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    Chocolate Graham Cracker Toffee Bark

    Do you ever just read the name of a recipe and know it was a recipe that just had to be made? For me, this treat was one of these recipes. This has now been put into the folder of recipes I always make for Christmas, and deservedly so!

    Very, very simple. Just 5 ingredients. Quick to throw together. Perfect for shipping. And, most importantly, YUMMMMMY!

    • 11 whole honey graham crackers, broken into squares
    • 1 C unsalted butter (2 sticks)
    • 1 C sugar
    • 1/2 C finely chopped pecans
    • 1 to 2 C chocolate chips

    NOTE:   I used walnuts. It’s what I already had.

    Before you begin, preheat your oven to 350.

    Arrange the Graham crackers in a single layer in a 15×10 baking sheet with edges.

    NOTE 1: I know putting in the words with edges seems dumb … but just imagine what a disaster it would be to use a baking sheet without edges and making a huge mess of your oven and burning yourself. You really don’t want me to live with that guilt, do you?

    NOTE 2: So you have 22 squares. I actually needed more than 22 squares in my pan. Don’t get hung up on this part. You’re breaking it into bark. The squares just make it easier. I had to cut some of the edges to make them all fit flat.

    Combine the butter and sugar in a saucepan. Over medium high heat, bring butter and sugar to a boil, stirring constantly until butter melts. Let the mixture boil, unstirred until for 2 minutes.

    NOTE: If you prefer a deeper toffee – or more brittle – let the butter and sugar boil a minute or 2 longer. These are crisp, not chewy, but some folks like their toffee deeper in color and flavor.

    Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the nuts. Pour the mixture over the graham crackers, spreading so toffee is even and all graham crackers are covered.  Bake for 10 minutes.

    Remove baking sheet from oven and sprinkle evenly with the chocolate chips. When chips have started to melt, smooth chocolate over the top.

    NOTE: I used semi-sweet chips. Dark would be good here too. I may switch it up a bit next year and mix semi-sweet with white chocolate and make a swirl.

    Cool in pan for 5 minutes.

    NOTE: Now the recipe I found said to lift each square up and place on a wax paper lined baking sheet. There was just NO way this was lifting up one square at a time. Thus, we went from bars to bark. We can’t quibble over one little letter at the end. I am sure it tastes just as good as bark as it would have as bars! But this process was MESSY!

    Refrigerate until chocolate hardens.

    NOTE: I liked these even better than the similar recipe with saltines. I like the texture and flavor the graham crackers lend to the bark.

    NOTE TO SELF: Next year, refrigerate, let the chocolate harden and THEN break into bark! Perhaps parchment paper under the graham crackers would make this whole process easier. Any suggestions?


    Peanut Brittle

    I love making lots of different goodies for Christmas. I make gift baskets of goodies for friends each Christmas with 5 or 6 different goodies. I don’t usually stray much from my list. This year I decided to try a few new ones. Some were great and will take a place in the rotation – like this peanut brittle – and some were not worth the effort.

    In the midst of preparing for Christmas and starting my goodie basket insanity, we had a family crisis and everything that revolved around Christmas was put on a back burner. A few things were still able to come out of the kitchen, but alas, not enough for baskets of anything. So to all my pals waiting for goodies, you understand why we’re setting our sights on next year!

    This peanut brittle was surprisingly easy and really yummy. It came from the December ’09 issue of Everyday Food Magazine. Oh, staff of Everyday Food, you folks out did yourselves with this issue. Fantastic!

    This was one pot and one cookie sheet and no oven. Really, it doesn’t get much easier than that!

    • Non-Stick Cooking Spray
    • 2 C sugar
    • 1/2 C light corn syrup
    • 1/2 t coarse salt
    • 2 T unsalted butter
    • 1/2 baking soda
    • 3 C salted dry-roasted peanuts

    Lina a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and lightly coast with cooking spray.

    NOTE: I have a non-stick half-sheet pan. I skipped the parchment step (I have no idea why) and it was absolutely fine.

    To a medium saucepan, add sugar corn syrup, salt, and 1 cup of water. Over a medium-high flame, bring to a rapid simmer and cook until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes.

    NOTE: I wonder if Lyle’s Golden Syrup would work here as well? Perhaps an experiment for next Christmas.

    Remove from heat and stir in butter, baking soda and peanuts. Be careful the mixture will foam. Stir until mixture is no longer bubbling and caramel is smooth.

