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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My 3 Favorite Non-Cookie Holiday Treats

As much as I'd love to, I can't decorate cookies for every holiday party I go to.  Since I spend most of my pre-holiday time working on batches of cookies for others (stay tuned!), I have a few go-to party treats that are easy to whip up for my friends, and are guaranteed to be a huge hit!


These simple truffle balls are to die for! And with so many different types of Oreos and Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's out there (I used TJ's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's - SO GOOD!), the flavor combinations are endless!

1 regular-sized package of Oreos or Joe-Joe's
1 8oz. package of cream cheese (room temperature)
1 10oz. bag of easy-melt chocolate
Toppings (Crushed Candy Canes, Sprinkles, Cookie Crumble, etc.)

1. REMOVE the cookies from the package and place in a large Ziploc bag.
2. Make sure the Ziploc bag is completely closed with little air inside. CRUSH the cookies up.
3. POUR the crushed cookies into a medium bowl. ADD the room-temperature cream cheese. MIX the cream cheese with the cookies until completely combined. There should be no dry cookie pieces at the bottom of the bowl.
4. LINE a cookie tray with parchment paper. SHAPE the "dough" into 1-inch balls and place on the parchment. PLACE the full cookie sheet in the freezer while you prep the chocolate. This helps the balls stay together when they are dipped in the chocolate, and helps the chocolate harden more quickly after dipping.
5. MELT your chocolate.
    In a double boiler: Fill a pot with about 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Place the double boiler over the pot and pour half of the melting chocolate in. STIR the chocolate until it is evenly melted. Put the heat on low; just enough to keep the chocolate melted, but avoid burning it.
    In the microwave: Pour half of the melting chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl. Put the chocolate in the microwave for 30 second. Stir the chocolate and repeat in 30-second increments until the chocolate is fully melted. Be careful not to over cook, as the chocolate can burn.
6. REMOVE the Oreo balls from the freezer and dip them, one by one, into the chocolate. I found it easiest to poke them with a skewer and cover them with chocolate using my stirring spoon (and you can leave the skewer on for a cake pop vibe!)
7. PLACE the chocolate-covered Oreo ball back on the parchment paper. ADD any toppings before the chocolate hardens. POUR the second half of the melting chocolate into the double boiler/bowl and melt once you're running low.
8. CHILL the truffle balls in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

CHOCOLATE TOFFEE BARK (Medium - but also pretty easy)
Goes great with champagne! ;)

Your guests will not be able to get enough of this addictive sweet treat!

Aluminum foil
Cooking Spray
1-2 sleeves Saltine crackers or Matzo
1 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 cups chocolate chips
Toppings (Crushed Candy Canes, Sprinkles, etc.)

1. PREHEAT the oven to 350 degrees. LINE a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. SPRAY the foil with cooking spray. FILL the cookie sheet with a single layer of crackers.
2. MELT the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. WHISK in the brown sugar and bring to a boil. Allow mixture to boil until the sugar is fully dissolved.
3. POUR the butter-sugar mixture over the crackers, using a spatula to make sure it is spread evenly.
4. BAKE the crackers in the oven at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes until the toffee on top is bubbling.
5. REMOVE from the oven and immediately sprinkle the chocolate chips on the crackers. Allow the chips to melt for a bit, then SPREAD the melted chocolate over the entire tray of crackers with a clean spatula.
6. SPRINKLE any toppings over the chocolate.
7. COOL in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
8. When cool, remove aluminum foil and BREAK toffee into pieces.

CINNAMON PUMPKIN PULL-APART BREAD with Buttered Rum Glaze (Hard - but don't let it scare you!)

This is a recipe that I found last year from Sunny Side Up that looked unbelievable, but every time I read it, I cowered in fear. I have never made bread before, and it was very intimidating. But Thanksgiving rolled around and I could not get it off my mind. So I went for it. And it didn't go horribly wrong! I had to do the 1st step three times before getting it right, but after that it was surprisingly smooth sailing. So, trust me, if I can do it, you can do it. Just give it a try. And no matter how it comes out, it will taste amazing!

Recipe copied and adapted from Sunny Side Up (I edited some steps with techniques I found helpful):


2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup 
granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups bread or all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Buttered Rum Glaze 
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp milk
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 Tbsp rum 
1. PLACE 2 Tbsp butter and 1/2 c. milk in a small sauce pan over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture starts to brown. POUR the browned mixture into a stand mixer with a dough hook and allow to cool.
2. While butter mixture is still warm (but not hot) ADD yeast and 1/4 c. sugar to the bowl, stir slightly, then allow to proof for 6-8 minutes (until the top is foamy).
3. ADD pumpkin puree, salt and 1 c. flour to the bowl. Stir until combined and add the remaining flour 1/2 c. at a time. Allow the dough to kneed in the mixer for 6 minutes.
4. LINE another bowl with a thin layer of oil using a paper towel. REMOVE the dough from the mixer and place in the bowl. COVER with a clean towel and let rise for 60-90 minutes.
5. When the dough has doubled in size, PUNCH it down and flip it out onto a floured surface. KNEED the dough with your hands for 1-2 minutes and ROLL into a 20x12 rectangle. (Great tip from Sunny Side Up that I failed to see... "If dough is difficult to roll out, cover with a towel and allow to relax for a few minutes then try again." Mine put up a fight.)
6. GREASE and FLOUR a 9x5 bread pan and set aside. MIX 1 c. granulated sugar with the cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl. MELT another 2 Tbsp. of butter in a pan and BRUSH it over the rectangle of dough. SPRINKLE the sugar mixture over the butter, spreading it evenly and patting it into the dough.
7. CUT the dough into 6 strips. LAY the strips on top of each other and cut into 6 squares. PLACE the piles of squares vertically in the loaf pan (unlike layers of a cake) until the pan is full. COVER with a clean towel, and allow to rise for 30-45 minutes. *At this point (midnight), I placed the covered pan in the refrigerator overnight so that I could bake the bread fresh in the morning for breakfast*
8. PREHEAT the oven to 350 degrees. After rising, BAKE the bread for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown.
9. To make the glaze, heat the butter, milk and brown sugar in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then immediately remove from heat and stir in the rum and powdered sugar. Once bread is cool, remove from pan and pour glaze over top.

                                                                             It won't last long!

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