Each year I make Christmas goodies for friends and family. Occasionally someone will ask for a recipe and I say I will send it and then immediately forget who asked. Following are the recipes for this year.... except for Chocolate Crackles which I got from Cook’s Illustrated.

Alice’s Rum Balls

(makes approximately 60- we like rum balls)

2 1/2 cups crushed vanilla wafer crumbs (one box of Nilla Wafers)

2 1/2 cups superfine sugar, plus more in which to roll balls

3 3/4 cups chopped walnuts

5 Tablespoons cocoa

2 1/2 Tablespoons white corn syrup

5/8 cup rum

Combine ingredients; shape into balls and roll in superfine sugar.

Crush vanilla wafer in baggie with rolling pin until super crushed, no chunks/

Use small scoop to keep size somewhat uniform. Total uniformity is nearly impossible and a silly waste of time. Use fingertips to form balls; they are too crumbly to roll in the palms of your hands.

Spraying your hands, actually fingertips, with Pam helps with the stickiness, but needs to be done frequently.

[Note: Alice is Frank’s grandmother on his mother’s side, i.e. his mother’s mother. Married name was Macduff.]

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark

In a large mixing bowl, microwave:

    2 pound semi or bitter sweet chocolate (I use chocolate chips)

for about 2 minute 30 seconds to 2 minutes 40 seconds. [Check every 30 seconds after 1 1/2 minutes and every 10 seconds after 2 1/2 minutes.]

When melted, stir until smooth and add:

12 medium candy canes, crushed

1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil.

Mix well.

Spread onto a 15x20 inch sheet of parchment. Let cool and break into pieces. Store in zip baggie in freezer.

Dream Bars

{Also known as magic cookie bars - recipe is from Carnation}

Preheat oven to 350˚ (metal pan) 325˚ (glass dish)

Place 13x9 inch baking pan/dish in oven to melt:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine

Sprinkle evenly over the melted butter:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

Pour over crumbs:

1 14 ounce can Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated milk)

Top with:

2 cups (12 ounces) semi sweet chocolate chips

1 1/3 cups (3 1/2 ounces) flaked coconut

1 cup chopped walnuts (can use other nuts as desired)

Press down firmly with a fork (this is really important, they can crumble awfully easily)

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool. Cut into bars. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

Fleur de Sel Caramels

Line the bottom of an 8 inch square pan with parchment and flavorless oil, such as canola oil.

In a 2 cup glass measurer, combine:

    1 cup heavy cream

    5 Tablespoons butter

    1 teaspoon fleur de sel or sea salt flakes

Microwave for 2 minute 40 seconds and set aside.

In a medium sized heavy saucepan, combine;

    1/4 cup water

    1 1/2 cup sugar

    1/4 cup light corn syrup

Cover and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Be careful not to splash sugar crystals on inside of pan as this will cause mixture to crystallize.

Remove lid when sugar has melted and continue simmering until liquid turns golden caramel. Add the cream and stir. Be careful as the mixture will bubble up. Simmer until mixture reads 248 on a candy thermometer - approximately 15 minutes. Pour mixture into prepared pan and cool 2 hours.

Invert pan onto waxed paper and cut into 1 inch squares with an oiled chef’s knife. Reoil as needed.

Preparation notes:

1. I find this makes rather thin caramels. By doubling the recipe, it will make candies that are more the thickness of purchased caramels. Or you could use a smaller pan, maybe a bread/loaf pan.

2. Crystallization is a real problem with candy making. It is important to clean your stirring utensils and candy thermometer every time you take it out of the mixture and before you put it back in. Even the smallest sugar crystal can cause the whole batch to crystallize, which is a mess and you can’t use it. Also be careful not to splash sugar crystals on the sides of the pan as it is melting.


(Gingerbread cookies)


1 cup dark molasses

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

4 teaspoons ground ginger

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 Tablespoon (2 1/4 teaspoons) baking soda

1 cup (2 sticks) butter of margarine at room temperature

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

6 cups all purpose flour


Preheat oven to 325˚.

Place the molasses, sugar, ginger and cinnamon in a double boiler over medium heat. When the sugar has melted, add the baking soda and stir. When the mixture bubbles up, remover from heat. (it looks really cool)

Place butter in mixer bowl. Add the hot molasses mixture and stir well. Let the mixture cool to about 90˚, then add the egg.