    NOTE: This really froths up! Make sure you use a deep pot!

    Transfer to a sheet and spread with a lightly greased spatula.

    NOTE: QUICKLY!!! Quickly! This starts to become difficult to pour and manipulate very quickly! Spray a spatula with non-stick spray and quickly spread it out.

    Let cool until firm, about 15 minutes. Break into pieces. Eat!

    You can store the brittle at room temperature in an air-tight container for 3 weeks.

    Meyer Lemon and Cranberry Bundt Cake

    This spectacular Meyer Lemon Cranberry Bundt Cake is not necessarily in a cookbook on my shelves, but it is off my shelf… well, from one of the magazines in a pile perched on one of the shelves in my kitchen. A little flirting with cheating, but the cake is great.

    I found this recipe flipping through the November 2009 Food Network Magazine. Once I saw it, it screamed ‘Bake me, bake me!’ But when? How to get people to steer away from pie for Thanksgiving? I can’t wait until Christmas to make this cake, and besides, I need to take it out for a test drive first. And suddenly I was saved – three more guests for dinner!

    So that’s the background, here’s the recipe:

    Meyer Lemon-Cranberry Bundt Cake


    For the Cake:

    • 3 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature, plus more for the pan
    • 3 cups cake flour, sifted, plus more for the pan
    • 1 12-ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed if frozen
    • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    • 6 tablespoons whole milk
    • 4 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 2 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

    For the Syrup & Glaze:

    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
    • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

    Ingredient note: If you cannot find meyer lemons, don’t despair. Use lemon juice and orange juice. For the 1/2 cup use a three to one ratio, 3 parts lemon juice to 1 part orange juice.

    To prepare the cake preheat the oven to 350 and put the rack in the middle of the oven. Butter and flour a 10-cup fluted bundt pan.

    Cook the cranberries with 3/4 cup granulated sugar in a pot over medium-high heat until juicy and the mixture reduces to 1 1/4 cups, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

    NOTE: You need to watch this after the 10 minute mark. They go from juicy to dry very quickly!

    Whisk the milk, whole eggs and yolks, and vanilla in a medium bowl and set aside.

    Whisk the 3 cups flour, the remaining 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, the lemon zest, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the 3 1/4 sticks butter and beat with a mixer on low speed until moistened. Add half of the milk mixture, increase the speed to medium and beat 1 minute. Add the remaining milk mixture in two batches, beating between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again, about 30 seconds.

    NOTE: This is a very thick batter, that’s what keeps the cranberries from sinking.

    Transfer two-thirds of the batter to the pan. Spoon the cranberry mixture in a ring around the middle of the batter (do not let it touch the pan). Top with the remaining batter and smooth evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes.

    NOTE: I don’t know if it’s my oven, but this didn’t take anywhere near 55 minutes.

    Meanwhile, make the syrup: Dissolve the 1/4 cup granulated sugar in 1/2 cup lemon juice in a saucepan over low heat. Remove the cake from the oven, poke the surface all over with a skewer and pour the syrup on top. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully invert the cake onto a parchment-lined rack to cool completely. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let sit overnight.

    Note: I may do a 1 1/2 batch of the soak. I think it needed more. Poking holes is definitely necessary, unlike other soaked cakes I have made. This is a dense cake and without the holes the soak doesn’t get far into the cake.

    When ready to serve, whisk the confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice until smooth. Spoon over the cake.

    There are a number of steps and a lot of spoons and cups used – but, again, that’s me!   The steps seem daunting, but they really all come together nicely and quickly. A tiny bit of the cranberry can be seen at the top of the cake, but the glaze should cover that. The wrapping overnight allows the soak to get into the cake. There just seems to be a lot of separate steps – make the cranberries, make the cake, make the soak – but once it all comes together it really is spectacular looking and tasting.

    For next time:

    • Definitely keep a closer eye on the cranberries. I think if they were juicier it would have been better. But too juicy would probably bleed into the cake.
    • It may be that my measurements were off, but 2/3 of the batter may not be enough. The cranberries were awfully close to the top of the cake.
    • Keep an eye on the cake once in the oven. Mine was ready in less than 55 minutes.
    • Buy meyer lemons as soon as I next see them. Juice and zest and into the freezer.

    So worth it and this will be gracing the center my Christmas table, this time with sugared cranberries all around!