 3 dozen cookies

Chef's notes: Coconut flakes can be carefully toasted in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, until they turn a light golden brown.

Dark Chocolate Salted Peanut Butter Truffles

Ingredients

1 cup 100% natural smooth peanut butter

4 tablespoons pure maple syrup

½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt

6 tablespoons crisp rice cereal

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

1/2 tablespoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon flaked sea salt

How to make it

Make sure your natural peanut butter is blended (the oil is not floating on top of the peanut butter) before using. In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter and maple syrup. Mix with an electric mixer for 30-60 seconds. The mixture will begin to thicken up into a fudge-like texture.

Add the sea salt and stir in the cereal. Shape the mixture into 15-20 small balls.

Combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring in between, until just melted.

Use a fork to dip the balls into the melted chocolate. Place the chocolate covered ball on a plate or cutting board lined with parchment paper. Place the tray in the freezer for around 6-8 minutes until mostly firm.

Dip a fork into the leftover melted chocolate and drizzle it on top of the balls to create swirl design and top with a few pieces of flaky sea salt.

Place the balls in the freezer for another 10-15 minutes, until the chocolate is completely set.

Store the peanut butter truffles in an airtight container or in the refrigerator.

Chef's notes: This recipe will only work when using 100% natural peanut butter. The label on your jar of peanut butter should only contain roasted peanuts (and maybe salt). The no-stir kinds of peanut butter are made with additional oil and sugar will not set up properly.

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