Gradually add the flour. I’ve found that if you actually add the flour with the mixer going, you get a big cloud of flour and it ends up with a lot of flour on the counter, so I put in 1/2 cup or so with the mixer off, cover the mixer and bowl with a dish towel and turn on the mixer to mix each addition. They say you can mix this with a wooden spoon, but I think this is best done with an electric mixer as it will get really stiff. Maybe super farm wives who have been wrestling with firewood and cattle can do it; I can’t.

Line thick baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon cooking mats.

Divide dough in half and shape into a neat rectangle, place on a floured piece of waxed paper, cover with another and roll out until 1/4 inch thick. Peel off top piece of pape;r, put it back on; flip the dough over and peel off the top waxed paper and discard. Cut into shapes. If it’s too sticky, refrigerate the rolled out dough with its waxed paper covers.

Place on baking sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Let cool on racks

Ice (Frost) with Cooked Royal Icing

Note: I tried doing this with weighing flour instead of measuring and it was too thin, which means that it was sticky when trying to roll it out.

Cooked Royal Icing

(Regular Royal Icing is lovely, but it contains raw egg whites. Since I think that’s risky and since the cookies I ice with this are often shipped or stored for a few days, I think that cooking the icing is a better idea. It may not be quite as merengue-ish, but it’s very nice and doesn’t have all that fat (Butter) that regular powdered sugar and butter icing does.)

[This comes from the Joy of Cooking Christmas Cookies book.]

Lightly beat: 2 large egg whites

Stir in: 1 1/3 cup (4.25 ounces) powdered sugar

Microwave on high until 160˚ - one to one and a half minutes. It should not exceed 175˚ or it will just be cooked egg whites.

Using an electric mixer ( I use my hand mixer), add another 1 1/3 cup powdered sugar (4.25 ounces) and beat until it makes stiff peaks.  Scrape down sides as needed.

I find this is a bit too thick and I thin with bourbon. It adds a nice flavor and goes especially well with gingerbread cookies. I think the thinner icing spreads better and the bourbon evaporates rapidly leaving a shell like topping.

This can be divided into bowls and colored with food coloring.

I find this needs to be re-beaten frequently and sometimes more bourbon added to keep it a spreading consistency. If you don’t want to use bourbon, lemon juice and/or water will work fine.

Classic Shortbread(with lemon or orange)

In an electric mixer blend:

    1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

    1/2 cup powdered sugar

    2 teaspoons grated lemon or orange peel

Carefully add:

    1 cup flour

    pinch salt.

Mix until all ingredients stick together.

Carefully press into a shortbread mold that has been sprayed with Pam.

Prick top side all over with fork.

Bake at 325˚ for 30-35 minutes.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes.

Flip onto cooling rack.

Carefully cut into portions before it cools completely to avoid shattering.

Shortbread with Dark Chocolate

In an electric mixer blend:

3/4 cup (1 1/2 stick) butter

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Carefully add:

1 1/2 cups flour

pinch salt.

Mix until all ingredients stick together.

Carefully press into a shortbread mold that has been sprayed with Pam.

Prick top side all over with fork.

Bake at 325˚ for 30-35 minutes.

Remove from over. Sprinkle 1 cup chocolate chips evenly over top. Cover loosely with tin foil to insure melting. After 10 minutes, spread melted chocolate over shortbread. Cover with plastic wrap and flip onto waxed paper. Carefully cut into portions before it cools completely to avoid shattering. Cool.   Wrap individual squares with parchment, waxed or butcher paper.

Spiced Rosemary Nuts

(adapted from Williams Sonoma and a couple other sources)

2 1/2 pounds Mixed Nuts. (We really prefer cashews) (Costco size)

1/4 cup olive oil

5 tablespoons fresh rosemary (I now think this is too much rosemary)

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground sea salt (you might use more is you use unsalted nuts)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/4 teaspoon cayenne (adjust to how much hot you like)

Preheat oven to 300˚.

Pour nuts into largish bowl.

Place rosemary and olive oil in small saucepan and heat on medium for about 2 minutes until oil is heated and rosemary is fragrant.

