Lux Christmas Prep: Fun Holiday Desserts

Brownie Santa Hats - Nothing says YUM better than chocolate and strawberries!

Ingredients:

1 pan of brownies
small strawberries (tops cut off)
1/2 cup unsalted butter -softened
3 cups powdered sugar
3 TB half and half
1/2 t vanilla


Directions:

Cut the brownies using a one inch circle fondant cutter (found at Jo-Ann's). Push down on the cutter, twist and lift it up with a fork. Push the brownie in on the top and bottom so that the circle is flat on top and bottom. For frosting, combine butter, powdered sugar, half and half, and vanilla in large bowl. Beat with a mixer for 2 minutes, or until fluffy. Next, place your frosting in a zip lock bag and snipped off the corner. Then, swirl a little frosting on top of the brownie. Finally, put the strawberry on and added a little dot of frosting on top to complete the Santa hat!


Decorated Gingerbread Cookies - A classic way to get the entire house involved in a tradition to last forever!

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1 large egg
Royal Icing (recipe follows)

Royal Icing Ingredients:
1 pound (4 1/2 cups) confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons dried egg-white powder
6 tablespoons water

Directions:

Position the racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and pepper through a wire sieve into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer at high speed, beat the butter and vegetable shortening until well-combined, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is light in texture and color, about 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses and egg. Using a wooden spoon, gradually mix in the flour mixture to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough into two thick disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. (The dough can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.)

To roll out the cookies, work with one disk at a time, keeping the other disk refrigerated. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until just warm enough to roll out without cracking, about 10 minutes. (If the dough has been chilled for longer than 3 hours, it may need a few more minutes.) Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick, being sure that the dough isn't sticking to the work surface (run a long meal spatula or knife under the dough occasionally just to be sure, and dust the surface with more flour, if needed). For softer cookies, roll out slightly thicker. Using cookie cutters, cut out the cookies and transfer to nonstick cookie sheets, placing the cookies 1 inch apart. Gently knead the scraps together and form into another disk. Wrap and chill for 5 minutes before rolling out again to cut out more cookies.

Bake, switching the positions of the cookies from top to bottom and back to front halfway through baking, until the edges of the cookies are set and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire cake racks to cool completely. Decorate with Royal Icing. (The cookies can be prepared up to 1 week ahead, stored in airtight containers at room temperature.)

Royal Icing:

Make ahead: The icing can prepared up to 2 days ahead, stored in an airtight container with a moist paper towel pressed directly on the icing surface, and refrigerated.

This icing hardens into shiny white lines, and is used for piping decorations on gingerbread people or other cookies. Traditional royal icing uses raw egg whites, but I prefer dried egg-white powder, available at most supermarkets, to avoid any concern about uncooked egg whites.

When using a pastry bag, practice your decorating skills before you ice the cookies. Just do a few trial runs to get the feel of the icing and the bag, piping the icing onto aluminum foil or wax paper. If you work quickly, you can use a metal spatula to scrape the test icing back into the batch.

Meringue powder, which is dehydrated egg whites with sugar already added, also makes excellent royal icing; just follow the directions on the package. However, the plain unsweetened dried egg whites are more versatile, as they can be used in savory dishes, too.

In a medium bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer at low speed, beat the confectioners' sugar, egg-white powder and water until combined. Increase the speed to high and beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, until very stiff, shiny and thick enough to pipe; 3 to 5 minutes. (The icing can be prepared up to 2 days ahead, stored in an airtight container with a moist paper towel pressed directly on the icing surface, and refrigerated.)

To pipe line decorations, use a pastry bag fitted with a tube with a small writing tip about 1/8-inch wide, such as Ateco No. 7; it may be too difficult to squeeze the icing out of smaller tips. If necessary, thin the icing with a little warm water. To fill the pastry bag, fit it with the tube. Fold the top of the bag back to form a cuff and hold it in one hand. (Or, place the bag in a tall glass and fold the top back to form a cuff.) Using a rubber spatula, scoop the icing into the bag. Unfold the cuff and twist the top of the bag closed. Squeeze the icing down to fill the tube. Always practice first on a sheet of wax paper or aluminum foil to check the flow and consistency of the icing.

Traditional Royal Icing: Substitute 3 large egg whites for the powder and water.


Brownie Christmas Trees - Super cute and easy to do! The kids will love to help with these adorable treats.

