Holiday baking: Candy Cane Blossoms

The search for the perfect holiday cookie recipe begins early in our house. As I’m obsessed with all things dessert (I mean, who isn’t?), whiling away the hours looking at pretty food-related pictures on Pinterest isn’t exactly an inconvenience for me.

And that’s where I found the recipe for my big baking contribution this year: for Candy Cane Blossoms. These sparkly little beauties came by way of Baked Perfection and seemed like the perfect batch for this time of year. Plus, they look like Peanut Butter Blossoms — possibly my favorite cookie ever.

The taste is totally different, though. These are a sugar cookie rolled generously in red and/or green sugar (or both), then topped with a peppermint-flavored Hershey Kiss. Those can be a bit tricky to find, I’ll admit, so I stocked up at Target and wound up with quite a few extras.

Not that that’s a problem or anything.

My sister, Spencer and I spent a few hours in the kitchen Saturday getting these ready for our annual cookie exchange at my aunt’s house. Katie made butterscotch scotchies, a bar cookie, and I had a hard time keeping my grubby mitts off those, too. Desserts don’t last long around our house.

And that’s exactly as it should be.

Candy Cane Blossoms

Recipe adapted from Hershey’s and Baked Perfection

1 bag Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
Red and green colored sugar

Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Remove wrappers from candies (approx. 35)

Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and egg in large bowl until well blended. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; add alternatively with milk to butter mixture, beating until well blended.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls (keep them small!). Roll in red and/or green colored sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 9-11 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and cookies are set. Remove from oven; cool 3 to 4 minutes. Press candy piece into center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Yields approximately 35 cookies.

Remembering our Roman holiday

It’s been more than a year since I journeyed to Rome with my family in June 2007, but — like London — there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my trip to Europe. It happened at a unique time in my life: I’d just graduated from college; I was preparing to enter my first full-time job at a newspaper; I was leaving behind bits and pieces of “childhood” and getting ready to enter the “real world” (though, as John Mayer reminds us, there’s really “no such thing”).

Basically, it was amazing! Being in such an exciting, busy and energetic place — even if it did rain the majority of the time we were there — was incredible. I’ve been meaning to write about it for a long, long time, but I’ve never created the opportunity. I was looking through tons of my photos today, though, and was reminded of so many awesome places we went. Looking back now, it’s hard to believe I was really standing there, so far from home. But it was incredible being an American abroad!

Our first day arriving in Rome on a flight from London, we grabbed a cab and headed out to our hotel about 30 minutes from the airport. After trying to settle in a little bit following a harrowing drive through the country with a newlywed couple on their way to Venice, we took one of the hotel’s buses into town and went straight to Vatican City.

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London on the brain

pretty iconic

Pretty iconic

I realized with a start last night that since going to England in May 2007, there probably hasn’t been a day that I haven’t thought about my two and a half days in the city — the culmination of which required my parents, sister and me to walk down a dark street at three in the morning, local time, to catch a train back to Gatwick Airport.

After graduating from college, my family wanted to take our “great European vacation” before I officially entered the workforce (which I did — three short weeks later). We travelled to England en route to Italy, where we toured around Rome, Florence, Tuscany, Venice and Lake Garda. It was, without a doubt, the trip of my lifetime. I can’t imagine anything more thrilling than waking up in a foreign country with the whole day ahead of you, the people you love more than anything at your side, a camera dangling from your neck.

Riding backward in a kamikazi cab

Riding backward in a kamikaze cab

While Italy was absolutely gorgeous, amazing and totally worthy of an entire blog in and of itself, it’s London that has somehow managed to stick with me — to the point that I’ve become a completely obsessed, reading up on everything I can find regarding the British monarchy, dedicating myself to shows like “The Tudors,” drafting a novel set almost entirely in the English countryside and prompting my sister to buy me presents with Big Ben splashed all over them. As I type this, I’m sitting at my desk with a wire-crafted Big Ben just to the left of my monitor, a postcard of the Globe Theatre below my screen and a tiny red double-decker bus to the right of that.

I am, to put it lightly, an Anglophile.

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