“Nothing clings to you like laughter…” – Full list of 2013 holiday baking

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I started off today in the office exchanging messages on Facebook with a colleague who was on a bus – it was unintentionally stalker-like to see her progress as her public transport made its way to different parts of the city, and I could track her, thinking, “Oh, she must have stopped responding because she is walking up the path to the office now…”. In any case, our conversation started the day off on the right foot because it sparked laughter. And, as Robyn Hitchcock sings, “Nothing clings to you like laughter…“. Too true.

I also noted that the 24 kinds of baked goods that I brought to the office yesterday – the logistical nightmare that that was – has been reduced and fits nicely on two long tables instead of three. Progress!

Christmas 2013 spread - three full tables

Christmas 2013 spread – three full tables

The final list of stuff baked and brought along with links to recipes (where they exist – some I was making for the first time so will post in new posts in the coming days)…

COCONUT-MACADAMIA COOKIES

CHRISTMAS M&M COOKIES (I know this links to a white chocolate macadamia cookie recipe, but I have been using it for M&M cookies for a while – prefer it to the one I used to use. Just eliminate the macadamia and white chocolate and put M&Ms in instead!)

VANILLA ORANGE ALMOND BISCOTTI   

CRANBERRY PISTACHIO BISCOTTI

TART CHERRY & PINE NUT BISCOTTI      

GINGERBREAD

THUMBPRINTS (WALNUTS & CHERRY)  

RUSSIAN TEA CAKES (ALMOND)

SHORTBREAD                            

CHOCOLATE MINT COOKIES

SNICKERDOODLES                    

RASPBERRY OAT BARS

PEANUT BUTTER CUPS                  

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

OREO TRUFFLES           

MAPLE PECAN COOKIES

PUMPKIN PIE                             

RAFFAELLO CANDY CUPCAKES (ALMOND, COCONUT)

BROWN SUGAR CUPCAKES W/ MAPLE FROSTING AND CANDIED BACON

GUINNESS CUPCAKES W/ BAILEYS FROSTING

OREO CHOCOLATE COOKIES-AND-CREAM CUPCAKES

EGGNOG COOKIES                    

PUMPKIN DOUGHNUTS

HONEY ALMOND SHORTBREAD

Raffaello-candy-stuffed cupcakes

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The candy of Ferrero (most recently, the coconutty Raffaello candies) makes me think fondly of one of my best friends back in Iceland, an Italian woman who has routinely brought Ferrero candies into our lives. In my case, being the coffee fiend that I am, she introduced the inimitable Pocket Coffee, which features a chocolate housing for a liquid espresso inside. Brilliant.

While Pocket Coffee is not available here in Sweden, Raffaello is everywhere. Taking inspiration from the blog Bake It in a Cake (check out the new book based on these concepts, Bake it in a Cupcake), I decided to pop some Raffaello candy into a basic vanilla cupcake and then frost with a vanilla bean Swiss buttercream icing topped with coconut.

How to do it?

First make the vanilla cupcakes:

Vanilla cupcakes
3/4 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
1 1/3 cups milk

For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350F/175C. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then add the baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and salt. Add the flour and milk in alternating turns with the mixer on low. Beat mixture just until combined/smooth.

Fill cupcake liners in your cupcake pan with about one heaping tablespoon of batter. Drop an unwrapped Raffaello candy in and gently press it into the batter. Put another heaping tablespoon on top of the candy to cover it. It does not matter if the candy is completely covered because you will be frosting the cupcake.

Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes until the cupcakes have begun to turn a light golden brown and the cupcake top springs back when touched. Let the cupcakes cool (ten minutes) before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream
3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (liquid)
Some vanilla bean powder or vanilla beans scraped from one vanilla pod

Mix the egg white and the sugar over a double boiler. The sugar should be completely dissolved when you remove it from heat. Pour the mixture into a large bowl (preferably the mixing bowl of a stand mixer — Swiss meringue is mixing intensive, so a stand mixer works best). Whisk on high speed until stiff but still wet peaks form. Continue to beat for about five or six minutes after these peaks form.

Switch to the paddle attachment and turn the speed to medium low. Add the butter in one or two tablespoons at a time. The mixture might start to look lumpy and curdled. Don’t worry. Keep mixing. When things start to come together, beat in the peppermint extract and keep beating for another two minutes. It might take some time to get to the right texture. You will know when it comes together in a solid, fluffy, frosting-like consistency.

I sprinkled on some coconut on the batch I took to work; I sprinkled on some toasted coconut on the batch I offered my friends for Thanksgiving. They are good on their own or with either type of coconut.

Baked goods for colleagues on a warmer than expected Tuesday morning

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Despite being officially on vacation (celebrating American Thanksgiving with my friends) I baked a few things for my colleagues and brought the goodies to work. On offer are white chocolate macadamia cookies, M&M cookies, Raffaello-candy-stuffed cupcakes with vanilla bean and coconut Swiss meringue frosting, peanut-butter stuffed chocolate cake, shortbread and brownie bites stuffed with Snickers candy bar pieces. Some of this was experimental (like the brownie bites). I almost threw the brownie bites away because they became so sticky in the pan I thought I would not get them out intact. I have no idea how they taste but I salvaged them by putting the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes and digging around the edges with a knife. (Recipes/pics to follow.)

I am a very bad girl – I still have not switched over to winter tires, which is not only dangerous this time of year but illegal in Norway. Granted, I don’t drive to Norway that much any more, but here I am today… so first order of business is to take the car to get the tires changed this morning. I came to the office first, though, because I enjoy driving in the middle of the night when there are no other cars. Unfortunately there were a lot of cars (a lot for 3:30 a.m. anyway), but I had a nice, relaxing drive in any case.

The cookies are out and ready to take in reception, second and third floors of my office – so now I am free to run away to the tire change place… and then off to the airport to pick up one of the Thanksgiving guests coming to my questionable Thanksgiving soirée (questionable in that I am a decent baker but would not place bets on my cooking, despite the fact that I cook Thanksgiving every year, and the players continue to live and come back for more…).