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Sunday, December 9, 2012

My afternoon of holiday baking: part 1 -- not exactly picture perfect

I had the most delightful afternoon, yesterday, baking holiday goodies and packaging them so beautifully for gifting. I just wanted to share with you how wonderful it was to feel so cheery and have such a grand time mixing and scooping and baking. It was just such a very lovely afternoon!

Not! Don't you just want to scream when you read something like that!

This is how it really went. All I needed to do was make a batch of spiced nuts and a batch of my mom's recipe for Swedish rosettes. That's all I had to do. Should be manageable, right?

The problem I encounter with recipes that I prepare just once a year for the holidays, is that I prepare them just once a year. I forget all the little tricks and how-tos that aren't written in the recipe. A year is a long time to go between making a batch of spiced nuts or rosettes.

I mixed up the spice, sugar and egg white mix, only to have gobs of the stuff leftover. I added all the nuts from the one can. Oh well, I'll come up with something to do with the leftover spice goo.

The nuts were baking nicely as we ate lunch. Right after lunch I had the brilliant idea to start in on the rosettes immediately. I was in the midst of frying rosettes, when the timer for the nuts went off. I quickly turned the oven off, leaving the door ajar, so they wouldn't overcook. My plan was to return to the nuts after the rosettes were all done, and scoop them into a bowl.

Meanwhile I was having trouble with my new rosette iron. I'd lost one part to my mom's iron, so replaced the whole thing with a new set this summer. This new set has a couple of problems, but I was finding a way to work around them. I'll be checking second hand stores for used iron parts for the future. I suspect that the slick nature of the new metal prevents the batter from adhering long enough to get it from the batter bowl to the frying oil. The old irons were a brushed aluminum and "grabbed" the batter better. I burned myself numerous times on both the hot oil and the hot iron. And about half of the cookies just flaked off the iron, not in pretty little cookies, but in crumbly chunks.

About now my daughters walked in to me having a very difficult time and offered assistance. I asked them to take the nuts out of the oven and scoop them into a bowl. Guess what happens when you leave the sugar-coated nuts to cool on the baking sheet? It adheres to the baking sheet like dried glue. I should have removed them immediately after baking. Not  a huge deal, but just not what I needed in the moment. Fortunately, my daughters tended to the nuts, using a metal spatula to scrape them off. They taste delicious, at least. But the baking sheet needs a good long soak. 

Back to the rosettes. The longer I worked on them, the harder it got. I managed to make about 30 good-looking ones, at which point, I decided I was just too exhausted to do any more. The batter was refusing to stick to the iron. It was too hot, or too cold, or I don't know what. I just needed to lie down. I scraped all the remaining batter into the bowl with the spice goo and intend to use that in pancake batter.

Our kitchen feels like it is covered in cooking oil. It's all over the counters, the stove, and some on the floor, as the irons would unscrew themselves from the rod unexpectedly from time to time.

Stress wipes me out. I felt I too tired to move a muscle for the rest of the afternoon. It all turned out okay in the end. Here's a photo of some of the good-looking rosettes and the bowl of spiced nuts.

And I now understand why my mom only made her Swedish cookies once a year.

But hold on. The day improves in part two.


  1. Love it. That would be me when I try to do more than one thing at a time. This year I'm going to be baking with my daughter-in-law and the 2 four year olds. Can't wait to see what a mess that will be!

    1. Hi Lois,
      That sounds like fun! A mess, but fun!

  2. I was laughing and feeling your frustration at the same time! Kitchen troubles can make me, ahem, cranky. Glad to hear your day ended on a high note. I love your quirky family stories, too--sometimes the most fun traditions are things which just sort of ... happen.

    1. Hi Kris,
      I am so, so glad to have made people laugh. I have been laughing myself today. I think sometimes that's all we can do, is laugh it off!

  3. Sounds like my kitchen when trying to make Christmas goodies. I once gave up on getting divinity to the right temperature and have not tried since then. Your rosettes and spiced nuts look really good!!!

    1. Hi Belinda,
      Doesn't it sometimes seem like the harder you are trying with something like my baking or your divinity, the more impossible it becomes? The next holiday baking I tackle will be something fool-proof!

  4. It's interesting that you use mixed nuts for your spiced nuts. I usually see them just with one kind of nut like pecans or walnuts. I too have had problems leaving nuts in the oven for a little too long. I don't mess with them any more, but am happy when someone else takes the time and trouble to do it.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Oh, the recipe calls for pecans I believe. But I just always use whatever I happen to have on hand, and hope the little details won't matter much. I have a bunch of cans of mixed nuts, bought on sale a couple of weeks ago, so this is what I used. And they came out very well (after prying them off the baking sheet!). I especially like the spiced peanuts in the mix.

  5. Write things down in your Holiday Book!

    I feel for you. But thanks for sharing, at least we all know we're not the only ones.

    1. Hi Jessica,
      After reading your comment here, I made a little note both in the cookbook and my Book, about getting the candied nuts off the baking sheet immediately after baking. I know better, but just forgot in the moment. Lessons learned. But it all got gobbled up anyways. My son and his friends finished off the last of the rosettes this evening. They were so good, I am considering trying again, but with a half batch. Oh, I must be half crazy to want to do that again!

  6. This post made me smile, because my Christmas cooking and baking go exactly the same way :) It looks like everything turned out well in the end though.

    1. Hi Economies,
      I am thinking just about everyone encounters these sort of difficulties with holiday cooking. I can do everyday cooking without incident, but the special event stuff never goes as planned!
      And I'm glad to have made you smile! I think it's humorous, myself, now that I'm not in the moment of the frustrations.


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