I luv the holiday season and all the hustle and bustle, crazy mad dashes to the mall for last minute gifts, discovering new on-line shops (luv Etsy!!!), decorating the house with holiday treasures collected through the years, baking up sweet treats to share with family and friends, and listening to all my favorite holiday music. Luv luv luv the original recording of A Charlie Brown Christmas and have lost count on how many times I’ve replayed it these past few days.
One holiday tradition I started when my children were small, was making a pot of my fireside chocolate to sip on while we decorated the tree and again on Christmas morning as I traded in my boring cup of coffee for a steaming one of rich, frothy hot chocolate, while watching on with delight as my children with their still sleep-filled eyes, unwrapped their gifts and discovered those brought to them by Santa.
For some unexplained reason this season, the chocolate goodness has become a necessity rather than a treat and I can’t seem to get enough of the stuff! Every year, I change up our selection of sweets by trying a new cookie recipe or two. But with Christmas less than a week away, I’ve yet to bake my favorite traditional sugar cookie recipe, let alone try any new ones so I went for the obvious. I decided to make each cup of my fireside chocolate a little more special and am now topping them with homemade marshmallows. Oh my goodness… who knew these little puffs of sugary, sticky sweetness, melting just so… could for a little while anyway… make all the bad stuff just go away!
Taking them a step further, I dipped them in decadent melted chocolate and added a light sprinkling of crushed candy canes adapted from a recipe for chocolate peppermint marshmallow pops.
Nestled in festive mini cupcake papers and tucked into a gift box wrapped with a pretty ribbon, make for a perfect sweet treat for a special someone or two. I sent a few to my adorable niece Shannon and nephew JD and I’m sure they will appreciate their yummy goodness. I will definitely be making up another batch of marshmallows for our next family gathering and can’t wait to see how they will taste in s’mores!!!
For a creamier hot chocolate, whole milk is combined with half-and-half, but it is just as tasty with 2% percent or non-fat milk, and a good quality cocoa powder is desired for a rich, chocolatey flavor.
For the chocolate shavings: lay down a piece of waxed paper, and using the small side of a metal grater, gently rub a piece of chocolate back and forth for the desired amount of shavings. Do not touch shavings with your hands as they will start to melt from the warmth. Lift the waxed paper and fold in each side towards the middle, and gently shake the shavings onto the whipped cream topping.
recipe: homemade marshmallows adapted from the Barefoot Contessa yield: 20-4o marshmallows
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
1 1/2 cups Bakers’s sugar (or granulated is fine too)
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
non-stick cooking spray
Place the cold water into the bowl of an electric mixer, add the gelatin and allow to dissolve while preparing the syrup mixture.
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer, approximately 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Using an electric mixture with the whisk attachment, turn the mixer on to low speed and slowly add the syrup mixture to the dissolved gelatin mixture. Once all the syrup has been added, increase the mixer speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture is very thick, about 13-15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping.
While the mixture is whipping, lightly spray an 8 by 12-inch glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. With a sieve, generously dust the bottom and sides with confectioners’ sugar making sure all areas of the pan are coated. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, and using a lightly oiled spatula, smooth the top spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with more confectioners’ sugar to lightly cover. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight, until it dries out.
When the top surface is dry to the touch, turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board. Use a knife (or pizza wheel) dusted with confectioners’ sugar and cut the marshmallows into the desired size. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with more confectioners’ sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
recipe: fireside chocolate yield: 6 cups
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup water
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-3 cinnamon sticks or 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
whipped cream (optional)
In a medium-sized saucepan, mix the cocoa, sugar, and salt with 1/2 cup water. At medium heat, boil gently for 2-3 minutes, frequently scraping the sides and bottom of the pan. Add the milk and and heat slowly until just to the boiling point. Reduce heat to low, stir in the vanilla extract, add the cinnamon sticks and simmer for 30 minutes. To add froth, beat with an electric mixer for 30 seconds careful not to splatter as chocolate will be hot! Pour into cups and top with whipped cream or homemade marshmallows. Cheers!