‘Tis The Holiday Baking Season

I really don’t mind spending countless hours, alone, in my kitchen making my Christmas goodies for family and friends.  I should have started this project in November yet, but I did some traveling.   And with that “almost-winter” traveling, there’s a price to pay…climate changes and voila, “bugs” easily overpowered my body defenses.  Oh no!  Oh yes, poor me.  Rest, drink plenty of fluids, and heed the doctor’s advice — no baking, lol!

The very moment I won over the “bugs” a la Petra Kvitova garnering almost all the awards of the tennis season (now you know I am addicted to pro women’s tennis matches), I must, do my best to complete the giveaway treats first in 2 days, package them and ship without delay.   2 days to do:  coconut macaroons, mango bars, Ube crinkles, brownie butter bites, mamon tostado and food for the Gods, really, really!  I would have loved to add more to my array of 2011 holiday sweets, but I just didn’t want to get overwhelmed and get sick again.

Food for the Gods

This is one very popular Christmas bakery item with Filipinos.   A date and nut bar with lots of extras — molasses or honey (I add both), coarsely chopped walnuts, chopped pitted dates, and a nice booze addition of brandy (I didn’t happen to have one so I use Brugal’s Anejo rum).   The secret to making this moist and chewy:  Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes, then lower temperature to 300 F for 30 to 45 minutes or until completely baked.  Back home, they wrap the bars first in gold-colored aluminum foil and then in cellophane.  Would be lots to do, so I just opted to wrap in cellophane.  Trimmed edges to fit in the cellophane squares…and glad to enjoy them later, oh sooo moist..so chewy…what a treat!

Brownie Butter Squares or Bites

Baked butter cookie dough for the first layer and then spread “boxed brownie” batter on top of slightly cooled butter cookie layer and baked again.  You can use your favorite butter cookie recipe and just keep an eye on baking time so as not to burn the cookie layers.   To cut them in squares, use a chef’s knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry before cutting.

Coconut Macaroons

This is a Filipino-style coconut macaroons, not the French macarons or the American macaroons using only eggwhites.  Loaded with extras:  butter, sweetened condensed milk and grated cheddar cheese.  Small muffin pans lined with paper cups (available online from craft stores) are used.   For a nice finish, you may also drizzle chocolate glaze on top.  I sometimes flavor my macaroons with pandan.

Mango Bars

This is one of my favorite Christmas treats.  Philippine dried mangoes and peanuts are sprinkled all over the baked shortbread crust before spreading the delicious brown sugar topping.   Use an electric knife to cut these into squares and then wrap in cellophane.

Mamon Tostado (Toasted Sponge Cake)

This is really biscotti Philippine-style, it is twice-baked…but instead of baking a butter cake, a sponge cake with melted butter added is baked.   I use the Goldilock’s clone mamon recipe that you can obtain online.   For the orange and lemon extracts, only use Nielsen Massey flavoring extracts that you can buy from King Arthur Flour Company (from time to time, the company announces free shipping, so keep an eye on it.  I love free shipping!).

Ube Crinkles

If you don’t care much about ube (purple yam), then bake instead chocolate crinkles.   Recipe formulation is pretty simple, just like a cookie dough that you chill first for about half an hour and then form into balls using a small ice cream scooper.  Careful not to overbake these yummy cookies.   A pack of Ube powder (available from Oriental stores) is added to the crinkles dough for that authentic Ube flavor.   Ube color is difficult to achieve without adding more violet food color (either powder or liquid) .

And these Christmas goodies are traveling as I post this to — Sugarland (Texas), Las Vegas (Nevada) and San Francisco (Calif).   Status: Shipped (my job’s done!).

And  lastly, one simple tip to remember —  Make sure cookies are cooled completely before wrapping or packaging them.

No Fruitcakes mentioned — really!



Fresh Mango (Loco) Bars

Fresh Mango Bars

I found some ripe Philippine mangoes in the produce section…bright yellow mangoes, both sweet and tart enough to make a big difference in my homemade mango bars.

I started with a basic mango bar recipe…shortbread crust, snipped dried mangoes, coarsely chopped nuts and an egg custard mixture for the binder.

I wasn’t too certain about the outcome with incorporating mango curd into the custard, but I went ahead just the same, with high high hopes for a wonderfully yummy end result.

It baked nicely and really turned out to be a “winner” of a baked recipe.   It’s mango loco feeling!

Use an electric knife to cut into bars or squares.

Note on mangoes…Mangoes should smell sweet and be fairly firm when gently pressed.  To hasten ripening of mangoes, place the mangoes in a paper bag and let them ripen at room temperature for some days.

2010 Holiday Goodies

I can tolerate holiday shopping, even last-minute trips to the mall, but only if, and only if, I’m buying myself or my hubby a Christmas present (call it exchange gifts, and we always shop together, so no surprise at all, but gift is a gift!).

For friends or family gifts, my kitchen, particularly my oven, will take care of the “gifts from the kitchen” holiday treats. Last year, my gift bags included lime snowballs, diva divine brownies, tarts and premium ensaimada. They all enjoyed my “freshly baked and really-homemade” baking creations and they all look forward to the 2011 repertoire.

TARTS: ube, nangka and pineapple

Lime Snowballs

Diva divine brownies

Mmmm, I just love giving away premium ensaimada, tender and “just-the-right-amount-of-sweetness” brioche buns topped with buttercream and grated cheddar cheese. A total of 12 whole eggs goes into one batch of this premium sweet bread dough, coiled and baked till just puffy and crust turns light brown.

Premium ensaimada (Sweet Bread)

And pairing the sweet buns with: (1) “disappearing-fast mango bars” with dried Philippine mango bits and chopped peanuts and (2) melts-in-the-mouth cookies (really really melts away!).

And this year, I got to make a “CelebrEATy Calendar”, sweet.


Happy Holidays to all!