Pour heated oil over nuts and toss to completely cover nuts with oil. Then toss some more. You don’t want it too oily, but you want it evenly distributed.

Add brown sugar, salt, pepper and cayenne to bowl and toss a  lot more.

Transfer nut mixture to large jellyroll pan and spread evenly. Roast in over for 10 minutes, rotate pan and roast 10 minutes more. Let cool in pan and put in airtight storage container as soon as cool enough.

Salted Chocolate- Pecan Toffee


2 cups pecan halves

3 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups butter

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup water

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate ( I used semisweet chocolate chips)

2 teaspoons Fleur de sel or coarse sea salt


Preheat oven to 350˚. Put pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally, until toasted, about 8 minutes. When cool, chop roughly. Put 1/2 aside and finely chop remaining nuts. Set aside also.

Put sugar, butter, salt and water in a 4 quart heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook until butter and sugar are melted, then uncover, stir carefully to avoid getting any sugar crystals on inside of pan, and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring as little as possible, until mixture is deep golden brown and measures 310˚ on a candy thermometer. (about 20-30 minutes)

Remove from heat and carefully stir in vanilla and finely chopped pecans. Be careful, mixture will bubble up.

Pour into a 10 by 15 inch rimmed baking sheet. Let cool until set, at least 30 minutes.

Put chocolate in a heatproof glass measuring cup (Chop if using bars) and heat in microwave until melted, probably about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. Pour over toffee and spread evenly.

Sprinkle with roughly chopped pecans and let sit for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Chill for an hour or more and break into pieces. Don’t try to cut it up. It doesn’t work.

Note. Crystallization is a real problem with candy making. It is important to clean your stirring utensils and candy thermometer every time you take it out of the mixture and before you put it back in. Even the smallest sugar crystal can cause the whole batch to crystallize, which is a mess and you can’t use it. Also be careful not to splash sugar crystals on the sides of the pan as it is melting.


In an electric mixer blend:

    2 cups butter

    2/3 cup sugar


    4 teaspoons water

    4 teaspoons vanilla

Stir In

    4 cups flour, sifted (1 pound)

    2 cups chopped pecans

    pinch salt.

Mix until all ingredients stick together.

Chill for at least 4 hours

Form into walnut sized balls, blobs, crescents, etc.

Bake at 325 degrees for 18 - 20 minutes

Roll in powdered sugar.

Roll in powdered sugar again. Set aside.

Makes 48 regular ? sized cookies

Truffles (also Eldridge Fudge - no nuts)

This is basically a quick ganache. It’s incredibly rich, so make the truffles or fudge pieces small.

Microwave in large bowl for about 2:30 minutes. Check at 2 minutes. You really don’t want to over cook this:

    18 ounces (1 1/2 cups Chocolate Chips

    14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Stir until smooth. Add:

     1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Place plastic wrap on surface of mixture and a second piece over bowl. Let cool, but if it gets cold it’s really hard to scoop.

Using small scoop, scoop balls and roll them in your palms. Then roll them to coat in cocoa and place in candy cups.

Store in airtight container.

{You can coat them in other things, such as powdered sugar or find sugar. I’ve tried dipping them in melted chocolate but it’s awfully messy. Also you can add nuts  to the mixture or put a small nut in the center when you roll them.}

Eldridge Fudge - no nuts

Pour melted mixture (with vanilla) in an eight inch square pan and cool. Cut into one inch squares.  [I once had a cat named Eldridge who was neutered.]

Chocolate Wafer Cookies


1 cup (198g) granulated sugar

8 tablespoons (113g) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon espresso powder

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups (177g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1/4 cup (21g) black cocoa

1/4 cup (21g) Dutch-process cocoa

Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets, or more if you have them; you'll make 3 to 4 baking sheets' worth of cookies.

To make the cookies:

In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the sugar, butter, salt, baking powder, and espresso powder.

Beat in the egg and vanilla, then the flour and cocoa. Cover the dough, and chill for 30 minutes. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Roll the dough about 1/8" thick; use cocoa instead of flour to dust your rolling board and the dough.

Cut into 2 ½"-round cookies. (2 inch square) A biscuit cutter is handy for this.

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes. Watch them closely at the end of the baking time, and if you start to smell chocolate before 10 minutes has gone by, take them out. When they're done, remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool completely.