Ingredients:

1 box (1 lb 2.4 oz)  Original Supreme Premium brownie mix
Water, vegetable oil and egg called for on brownie mix box
Candy-coated chocolate candies
8 pretzel nuggets
2 or 3 drops green food color
1 cup Whipped fluffy white frosting (from 12 oz container)


Directions:

Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Line 9-inch round cake pan with foil; grease bottom only of foil with shortening or cooking spray. Make brownie mix as directed on package, using water, oil and egg. Spread in pan. Bake 40 to 44 minutes or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from side of pan comes out almost clean. Cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours. Invert pan onto cutting surface; peel foil from brownie. Trim brownie edge if desired. Stir food color into frosting. Spread frosting evenly over brownie. Cut into 12 wedges. Decorate wedges with candies to look like Christmas tree lights. Center pretzel nugget on bottom edge of each brownie wedge for tree trunk. Store tightly covered.


Mini Gingerbread Houses - A family fave!

Ingredients:

1kg plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
300g cold butter, diced
2 tbsp mixed spice
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
450g light soft brown sugar
3 large eggs
225g golden syrup
300g royal icing sugar
A few ping-pong-size balls of regal icing, wrapped in cling film


Directions:

Put about half the flour in a food processor with the butter and whizz until you can’t see any lumps of butter remaining. Mix the remaining flour, spices and bicarb together with a pinch of salt. Tip both the floury mixtures into your largest mixing bowl and stir in the sugar. (If you don’t have a food processor, rub the butter into all of the flour until it resembles fine crumbs. Then stir in the spices, bicarb and sugar.) Whisk the eggs with the golden syrup and stir into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon. Using your hands, knead together into a smooth dough.

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Roll a quarter of the dough out at a time on a sheet of baking parchment, to the thickness of 2 x £1 coins. Use a small, sharp knife to cut around the house templates (see tips, below)– remember that each time you’ll need 2 x A, 2 x B and 2 x C for one house. Remove trimmings and lift the gingerbread, on its parchment, onto baking trays. Re-roll trimmings to cut out all the shapes you need.

Bake the gingerbread one tray at a time on a high shelf in the oven for 8-10 mins, until a lovely, rich brown and firm to the touch. As soon as each tray is baked, carefully sit the templates back onto the relevant shapes and trim any edges to neaten. Use a cutter to stamp out any windows or cut away any doors with a small, sharp knife. Let all the biscuits cool completely.

Sieve the royal icing sugar into a bowl and stir in dribbles of water until you have a stiff icing. Spoon some into a food bag (cover the rest), snip the tiniest bit off the corner and pipe any icing decorations you want onto the gingerbread. Leave to dry.

Arrange the wall biscuits as you are going to assemble them, then pipe icing along the side edges and stick the walls together. Pipe extra icing where the walls join each other on the inside of the house, and support the sides using your icing balls. Leave for a few hrs until set.

Once dry, stick on the roofs, as above – you may need to hold the biscuits on firmly for a few mins until the icing starts to set – or shape your icing balls to support the edges of the roof. Set overnight, then use any remaining royal icing to help you decorate your houses with sweets and sprinkles.

 


Holiday Macaroons - These delights will make everyone smile!

Ingredients:

4 large egg whites (or 5 small) 140g
1/3 cup or  70g caster sugar [*US cups 1/3 cup plus 1 tsp] 
1 1/2 cups or 230g pure icing sugar [US cups 1 1/2 cups plus 4 tsp] OR 1 3/4 cups or 230g icing mixture [US cups 1 3/4 cups plus 4 tsp]  
1 cup or 120g almond meal [US cups 1 cup plus 3 teaspoons] 
2g salt (tiny pinch) 
gel food colouring (optional)

(*cup measurements are metric cups where 1 cup=250ml in the USA cups use customary units so 1 cup = 236ml so you need to add a little bit extra as detailed in the recipe.)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C

Place egg whites and caster sugar in a bowl and mix with electric mixer until stiff enough to turn the bowl upside down without it falling out. Continue to whip for 1-2 more minutes.  How long this takes will depend on you mixer.  Add gel or powdered food colouring and continue to mix for a further 20 seconds.

Sift the almond meal and icing sugar and salt twice, discarding any almond lumps that are too big to pass through the sieve. Fold into the egg white mixture. It should take roughly 30-50 folds using a rubber spatula.  The mixture should be smooth and a very viscous, not runny. Over-mix and your macarons will be flat and have no foot, under mix and they will not be smooth on top.