Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Gluten-Free Christmas Baking

This year I rediscovered the joy of Christmas baking.

When one of my children was diagnosed with celiac disease and had to go on a strict gluten-free diet, I gave up my annual tradition of baking dozens upon dozens of Christmas cookies. My old family recipes just didn't convert well to the gluten-free flours.

About a week ago, this child began to ask if I would be doing any Christmas baking this year. He caught me off guard, considering that it has been many years since he was diagnosed at 19-months old. Lately, he's been feeling a little left out because of his diet restrictions so I decided to get on the ball.

Popcorn ball that is. Today we made old-fashioned popcorn balls and butter crunch popcorn -- recipes found at www.jollytime.com. We also made cream cheese mints and never-fail fudge -- recipes found at www.daniellebean.com.

Tomorrow we plan to make fudge wreaths. Here is the recipe from my friend Linda B:
Three varieties: the Chunky Chocolate Fudge Wreath with Walnuts and Currants, the White Chocolate Wreath with Pistachio and Cranberry or the Goober and Raisinette Wreath! Or, just spread out in any greased pan for an everyday treat!

Chunky Chocolate Fudge Wreath with Walnuts and Currents
• 12 ounce package semisweet chocolate chips
• 1 cup butterscotch chips
• 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk (save the can)
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 8 ounce can walnuts, plus more for topping
• 1/2 cup raisins or dried currants (a couple of handfuls)
• candied red and green cherries to decorate top (like holly)
• softened butter to grease an 8 inch round cake pan
1. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan with softened butter. Pour the chocolate and butterscotch chips, condensed milk and vanilla into a medium saucepan. Put the pan on the stove and turn the heat to low.
2. Cover the empty condensed milk can with plastic wrap and put it in the center of the round cake pan.
3. Stir the chips and milk until they melt together, about 3 minutes. Stir in nuts and raisins. Scoop the fudge into the cake pan all around the plastic-covered can in the center to form a wreath or ring shape. Let it be all bumpy on top. Keep pushing the can back to the center if the fudge moves it away from there. Cut the red cherries in half with scissors and the green cherries into quarters. Use the green pieces to make leaves and the red to make holly berries. Decorate the fudge with several groups of holly berry sprigs made from the cherries and garnish with walnuts between the sprigs.
4. Put the fudge in the fridge and chill until firm. Remove the can from the center, then loosen the sides and bottom of the fudge with a spatula. Cut the fudge into thin slices to serve. To give the wreath as a gift-wrap in cellophane and secure with a bow or ornament.
White Chocolate Wreath with Pistachio and Cranberry
• Substitute the chocolate and butterscotch chips with white chocolate chips, 1 12 ounce bag plus 1 cup.
• Substitute 1 to 1 1/2 cups of shelled natural pistachio nuts for walnuts.
• Substitute 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries for currants.
Goober and Raisinette Wreath
• Swap butterscotch for peanut butter chips
• Swap large whole peanuts for walnuts used in original recipe (such as peeled Virginia Peanuts)
• Swap 1/2 cup large raisins for currants in original recipe

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