I have to say, my top holiday song is a tie between "Christmas Pipes" and "Carol of the Bells". They're both just gorgeous, and I have an arrangement of each that just send shivers down my spine. If you're in the mood for holiday music, go to iTunes and grab "Christmas Pipes" by Celtic Woman, and I think I had to go to Amazon to get my copy of "Carol of the Bells" by The Calling.
Every year, I do a lot of holiday baking. I send about two dozen packages out every December to everyone I know and love. This year, there's peanut brittle, almond cookies, sugar cookies, honeycomb, and homemade marshmallows. I had planned petit fours, but those just would not work with me, and the pâte de fruit I had tried to make wound up in a mess on my carpet when the tray was dropped. Yeah, so, cookies and candies! By far, the most popular thing I make is my almond cookies, and I'll share the recipe with you now.
3 1/3C all-purpose flour
2 3/4C cake flour
1 1/4tsp salt 2 tins (16oz total) almond paste (NOT marzipan, but almond paste), chopped
1lb softened butter
1. Sift the salt, AP flour, and cake flour into a big bowl.
2. In the bowl of a mixer (and you need to do this in a stand mixer, it doesn't work otherwise), add the chopped/crumbled almond paste and process for a minute. Add butter and whip on medium high until light and fluffy.
3. Once the butter and almond paste are light and fluffy, add the sugar and beat for a minute or two. Add your eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly. Add the vanilla and mix.
4. On low speed, add the flour 1/3C at a time. Mix until all the flour is incorporated, and then break the dough up into fourths. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. I tend to chill it overnight and work with it the next day.
With this dough, you can make all sorts of spritz and sandwich cookies. * For spritz cookies, bake at 375F for 4 minutes, turn the pan, bake an additional 3 minutes. They should be the barest of brown on the bottom and edges.
* For sandwich cookies, add another 1/4C of AP flour to a quarter of the dough at room temperature. Roll out, cut your cookies, place on cookie sheet, and then freeze for 5-10 minutes. Bake at 375F for 4 minutes, turn the pan, bake an additional 3 minutes. They should be the barest of brown on the bottom and edges.
And, finally, something fun and free! K. Piet and I wrote a flash piece or short story for each day of the 2011 Advent calendar. It was then compiled into a PDF for folks to download and read. You can get this over at the Storm Moon Press site for free. It has all sorts of stories in it from smutty to sweet, revisiting old characters from published stories to new ones from upcoming releases. There are 29 holiday stories to consume, so go download it! :D
Happy holidays, everyone!
S.L. Armstrong is the co-author of Making Ends Meet and Catalyst. She can be found at her website or on Twitter @_slarmstrong.