Don't you love perusing the baking aisle of your market this time of year? So many interesting and long forgotten specialty items, not to mention great sales on all of the staples. Every year there seems to be a few items that I have been holding on to and set aside strictly for the purpose of Christmas baking. Here are a few items and ideas that I'd like to share with you:
Okay, this bottle comes from the very private vanilla reserve of Bob at Small Kitchen Cooking, but the great news is that you can make your own private reserve too. He has a great tutorial on his blog about it, and there is also one by Heather over here. It looks so easy that it makes me wonder how we ever got to the point of buying vanilla extract at the store. This one from Bob is made with rum, making it somewhat sweet and pungent. I can't wait to use it- no extract needed!
Since elderberries are somewhat scarce, I hold on to this homemade jelly with plans to use it in my Christmas trifle.
Gingerbread People and other fun cut-outs
Last year I made these Gingerbread Folk from a recipe on the Simple Folk blog. Let me say, I consider this to be the absolute best gingerbread cookie recipe. We usually decorate ours plainly with raisins, but you could really get very creative with these.
Okay, I haven't made fudge in forever. But this is a great time of year to do it because evaporated milk is on sale everywhere, and it makes a nice little gift, all wrapped in wax paper and boxed with a bow. I have a recipe for a honey-nut fudge that I'd like to try.
As a side note, the experts say this is a good time of year to buy new baking powder, since it loses it's potency with time. You can test yours by pouring 1/3 cup of hot tap water over 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder in a cup. It should bubble up like a mini hurricane. Mine failed the test...and I'm terrified to proof anything else around here.
The last thing I was saving for Christmas baking were those black walnuts I harvested from the back yard and hung up to cure. They haven't been cracked yet and there' s a little bit of a funny story there. It seems that we were planning on picking up one of those specialized black walnut crackers when we took our jaunt out to Ohio, and somehow came home without one. We couldn't believe it! So, that's still a project on hold for now. But those nuts are ready and waiting.