Sunday, December 18, 2016

Happy gluten-free holidays, part two.

Clockwise from lower left: spiced nuts, lemon-poppyseed cookies,
chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, almond horns, peppermint bark,
raspberry bars. Fudge is in the fridge and meringue cookies are in
the oven.
This year's holiday prep is winding down at La Casa Cantwell. I finished the shopping yesterday, and the baking today.

Now don't put out a contract on me -- I'm not as far ahead as you might think. After all, Yule is Wednesday. And tomorrow is my last day of work before Christmas, which meant the baking had to get done today so I could deliver treats tomorrow.

I've always been old school about baking. I've never had a fancy stand mixer, preferring instead to use a pastry blender for creaming butter and sugar, and a wire whisk for beating eggs. I've even been known to sink my fingers into a stiff cookie dough in order to work in the chocolate chips. It seemed like cheating to use a power tool for the job, when I could get in an upper-body workout by baking.

But this year, I ran short of time, and had to do a bunch of the treat-making today. So I resorted to the mixer for some tasks I usually do by hand. It turns out that you really do need to have room-temperature butter if you're going to try to cream in the sugar with a hand mixer; the mixer only has so much oomph. Lesson learned.

Anyway, about the gluten-free treats: Because I'm making these mostly as gifts for the attorneys I assist, I've steered clear of most recipe adaptations. I don't use Splenda or stevia in place of sugar; I use sticks of butter instead of soft margarine; and I have yet to substitute regular flour for gluten-free. But as I said last week, some of the things I've been making are GF anyway.

Take, for example, the peppermint bark in the photo above. It's white and dark chocolate with a little flavoring and some crushed candy canes on top. I got the recipe from a simple-living bulletin board; the woman who developed it said she saw Williams-Sonoma selling the stuff for $18/lb. and realized she could make it for a lot less.

When I first started making it, I used chocolate breakup -- blocks of Ghirardelli white and dark chocolate -- which Trader Joe's sold cheap. Then Ghirardelli discontinued the product and started selling their own peppermint bark, which is okay, but not as good as mine (and I'm not the only one who thinks so). We passed a dreary, dismal holiday season with no homemade peppermint bark. But then I discovered the Ghirardelli folks sold what they call melting wafers that work pretty well as a replacement for the old chocolate breakup. Of course, the wafers are a lot more expensive. This is what passes for progress in our day and age.

Anyway, here's the recipe.

Peppermint Bark

1 10 oz. bag dark chocolate melting wafers
1 10 oz. bag white chocolate melting wafers
A few drops of peppermint extract
Candy canes or starlight mints

Line a cookie sheet (I use an 11" x 17" sheet) with aluminum foil. Melt the dark chocolate wafers in the microwave according to package directions. Stir the peppermint extract into the melted chocolate, and spread the mixture in the pan. Let sit 'til it hardens.

While you're waiting, place the candy canes or starlight mints in a heavy-duty zipper bag and crush them (I used the bottom of a coffee mug today, but whatever works). Then melt the white chocolate in the microwave according to package directions. Spread the white chocolate over the dark chocolate in the pan, sprinkle the candy cane pieces on top (push them down with your fingers, if you want), and allow to cool and harden. Break into random-sized pieces.

Enjoy! Happy holidays!

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These moments of candylicious blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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