Saturday, December 10, 2011's beginning to taste a lot like Christmas

Decadence with sugar on top
I resolved to give up New Year’s resolutions years ago. Listen! Hear the sound of this, one of my most revered holiday traditions, breaking. I can't even wait until the new year. Today, December 10, I hereby declare to post a healthy recipe at least once a month. I promise. Something green, crunchy.
However, tis not the season to be unreasonable. If you’ve ever eaten a granola cookie that outweighs your computer bag, you understand. I plan to bake some honest-to-goodness Christmas goodies this weekend. Or baddies, depending on your viewpoint.
If we weren’t traveling this year, I’d probably go into overdrive. I admit without reservation that I listen to 24/7 Christmas music stations. And to all of the umpteen dozen Christmas playlists on my iPod. I have one playlist of nothing but my favorite versions of “Silent Night.” Blog to follow soon about this one. From Andrea Bocelli to Perry Como (yes, Marie, Perry), from sophisticated orchestral arrangements to YouTube videos (no covers, however; I do have standards) halls are not only decked at Christmas, they rock. N’roll.
Speaking of rolls, can there be a better time to make home-made cinnamon rolls? Or maybe a batch of angel biscuits with yeast? Nay. Or a more appropriate moment to whip up fudge or almond/toffee bark? Of course not. But we will be on the move during the holidays, so I must limit myself to a few concoctions. For gifting. Of course, a taste - or four - is required before I pass them off to an unsuspecting public. 
Have you ever tried - successfully - to cut an itty-bitty slice of pound cake before serving and then tried to shove the cake back together? The dilemma: can't give an untasted cake; can't give piece-work. Cookies, on the other hand, are the perfect solution. Who on earth checks how many cookies arrive in a tin? And then comments, “I count twenty-two. I bet she ate a couple.” An ungrateful person, that’s who. Know that when you get something from my kitchen, I will have thrown myself over that fully-loaded gooey butter bar first to save you from a bad batch.
I’m typing this post before I bake because I am a woman on a mission today. So the photo is from Pillsbury who awarded Jean Olson of Wallingford, Iowa a prize for these delicious morsels in 1990. But I’ve made these cookies countless times over the years and they always look just like this picture. Frankly, they’re best served warm from the oven with a glass of cold milk. But I’ve choked down quite a few three days later and enjoyed every bite. Hope that you will, too!
2 1/2 cups flour Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose or Unbleached Flour 
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup margarine or butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup chopped pecans
48 Rolo® Chewy Caramels in Milk Chocolate (The Pillsbury recipe adds “unwrapped”. I avoid assumptions but really? Unwrapped? How many of you would bake a la “foil and all”?)
1 tablespoon sugar
4 oz. vanilla-flavored candy coating, if desired (I usually melt white chocolate which I keep on hand. If the Girl Scouts gave a badge for ‘Dessert Pantry Readiness”, I could have had a more impressive display. My knots were rather shabby.)
In medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa and baking soda; mix well.
In large bowl, combine 1 cup sugar, brown sugar and margarine
Beat until light and fluffy. 
Add vanilla and eggs; beat well. 
Add flour mixture; blend well. Stir in 1/2 cup of the pecans.  
Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes for easier handling.
Heat oven to 375°F. 
For each cookie, with floured hands, shape about 1 tablespoon dough around 1 caramel candy, covering completely. (Okay. Here’s where it’s okay to count. A bag of Rolo’s usually contains 48 candies. Count them first. And, for heaven's sake, don’t forget to unwrap. If I have four dozen, I half the dough, half again, half again, until I have forty eight equal pieces. The “about a tablespoon” direction never seems to work out properly. If I have forty-nine candies, I eat one while I roll dough.)
In small bowl, combine remaining 1/2 cup pecans and 1 tablespoon sugar. Press one side of each ball into pecan mixture. Place, nut side up, 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake at 375°F. for 7 to 10 minutes or until set and slightly cracked. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes or until completely cooled.
Melt candy coating in small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Drizzle over cookies. (This step gilds the lily. Drizzle or not. It's your call.)

Last night, at Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg, CA

Whether with friends
or a best friend
or peacefully alone
by a fire
or not
have yourselves a merry little Christmas

...and here's a little tune for y'all while you bake

Baby, It's Cold Outside by Lady Antebellum

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Carole said...

Oh my goodness Celeste, these look heavenly! Today my Facebook status has been 'unashamedly listening to Christmas music whilst making a batch of mince pies'. Glad to see I am not alone in getting into the Christmas-baking spirit! (Are mince pies something you have in the US, or are they just an English tradition?)

Jeannette said...

Oh Celeste you made me smile! You are on a rollo...aren't you? Joy to the world...

Celeste said...

My English sister! I knew you were out there somewhere. Mince pies crossed the pond to the states but I would say that they are a more English tradition. Yummy to me! Thanks for dropping by! Wouldn't it be nice to share a cuppa tea and eat some of these delights? Here's to a blessed Christmas season, Carole.

Celeste said...

Thank you, Jeannette! Love the "on a Rollo"! And peace, goodwill to all!