What is Christmas without its abundance of confections? We use the term to include all sorts of sweet delights like cakes, cookies and candy. Every year we make our traditional cut-out cookies, using our huge collection of cookie cutters, some of which are over 100 years old. Our Christmas favorites are painstakingly decorated for a fun festive touch. New traditions include a yearly red velvet cake served with homemade peppermint ice cream after the Christmas meal. And lately we have been making candy… candied tangerine rinds dipped in chocolate, fudge, pralines and peppermint divinity. Elizabeth’s late mother Belle loved divinity and always had the more traditional vanilla variety out around the holidays. Having divinity around during the holidays is one way we keep her memory alive. This is the recipe we have been using for the past few years. A word of warning, a heavy duty mixer is required. Don’t attempt with an every day hand-held or you will probably burn it out. I also recommend a candy thermometer.
2 ½ cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
½ cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract (this is what the original recipe calls for, but I use ½ tsp.)
2 or 3 drops red food coloring
1/3 cup finely crushed peppermint stick candy
Line the bottom of a 9×5-inch loaf pan with wax paper. Butter papper and sides of pan well. (this is if you are going to pour it out in a loaf and cut it up, we put dollops on wax paper and swirl them)
In a heavy medium-sized saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, water and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Then cook, without stirring, until temperature reaches 260 degrees F (hard ball stage.) Just before that temperature has been reached, beat egg whites with mixer until stiff. Slowly pour hot syrup into egg white as beater is going in a thin stream. Add vanilla & peppermint extract and continue beating until mixture just begins to hold its shape when dropped from a spoon onto waxed paper. Stop beating at this point and stir in by hand the crushed candy. Mix and ad drops of red food coloring and swirl for a candy cane effect. Too much mixing will turn the divinity pink at this point. Pour half the mixture into prepare pan, or begin to dollop and swirl tablespoons full onto waxed paper. Let stand at room temperature until cooled, then cover and chill.
This is a more elaborate three tiered red velvet cake with cream cheese icing. Snowflakes are made using snowflake cookie cutters on rolled gumpaste. After they dry they are covered in water and sprinkled with clear decorating sugar for a crystalline look.
Fruit becomes an elegant winter centerpiece when it is coated in sugar to create the effect of frost. Simply coat the fruit in a thin layer of egg white and roll in decorating sugar. After your party the fruit can be washed and eaten. The fruit is being displayed in one of three Victorian silver plated revolving buffet servers. These pieces are English, boiling water is place in the bottom, the food is suspended in the middle, the domed top retains the heat and revolves beneath the bottom to reveal the food dish. Although not intended to hold fruit, it does so very nicely when the center food tray is removed.
Crushed candy canes give divinity a holiday twist , this batch is cooling on waxed paper.
Here are some of the cookie cutters we use. You can tell which ones are old, the dancing man is one of the oldest, he is rarely used since he is almost a foot tall. The Hansel and Gretel set are from Elizabeth’s childhood.