It's The Season For The Sweet Things - 27 East

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It’s The Season For The Sweet Things

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Popcorn Gumdrop Bars

Popcorn Gumdrop Bars JANEEN SARLIN

Candied orange and tangerine peel before coating with chocolate. JANEEN SARLIN photos

Candied orange and tangerine peel before coating with chocolate. JANEEN SARLIN photos JANEEN SARLIN

Chocolate coated orange and tangerine peel.

Chocolate coated orange and tangerine peel. JANEEN SARLIN


Seasonal Chef

  • Publication: Food & Drink
  • Published on: Nov 25, 2019
  • Columnist: Janeen Sarlin

Who loves to receive a holiday gift made with genuine care in someone’s kitchen? Me, for sure! I especially appreciate savory, chocolate, unique sweets, and those festive decorated white sugar Christmas cookies. Yum, I’m hungry just thinking about them.

Here are the gifts I’m gifting from my kitchen this year.

One of my childhood Christmas favorites is frosted spiced gumdrop bars. For both the popcorn lovers and the sweet-tooth friends, I’ve changed mom’s recipe and adapted Mrs. Struthers’s (a Minnesota farmer’s wife) popcorn cake recipe into popcorn gumdrop bars. Children of all ages will love them.

One could argue that almost any fruit filling will work inside the special Christmas bundle cookies. However, apricots add a brilliant colorful not-too-sweet balance to the slightly savory pastry. They are a perfect gift for the tea lover on your list.

Of course, chocolate lovers everywhere will be delighted with chocolate dipped candied orange peel. This recipe is not difficult ... but it takes time. I’m making extra because I want some for my own holiday entertaining. Don’t you just love to play Santa? Bon appetit!

Apricot Christmas Bundles

(About 2 1/2 dozen cookies)

1/2 cup unsalted butter

4 ounces sharp American cheese, finely grated, (1 cup)

1 1/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons water

1 cup dried apricots

About 1/2 cup water

Zest of one lemon

About 1/2 cup granulated sugar or more to taste

To prepare:

Working in the food processor, cream butter and cheese together until light and fluffy. Add the flour and blend well, transfer to a bowl. With a fork, add water and mix to combine. Gather the mixture into a ball and chill the dough at least 5 hours, or overnight.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over moderate heat, cook dried apricots with water until softened, about 25 minutes. Drain off excess water, stir sugar and lemon zest into hot fruit, cook, stirring until the mixture boils and the sugar is dissolved. Taste and adjust the sweetness. Purée with an immersion blender, transfer to a bowl and chill completely.

To assemble and bake: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Working on a lightly floured pastry cloth, divide the dough in half and roll each half into a 10-inch square. With a pastry wheel, cut the dough into 2 1/2-inch squares. Place 1 teaspoon chilled apricot filling in the center of each square. Bring up diagonal corners and pinch the dough together to seal. Transfer the bundles to an ungreased cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Spiced Gumdrop Popcorn Bars

(Makes about 2 1/2 dozen bars)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows (one 10-ounce bag)

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

5 cups salted popcorn

2/3 cup roasted salted peanuts

1 cup spiced gumdrops

To prepare:

Butter a 9 x 13-inch rectangle pan or line it with parchment paper and set aside.

In a stainless steel mixing bowl set over simmering water, add butter and melt. Add marshmallows and stir until they are completely melted, whisk in vanilla.

Add popcorn, peanuts and gumdrops and stir until the mixture is coated with marshmallows. Immediately, with buttered fingers, press the mixture into the prepared pan. Set aside to completely cool. With a wet, sharp knife cut into small bars and transfer to an airtight container. Store in a cool place.

Candied Orange & Tangerine Peel

(About 4 cups)

2 medium tangerines and 2 medium oranges

4 cups cold water

1 tablespoon salt

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup water

About 1/2 cup granulated sugar for rolling

For chocolate dipped orange peel:

8 ounces 70% dark chocolate broken into pieces

To prepare:

Wash the oranges, then cut each tangerine and orange into four sections. Loosen the rind from the pulp with the bowl of a soup spoon and use the section for a salad or eat as a snack. Add salt to water in a non-reactive bowl, stir to dissolve the salt and add the peel. Weight with a plate to keep the peel under water. Let stand overnight.

Next day, drain well, rinse under cold running water. Transfer the peel to a saucepan set over high heat, add enough cold water to cover the peel, cover the pan and bring to a boil. Drain off the water and repeat the process three times. This will remove the bitterness in the peel.

With a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, cut the peel into thin strips.

In a medium saucepan over high heat, add sugar, water and the strips of peel. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer until the peel is translucent, about 30 to 60 minutes. Simmering time depends on the thickness of the peel. Drain thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Roll the peel in granulated sugar and place on a wire rack set over a tray to catch the sugar. Completely dry the peel at room temperature.

To coat with chocolate, add chocolate to the top of a double boiler set over simmering water. When chocolate is melted, dip each candied orange peel into the chocolate and place on a wire rack set over a tray to catch the drips. Let set completely. Place waxed paper between layers of peel in covered container and store in cool place.

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