Homemade Holiday Treats Are A Treasure

IN THE KITCHEN

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Homemade gifts make a treasured treat at holiday times. Baking, decorating and sharing such things as gingerbread cookies, divinity, fudge and more with family, friends and neighbors is a delicious tradition guaranteed to spread holiday cheer.

There are decorated plastic bags, plates and boxes, foil and metal tins, jars and all sorts of other delightful containers available now to make the packaging as much fun to see as the goodies are to eat.

Gingerbread Cookies

1/3 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup molasses

1/8 cup soft butter or margarine

1/3 cup water

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Blend brown sugar, molasses, butter and water until smooth. Combine flour, baking soda and spices in a separate bowl. Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture until moistened. Form dough into one large or two smaller balls, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

When dough is ready, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough to a 1/4-inch thickness on lightly floured surface and cut into holiday shapes.

Place cookies on baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheet and place on wire racks to cool. Before decorating, cookies need to be completely cooled.

Divinity

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup water

2 egg whites

1 tablespoon almond or lemon extract

3/4 cup candied cherries (optional)

3/4 cup blanched almonds (optional)

Put the sugar, water and syrup into a saucepan. Stir it while it dissolves over heat, then let it boil without stirring to the light-crack stage or 265 degrees on a candy thermometer. While the sugar mix is cooking, beat the whites of eggs stiffly and when syrup is ready, pour it over the egg whites, beating constantly. Beat until creamy, then add extract and the optional nuts and cherries.

Using an additional half-cup of maple syrup in this recipe will make it Maple Divinity.

Chocolate Fudge

2 cups sugar

1 or 2 squares baking chocolate

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar or

2 tablespoons corn syrup

2/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons vanilla

Mix the sugar, milk, grated chocolate, cream of tartar or corn syrup and boil rather slowly, stirring until the ingredients are well blended. Boil to the soft-ball stage, or 238 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from stove, add butter, but do not stir. When mixture is lukewarm, add the vanilla and beat until the combination has a creamy texture or until the shiny appearance disappears and the fudge will hold its shape when dropped from a spoon. Spread it in a buttered pan and when it hardens, mark into squares.

Variations on Fudge

Use brown sugar, omit cream of tartar or corn syrup.

Peanut butter may be used instead of chocolate, using two tablespoons to each cup of sugar, but it should be added at the time the butter is added, after the fudge is cooked.

Nuts, including coconut, can be added, stirred in just before turning the fudge into the buttered pan.

Use orange or lemon extract instead of vanilla.

Panocha

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup nut meats

Put the sugar and milk into a saucepan and cook to the soft-ball stage, or to 238 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from stove, add butter and vanilla, and cool without stirring. When it is lukewarm, beat until it is creamy. Stir in the broken nut meats. Pour into buttered pan and when it hardens mark into squares.

Maple Pralines

2 cups sugar

2/3 cup milk

1 cup maple syrup

2 cups pecan meats

Boil the sugar, milk and maple syrup until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage or 238 degrees on a candy thermometer. When it is lukewarm, beat until it is creamy and then stir in the pecans. Drop on buttered paper from the tip of a spoon, making little mounds.

Caramels

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup cream or condensed milk

Cook the ingredients, except the vanilla, to the stiff-ball stage or 246 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from the stove, add the vanilla and pour into a buttered pan. When it is cold, turn it out of the pan and cut into squares.

The absolute most fun I have ever had at Christmas was one year when most of my mother’s family was all together at our Grandma and Grandpa Odell’s and we made taffy. My mother, grandparents and uncles called it California Boss, though I never did think to ask why. I did not get a copy of the recipe either. I just remember that there was a ton of the stuff and once it was cool enough to handle the adults buttered up their hands and pulled it into a thick rope, doubled it over a couple of times and then hung it on a hay hook that had been put into the wall in the dining room. Next, everyone buttered their hands and started pulling, there was so much of it, we had it pulled all the way across the house into the living room a couple of times.

I don’t know if this is the recipe that was used, but it sounded like a good substitute at any rate.

White Taffy

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon glycerin

2 1/2 tablespoons vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon or vanilla extract

Boil the sugar, water, glycerin and vinegar to the hard-ball stage, 260 degrees. Add flavoring. Pour onto a greased platter. When cool enough to handle, pull until very white, stretch into a long rope and cut into short pieces.

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