Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Great Bake Exchange 2010

Last Thursday my internet and Max tv decided to stop working....I really had no idea how dependent I was on technology until this happened. I couldn't check my emails...my favourite blogs...I couldn't watch the Christmas specials on tv that I wanted to....I felt very....lost. Thankfully both my parents and my BF's parents live close by so I could get a quick-fix when I really needed one. The internet is finally back up and running and I can finally catch up on all that I missed in the world wide web. Most importantly (though much to the chagrin of my BF) I can blog again!!!

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to take part in one of my favourite pre-Christmas pasttimes....The Bake Exchange.

This is the fourth year that I have taken part in a bake exchange that a few of my colleagues and I organize every year. I have to say, I have a love-hate relationship with the bake exchange. Every year, more people take part which means more baking in the end...but more work at the beginning. One year, I baked two pans of my slice....when I took the pans out of the oven, I slipped and the pan I held fell and broke all over my mom's new stove, then projectiled broken glass shards into the other pan which was sitting unsuspecting on the stove top. It was not a great start and needless to say, whenever it is bake exchange time I am filled with both dread and anticipation.

When the time came for me to bake 12 dozen squares, I was ready.

Armed with a very strong cup of coffee, and an obligatory Christmas CD...

I gathered up my ingredients.

The recipe I used is from an old church cookbook of mine called Manna from Minto and it is a fairly easy one to follow as far as recipes are concerned.

First, you melt 1/2cup butter in your pan.

Then add 1 1/2 - 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs...depending how thick you like the crust to be.

Mix the butter and the graham cracker crumbs, then spread them out with a fork until you have a layer that covers the base of the pan.

Now one of my favourite parts. Pour one can of condensed milk onto the base so that it covers all of the graham cracker crumbs.

How beautiful does that look? In my opinion, any dessert that incorporates condensed milk, butter, and graham cracker crumbs is totally worth any effort it may require. YUM!

Ok, Ok...back to baking.

Next add one cup of coconut,

one cup of crushed walnuts,

and one cup of chocolate chips. Press everything down with your (freshly washed) hands, and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.

When you take it out of the oven the edges should be slightly browned and the smell should be irresistable.

Baking the first six dozen squares went smoothly. The next few dozen required a trip to Starbucks for a stronger beverage and a quick pick-me-up.

I decided to make my squares a little more personal and made up recipe cards to go with each batch of squares.

The final product looked something like this...times 12.

The baking portion of the Bake Exchange went off without a hitch for me this year. It took a long time to bake 12 dozen baked goods, but with the right soundtracks and the right caffeinated beverages, it was actually pretty fun.

Here is a sampling of the loot I got in return....

Cuban lunches, pretzel turtles, and almond bark...

Ginger snaps, oatmeal butterscotch cookies, oreo cookies (my personal fav!)

Nanaimo bars, rolo cookies, and carmel covered marshmallows

And as a grand finale....two flavours of mini cheesecakes.

I also received snickerdoodles and icing-covered sugar cookies but they did not make it to photo shoot time. My BF discovered the baking:)

Needless to say, I have enough baked goods to last me until Easter! It's an awesome exchange to do....I had dessert to bring to every holiday gathering that I attended, and I still have some left over for my BF and me:)

I hope you all had a happy, healthy, delicious Christmas.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Most Delicious Time of the Year!

 I cannot tell you what a wonderful feeling it was to hand in my final paper on December 6th and be done my first Masters class EVER! Better yet, I got an 88% in the class which I was extremely happy with.

After my paper was handed in, I could focus on more important, more Christmas-related things.

And so the stockings were hung.

And my happy helpers assisted in decorating the rest of the house.

I use the word "assisted" very loosely.

After all the decorating was complete, I felt that something was missing and it was then I realized that I had been so busy with school work that I had absolutely no Christmas baking in the house. In my opinion, this is NOT acceptable during the holidays.

I had recently received a forward from my mom that contained tonnes of cookie recipes. I was feeling a bit nostalgic, so I decided on making classic Candycane Cookies. These cookies were the best when I was a kid and I remember how excited I used to get when we would make them.  Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

I called a friend of mine to come help bake and so it began.

We gathered our ingredients.

I should mention that she brought her happy helper over too....

We made our dough, split the dough in half and covered one of the halves in red food colouring. That left us with two balls of multi coloured dough.

Great pic....notice my toes made a cameo.

From there, we took about a tablespoon of each, rolled them out and then twisted them together...

Yes, her kitty stayed there for the duration of our time baking. Sanitary? No. Adorable? Yes, most definately.

Once we twisted the dough together we molded the dough into candy canes...this process was the most frustrating bake task I had tackled in a while. Despite following the recipe, the dough was dry and thus it was very hard to work with. It crumbled and fell apart all over the counter. It took over half an hour to twist the dough into about a dozen candy canes.Somehow we managed to keep patient enough to finish twisting and moulding, and finally get the candy canes into the oven.

Before baking we added crushed peppermint (to some cookies not all....the BF apparently does not like peppermint...learned something new again) which we had to manually push into each cookie. Otherwise we just had a bake pan covered in peppermint instead of peppermint cookies. The stupid crushed peppermint (which took my friend at least a half hour to crush manually) would not stick to the frickin cookies. It was a mess.

Thankfully, some of the peppermint stayed and the finished product looked something like this.

I think to start off the bake season, I would recommend a recipe much less labour-intensive and messy.  Once the cookies were baked, the candy cane was melted onto the pans so much that half the cookies broke when they were transferred from the bake pan to a plate. Whatever. Sugar cookies and peppermint combined taste like Christmas to me. I am such a sucker for the holidays and all the traditions that come along with it. Next tradition? Bake Exchange 2010!