This year our holiday baking took on a bit of reinvention. I used the same recipes as I always have, but, I decided some of them needed a revamp, and upgrade, a reboot if you will. The cookie that had the biggest reinvention was the Rollo cookie.
I found this little cookie years ago, maybe 12 or more years ago, at a Relief Society Christmas party, and loved them. I fancy myself a fairly adept cook, and can usually create my own versions of recipes just by tasting it and figuring out how it's made based on what I taste. I did this with the Rollo cookie. It came down to a simple chocolate chip cookie recipe minus the chocolate chips, with the addition of a Rollo candy rolled up inside a ball of dough and baked. Simple, right?
Of course, I had to upgrade even that variation, so, after the cookies have cooled I melted almond bark and drizzled it on top in a kind of haphazard pattern. Looked pretty cool, too. And they tasted so good. From then on they were a staple in our holiday baking regimine.
Fast forward to 2016, and me having a little time on my hands to change the recipe. I decided to stop rolling the Rollo inside the dough ball, and instead, I just turned it upside down and poked it down on top of the dough ball. What this did was cut down on the spreading that naturally occurred in the candy as the wider part of the base was lower down. Turning it upside down slowed the spread enough to keep the cookie itself retaining a good shape.
Then, after baking til just lightly brown on the edges, I took the cookies directly to a cooling rack for just a few minutes, and then moved them to waxed paper where they would be drizzled with almond bark. I also changed that up a bit for asthetic purposes, opting for a starburst pattern in two shades, white and brown almond bark. The result, I think they look pretty amazing and they taste so good.
And here is the recipe
Caramel Starburst Cookies
Preheat oven to 300" F
1 Cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 lb butter, unsalted
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
chocolate covered caramel candy ( I like to use Rollo)
Cream sugars and butter together til creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix til thoroughly incorporated. Sift or whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Add flour mixture to the batter. Stir til mixture stops being sticky and has a cookie dough texture. If needed, add more flour a half cup at a time until you get the consistency you want. I ended up adding 2 more cups of flour probably because the weather was wet.
Once your dough is the way you want it for forming dough balls, use about a tablespoon of dough per cookie. Roll into a ball and place each ball two inches from the others on a parchment lined baking sheet. Press a chocolate covered caramel into the center of each dough ball til it is about halfway in. Then bake til the edges of the cookies are lightly brown, about 15 minutes depending on your oven.
When done, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack for no more than ten minutes, and then move them to a flat surface covered with wax paper.
Melt several squares of white almond bark in one bowl, and several squares of brown almond bark in another bowl. Using a chopstick, or perhaps the handle of a spoon, dip into the whiite almond bark and then make a starburst pattern on each cookie. Repeat with the brown almond bark. When each cookie is done, move them to another cooling rack to allow the almond bark to dry and harden somewhat.
Makes about two to three dozen cookies.
Now that 2016 is about to draw to a close, I thought it would be fun to get this whole blog off to a kick start for 2017 by wrapping up the big events of this past year and laying out our plans for what's next .
Our chickens are happy and healthy. We added a few and lost a few to rehoming, but, I think we have a great bunch of girls now that all get along nicely.
We took our first vacation where we had to have someone come in and take care of our flock. It worked quite well, and I am now a lot less worried about taking time away. What I did was hire a young man that was trying to raise money for a scout jamboree, and had him come in every day to feed and water the birds, gather the eggs, and scrape the droppings board inside the coop. We bought an automatic coop door opener that we ended up having to modify to fit our coop set up, and it worked great, still does.
You can see in the picture that we have an extension cord running to it from the house. The opening it called for was 17 inches wide and ours was only 14 inches wide, so, Tim put it on the outside instead of the inside and it worked just fine. I set it on the timer so it opens and closes the same times every day. I never have to worry about the door being left open all night, or having to get up and haul myself out of bed to let them out in the morning. It cost me $160 but it has been worth every penny.
We took the front door overhang from the old playhouse that had once been our first coop, and put it over their new door and I think it looks pretty good. Just needs a touch of paint to match the rest of the coop, and a few more rocks for their stairs.
We were able to be gone for ten days and were able to relax and enjoy ourselves after a long busy summer.
The gardening projects were a new experience for us, and we succeeded at some and learned a lot from the others. We are converting to permaculture for our little homestead, so, that is a learning experience, but, I was very pleased with how easy it really is and makes sense. No heavy weeding, no chemicals, and a more natural approach.
Growing potatoes, including sweet potatoes was the dud for the year. I didn't do it right. I did all the first steps perfectly, but, didn't plant or grow them outside correctly, so, we got a small crop. I did learn some things about how to grow potatoes, but, not until after the fact. So, this winter I am going to begin anew, starting with some winter sowing, and then when it's time to plant, we will be doing a no till garden and put into practice all that we learned about growing potatoes. Hopefully, we don't have a lot more yet to learn about it and will have plenty of potatoes for our storage for next winter.
Onions were a bit of a bust, too, so, going to have to do more research on that. My pinterest boards are filling up with lots of ideas, so, I am kind of anxious to get through the holidays to start my spring planning.
The permaculture gardening made me want to have a more natural looking fencing around my garden area, so, I created a wattled fence.
It worked out better than expected. The chickens stayed out of the garden as long as I blocked off the gateway. It looks kind of rustic, and I love it.
Our family had big changes. Katie was already living and working in Seoul South Korea teaching English at a preschool, and this year Mindy joined her. They each have their own apartment, but, teach at the same school. James finally heard about his teaching assignment in Japan. he leaves for Kitakyushu Japan in the Spring to teach English in a school there. Matthew is a year and a half into having braces and I'm seven months into it. Neither of us likes having braces, but, we both like the progress, so, it's all good. Tim retired and has been working part time at the post office in a nearby town, but, he is looking for something more permanent hoping for something to come up soon. Holly and Myleigh are both in the Young Womens' program now, and that is a huge adjustment for Mommy, cuz that means no more primary age children. Holly will finish elementary school this spring, and that means no more elementary school kids for us either. Time moves forward, and that can be hard for a Mom.
Christmas will be a mix of feelings. We will be skyping with the older girls while we open presents. It will be Christmas night for them, and Christmas morning for us. This will be our last Christmas with James for at least a few years. Time marches on, and who knows what the coming year will hold for any of us. Hoping for good things, positive changes, and lots of wonderful family memories ahead.
I'm a mother of eleven children, wife of 32 years, Latter Day Saint, and 911 Dispatcher and a budding homesteader. Come along with me as I journey toward self sufficiency, one baby step at a time.
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