All in a day's work

I surprised even myself by how much we accomplished on Sunday.  It was a day filled mostly with holiday baking and confection making.  It brought back fond memories of similar days around Christmas when I was a kid.  Cookie- and coffee cake-baking marathons were part of my childhood, and as I remember it, my mom and dad gave away lots of baked goods every year.

We do too.  And on Sunday we mixed and baked and cooled and ate and watched football.  Then repeated the same. 

Motivated in part by the goal of preparing treat bags as gifts for Byron's team at work, we set about making chocolate-pistachio-cranberry bars, my red and green version of these bars.  Then we tried our hand at homemade vanilla marshmallows.  Simple ingredients, time consuming, but really tasty results.  Better than jet-puffed by far.

Then there was a break for lunch and the making of chex mix.  The oven version. We always make chex mix at Christmas.  Always.

More marshmallows -- cinnamon mocha this time.  Dusted in dark cocoa they were pretty tasty.

Somewhere midday I got six oranges peeled and started on my candied orange peel.  This was a new one for me, but after finding this recipe I wanted to give it a try.  I made the thick version and it's delicious.  (I had planned to make orangettes with some of it, but much of it has already been eaten or given away.)

Then we made jam thumbprint cookies.  The same ones my mom always made.  The ones you roll in chopped walnuts and put a little blog of jelly on top of.  Wyatt helped.  He more than adequately pulverized the walnuts in the food processor while I was paying attention to something else.  But it surprised me that making the thumbprints wasn't actually his favorite part.  (I should have known because there were no buttons to push.) Turns out, making thumbprints made his finger sticky.  Oh the horror.  So, being the resourceful child that he is, he used my finger -- held tightly in his little hand -- to make the depressions.  I don't mind sticky fingers so much.

Once cooled, I filled them with the Shuksan strawberry jam that I made this summer.  Let me just say I'll be making more of these for Christmas. For us.

Somehow, by midnight, all the treat bags were finished.  The marshmallows and bars and extra cookies were stored, and the chex mix was almost gone.  I didn't clean up the kitchen.  I just brushed my teeth and crawled into bed with my two snoring boys.

Jam Thumbprints
from my mom's recipe box

2/3 cup salted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
(1/2 tsp. salt, only if using unsalted butter)
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

finely chopped walnuts (for rolling before baking)
good-quality fruit jam

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until light in color, a couple minutes.  Add the egg yolks and vanilla and mix thoroughly.  Add the flour all at once (and salt if using) and mix on low speed until combined.  Don't over beat it, but make sure the flour is incorporated.

Shape the cookies into a small ball using about a teaspoon of dough for each one.  You want it to be just a little bigger than a marble. Then roll the ball in the finely chopped walnuts or hold the ball in your hand and gently squeeze the walnuts into it.  Reshape it to be round and place it on a parchment- lined (or lightly greased) baking sheet.  Make a depression in the center of each cookie with your finger (or a toddler thumb) before baking.

Bake for 15-18 minutes.  The cookies are done when the bottoms are lightly golden and the center is fairly firm to the touch.  Don't expect the cookies to look browned.  Cool on the tray on wire racks.  When cool to the touch, drop a small blog of jam in the center of each cookie.  The warmth of the cookie will help the jam flow and settle in.

Makes about 36 small cookies.


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