Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Will Make it Feel Like Christmas!!

Being a New Yorker in California is proving to be a surreal experience during my first Christmas here.  Today (December 15th) was in the mid 50’s and just a few days ago we were inching towards 70, not only is the thought of snow a joke but Rob actually donned his shorts last week!  I did not realize how much weather told time for me until I moved here to Sacramento where the weather does not match the time that my body expects it to.   Christmas is only ten days away and judging by the weather it feels as if I still have another month or so.   I can only imagine that it will take a few years of living here to really get used to this, and I may never get all the way there. 

This is my fourth Christmas working in retail and for those of you that have had the pleasure of this experience you know that it changes the way that you view, and feel about, the holidays.  Not only do I get to see the more unpleasant sides of this time of year (I lost count of how many angry/disappointed people I had to tell that the Mark Twain bio was sold out today) but I am also overworked and exhausted.  This leads to a real lack of interest in holiday festivities. 

This year it is only my husband and I on the holidays, a first ever, so I am a little worried about becoming melancholy.  I am trying to counter this by finding holiday things that work around our crazy schedules and are forgiving of our energy level.  Thanks to Google I was able to find out where the best neighborhoods are to drive around to see Christmas lights, and this handy site has told where I can watch all my favorite holiday movies. 

We have also decided to do a bunch of holiday baking and candy making which has been fun and has the best rewards at the end.  This week has been pretty hectic with both jobs overlapping and Rob and I sharing the car, so today demanded some more relaxing baking.  We decided to make Peppermint Bark and Salted Caramels, the main component of each consisting of us standing side by side at the stove stirring and watching our pots bubble merrily away.  I am sorry to say I can’t think of any books that really focused on candy making, if you can come up with some let me know! 

I have made caramels once before, so this time I knew that I would be standing and stirring for quite a while.  My first time around I was so sure I was doing it wrong and the stupid line on the candy thermometer refused to budge.  Caramels are not something that you make often, they are time consuming, but if you only make them once in a while the pleasure of the finished product is more than worth it.  My first time around I used a recipe from Mark Bittman’s, How to Cook Everything, but since my cookbook is still packed away this time I used a recipe from the blog The Comfort of Cooking (please read my update before following this recipe, you can thank me later).  These are taking forever to cool and it is pretty late so I am not going to get to try them until tomorrow.  I really hope they came out good, since I didn’t get to use the recipe that I know works great and Caramels can be such a finicky candy.  I will let you know in the next day or so. 

I have never made Peppermint Bark, and though I feel like I must have at some point, I can’t remember having ever eaten it either.  While ringing customers out I overheard someone ask my coworker if we sold peppermint bark, he told them that we didn’t and, being a foodie himself, proceeded to tell them how easy it is to make them.  I don’t know if those customers took his advice but I did, and I can happily say this is one of the easiest holiday treats I have ever made.   Though I pretty much went word for word from my coworker’s description, I did use this recipe as a back up.  These are all finished and taste great, though I think next time I will add peppermint extract just for the extra kick. 

This weekend I have a little more time on my hands so I am looking forward to doing some actual baking ( and hopefully more blogging).  I hope you are all enjoying the buildup to the holiday season, and you are all treating your retail workers kindly!! 

Do you have recipes that you only make during the holidays, or treats that you look forward to all year?


OK, so I really hope none of you have attempted to make Salted Caramels from the recipe link that I gave you because if you did you would have ended up with a half hardened very sticky mass of caramel.  I should have double checked with another recipe because the temp did seem a little low, but I thought what do I know I have only made caramels once.  Well, once was enough to know that cooking the caramel to 225F on your candy thermometer is not going to do you much good when what you want to cook it to is 250F.

I took it in stride though, and did not let it ruin my spirit.  Instead I covered my hands and arms in caramel as I attempted to remove the wax paper backing from the caramel so that I could cook it again.  I won't tell you how long that little endeavor took me, just trust me that you are glad you read this before making your caramels. Now my second attempt is cooling in the fridge (minus about a quarter of the original caramel).  If this attempt does not work out I throw in the towel until next year. 

I recommend finding the recipe for caramels in Mark Bittmans cookbook, like I did my first time around.  That batch came out so perfectly I feel as if now I will never make them that good again. 

1 comment:

  1. The pictures look good enough to eat! I read an article in the paper about a new cookbook, The Flying Pans...let me know if you read it:)