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Christmas Is The Time For Sweets

Christmas candy, cookies, fudge, cakes, pies... this time of year there's no getting around it. We LOVE our sweet treats! Maybe you're a chocolate lover, pie enthusiast, fudge fanatic, or just have a fondness for any Christmas treat on the buffet. No matter what your favorite Christmas treat is, when it comes time to make those recipes, there are a few little tricks and tips that you'll want to know. You want the best results from all that hard work, so a few little tips are always welcome.

Tricks For Creating Great Christmas Sweets & Treats

What would Christmas be without plates full of sweet goodies? Pretty cut out cookies, yummy, gooey candy, fudge, cakes and pies all add up to one thing – it must be Christmas! With sugarplum visions dancing in our heads, you'll want a few tips to make sure that those delectable delicacies are perfect! Let's look at a few common standard-bearers for making those treats this Yuletide Season.

1) Chocolate

Yes, chocolate would have to be number one when it comes to candy. Creating a chocolaty treat can be difficult if you are not aware of a few simple tricks. Store-bought chocolate syrup will normally disappoint you when the results are taste tested. Melting your own using big chunks of chocolate is the way to go. Real milk chocolate bricks, or chocolate coating bricks, can be found in any grocery store in the baking aisle. Or, you can always turn to the good old bag of chocolate chips.

The trick is to chop the chocolate into tiny pieces and melt the chocolate using a double boiler, stirring constantly. Then, continue to stir after you remove it from the heat source until the chocolate has a chance to cool down slightly, or “temper.” You may also use a microwave to melt your chocolate chips or pieces. Just be sure to go slowly, stopping every 10 seconds or so to stir well.

Melted chocolate can be used in candy molds to form individual festive candy, mixed with nuts, dropped on a cookie sheet, then cooled to form nut clusters, or mixed with peppermint, spread in a flat layer on a cookie sheet, then cooled and broken up to form chocolate bark.

You can also use melted chocolate poured into a plastic bag to pipe out all sorts of fun swirls and other fancy designs onto wax paper. Once cooled, place the chocolate designs carefully on top of cheesecake, pie, cake, ice cream, or any dessert that you wish to decorate. Very easy, and very elegant!

During the 21st century dark chocolate became the new “health food.” The darker the chocolate, the more antioxidants it contains. The higher the cocoa content, the darker the chocolate. Shave some curls of rich dark chocolate on top of pies or cakes for a special treat. Milk chocolate is more typically used in cookies and other baking and candy making.

2) Fruit

Certain fruit desserts just holler “It's Christmastime!” Apple pie with a pretty lattice crust top sprinkled with sugar is certainly homey and nostalgic. Mincemeat pie, which rarely ever contains any meat products anymore, is a festive choice for dessert. Pecan pie is another Christmas favorite. Cobblers, whether blueberry, peach, apple, or even fig are always a welcome sight come dessert time.

Buying fresh fruit out of season can be quite expensive, and often not very good even if you can find it. Don't be afraid to check the frozen fruit section for your sweet creations. Frozen fruit has come a long way since the old days and is sometimes better than fresh for dessert making. There are also some good canned fruits on the market now. Just look around before you decide.

If your fruit is refrigerated until you use it for your dessert, make sure you bring it out to sit at room temperature for a while. Your fruit will be juicier when it warms up a bit. If you're just using the juice from your fruit, such as a lemon or orange, roll the fruit around on the counter top before juicing it. If you are peeling fruit such as plums, nectarines, or peaches, you can drop them briefly into a pan full of scalding hot water, remove and let cool slightly, then easily remove the skin with a paper towel.

3) Butter

Throughout the year, butter seems to be unappreciated, avoided, and even jeered. But at Christmastime, butter is like a long lost friend. When a recipe calls for a lot of butter, you know instantly that you are in for a creamy rich dessert. There are substitutes for butter, but the results could be disappointing, and the holiday season is no time to disappoint. You can rely on butter to give you the taste and texture that you expect in your desserts and candy. Just be aware that you may want to limit your treats to little nibbles if it is a particularly rich and buttery dessert. Fill up on your veggies and you can justify a few candies or cookies made with butter.

However, if you choose to use margarine you need to be aware of a few things. Your box of margarine clearly lists water as an ingredient in the margarine. That water in the margarine will evaporate as it bakes so your finished product could be somewhat drier than expected. Margarine won't be as creamy as butter when whipped or creamed as in cookie recipes. Butter maintains the moisture in cookies, cakes, and breads better than margarine. If you do substitute margarine just keep in mind that you may want to adjust your recipe a bit to add more moisture.

Normally you should let your butter come to room temperature before adding to a recipe. There are some recipes, however, that do call for cold or stiff butter. If your recipe doesn't ask for cold butter, just assume it should be room temperature.

There are many brands of butter on the market, and for most recipes any brand is as good as another. That's not to say that there aren't some exceptions. Fudge, for instance, requires a better, creamier brand. This may take some experimenting, but, hey, it's candy... can you ever be too disappointed to have to eat your mistakes?

These are just a few tips for using basic food items called for when making your favorite desserts and candy this holiday season. Christmastime should be the exception to the dieting rules. Don't skimp on flavor, ingredients, or flair this year. Treat your family to some great sweet treats!

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