I love the idea of lovely old fashioned homemade presents for the holidays, and in years past I actually expanded beyond the kitchen to non edible crafts to give, but they weren’t my forte and over the years I’ve settled on a few good recipes that I know the recipients look forward to receiving year after year (at least I think they do, maybe they’re just being polite!).
My classic mix consists of Coffee Toffee, Espresso Cookies, and Joanne’s Ginger Cookies. Back in the day when I created therecipes for coffee toffee and espresso cookies such things weren’t available in specialty markets and crystalized ginger hadn’t made it’s way into our kitchens yet. Crystalized ginger was primarily eaten as candy.
The basic toffee recipe came out of a candy making class I took waaay back in the 70′s, while I was still in college. It was taught by a woman who lived in Piedmont, CA named Mary Ahbolin who had a very intimidating demeanor. But she collected fabulous recipes and I learned a lot from her. I don’t know what made me decide to add espresso powder to the recipe, other than my love of coffee candy. Toffee needs to be individually wrapped or dipped in chocolate to preserve it’s texture. I have never mastered tempering chocolate, so I discovered early on that white chocolate makes a very forgiving coating, plus it gives an au lait finish to the candy.
Before Laura and I opened up Bombar’s, making and selling this candy was our first business. The candy has always been enthusiastically received no matter where we presented it and at one point we were selling it at Saks in SF, but we were never able to come up with an efficient way to produce it, to keep that small batch handmade goodness. I have not tried to sell it commercially for years and make it for friends and family once a year, during the holidays, but I won’t shre the recipe because there are lots of tricks to making this candy and it’s not a recipe that will yield consistent results in the hands of a novice.
Next there are the espresso cookies. The inspiration for this cookie came from Paul Prudhomme’s cookbook. Cajun cooking was all the rage in the 80′s and his book was my constant companion. Two recipes I use to this day are the espresso cookie and the fresh strawberry pie. I have made slight variations on this recipe over the years. Claire has always loved this cookie and whenever I was asked to provide cookies for a school function she’d request them which didn’t go over that well when she was in elementary school, at least not with the little kids, but the mom’s and teachers loved them.
My third cookie is Joanne’s Ginger Cookies. This recipe is from Laura’s mom. A friend gave them to her mom (Joanne), and she passed them on to Laura. They instantly became a Bombar’s mainstay, frequently gracing our cookie platters. They are in my experience (and believe me I have years and years of ginger cookies under my belt) the best ginger cookie EVER! They are crisp, buttery, gingery, and very satisfying.
The good news about all these items is they have a good “shelf life”. If you wrap each item individually in cellophane before you box them they will last a week (longer for the toffee) without any loss of quality. However, since I do like to be sustainable in my packaging I box them in craft to go boxes (I buy in bulk from Cash and Carry downtown Oakland), the candy I make ahead and keep stored in an airtight container. The cookies I freeze unbaked in balls and bake them the night before I’m giving the boxes away so that the recipients can taste them at their best.
In this picture there are also some bars of Honey Caramels. This is a very delicate, gentle tasting caramel with a hint of honey. This is an occasional visitor to my gift boxes. Since this post has come out after Christmas (too busy cooking and entertaining to write!), you’ll have to tuck these recipes away for next year, or you can order boxes from me.
1/2 pound butter room temperature
1 1/4 C sugar
1/4 C instant espresso powder
2 t vanilla
3 egg yolks
2 3/4 C flour
sugar to roll cookies
Combine the sugar, butter, and vanilla. Whisk together the egg yolks and espresso powder and stir into the butter sugar mixture. Stir in the flour. Scoop the dough with a 1 oz. scoop and roll in the sugar. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake 350 for 15-18 minutes. It’s hard to tell if these cookies have browned since they are so dark to begin with. Sometimes I carefully lift one with a spatula and look at the underside to make sure I’m not burning them.
Optional-when the cookies are still warm I press a chocolate covered espresso bean on top, I do this so that people can tell they are different from a molasses cookie. Since it’s a dark cookie people may not be able to tell the difference. Makes 3 dozen.
Joanne’s Ginger Cookie
1/2 pound butter, room temperature
1 C brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 t vanilla
3/4 C crystalized ginger, finely chopped
1 1/2 C flour
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3/4 t ginger
Combine the butter, brown sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well. Add all remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Scoop with a 1 oz. scoop onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Keep plenty of space between the cookies since these cookies will spread. Bake 350 15-17 minutes or until golden around the edges. Let cool completely on the cookie sheets before removing. When these cookies are warm they are very delicate and will break easily. Makes 2.5 dozen.
Honey Cream Caramels
1 C sugar
1 C heavy cream
2 T butter
3 T honey
1 T vanilla
Combine all ingredients except the vanilla in a medium pot. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Lower a candy thermometer into the pot and cook, stirring occasionally to 250. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the caramel into a lightly buttered or oiled 8×8 square pan and allow to cool completely. Cut into bit sized pieces and wrap each piece in waxed paper. Makes about a pound of candy.
Filed under: Desserts and Baked Goods