Monday, December 29, 2008

Baking Up Some Holiday Spirit

I know the timeliness of this post is a little late, but my friend Carann just sent me some photos from our baking extravaganza before Christmas, and I thought I'd share them so you, too, could marvel at our extreme domesticity.

A little background info first. The baking was done at Carann's soon to be aunt-in-law's kitchen in North Center Chicago. The kitchen was HUGE and wonderful, but started to seem smaller and smaller with every sugar-coated tray going in or coming out of the oven. There were four of us and we each brought and made at least three recipes.

My contributions included Snowball Surprises (aka oreo truffle balls), Snickerdoodles and my now famous Spiced Pecans (the base recipe for which I got from Andy's Aunt Lisa. Thanks, Lisa!)

Don't mind the laser beams shooting out of Molly's eyes. She's part robot.

(Or I might just be too lazy to do some red-eye editing. You decide. I personally think the robot thing is much cooler.)

Isn't that kitchen pretty? I'm getting more and more into cooking/baking and resent my small kitchen and non-existent counter space with every new recipe.

This was the cookie table taking over the dining room when we were only about 1/3 of the way through. Yeah, it was a LOT of cookies.

This is Carann and Me with her giant ball of chocolate chip cookie dough. She also made the biggest mound of sugar cookie dough that was about 5 times that size. By the end of the day we'd rolled out and decorated close to 100 sugar cookies alone. Whew!

My pecans were the last thing to go in since they needed to be baked at a lower temperature.

It was an incredibly fun and tiring day of baking that was capped off by us all heading to Pat and Carann's place where the gentleman had all made dinner for us bakers. Chili, cornbread and an apple, walnut and goat cheese salad (Andy can even make a salad interesting.) were waiting for us after all the treats had been bagged up and ready for delivery to neighbors and coworkers.

I never really get to cook or bake around the holidays because we're always traveling. That afternoon with these lovely ladies, listening to Christmas music and discussing the true nature of some carols (I now can't listen to "Baby It's Cold Outside" without thinking of date rape) really brought the holidays to Chicago for me this year.

Thanks to AP, Molly and Carann for adding a little more merry and a lot more sugar to my Christmas this year.

I'll leave you with the spiced pecan recipe since it's such a crowd pleaser and pretty much the easiest thing I've ever made.

Spiced Candied Pecans

1 lb pecans
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 300 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In large mixing bowl: 1 egg white and 1 tablespoon water, beat until soft or stiff peaks form. Add 1 pound pecans, stir until all pecans are wet.

3. In another bowl combine sugar, salt and spices. Mix together and pour over pecans, stir well. Add dash of vanilla if desired. Spread on prepared baking sheet and bake for 30-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

4. Let cool to harden and enjoy!

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