This time last year, I was elbow high in sugar cookies. Dozens of iced woodland animals, snowballs, and frosted thumbprints were boxed and delivered to our loved ones. Luke rolled a small piece dough and cut out shapes before he mashed a bear into a stocking and popped them into his mouth, raw. (I’ve been known to do the same and clearly taught him well).
After I bought five pounds of bitter-and-semi-sweet chocolate plus the same amount of mixed nuts at the store the other night, it was clear how the holiday gifts were going to shake down this year. We ditched the sugar cookies this time around for chocolate, chocolate, more chocolate (and you need to shimmy your hips a little while you say it) mixed with salty pretzels, toasty hazelnuts and a soft hit of maple bourbon at the end. Then nuts, nuts, nuts (plus more shimmying) and spicy, sweet, woodsy rosemary to follow.
Earlier today, I dropped the last spoonfuls of Anyway You Like ‘Em Chocolate Clusters onto a baking tray, banged a wooden spoon with Nigella’s spiced bar nuts in a stainless steel bowl (a MUST try)—all while our 2011 Holiday Mix played.
There’s still more to do around here—a last minute run to the store for tea and fresh rosemary and bags of homemade goodies filled with chocolates, spiced nuts, plum jam, and our very own holiday mix to pack. The mix is a little something David and I put together for you along with these chocolates (by the way, I recommend the bourbon, maple syrup, and cream (or soymilk) add ins from the start).
2011 Holiday Mix Track list:
1. Santa Baby by Pink Martini
2. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by She & Him
3. Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance! by Sufjan Stevens
4. (I’m Dreaming of A) White Christmas by Etta Jones
5. Merry Christmas Baby by Chuck Berry
6. Pretty Paper by Roy Orbison
7. Christmas Must Be Tonight by The Band
8. Happy Christmas (War Is Over) by John Lennon
9. Several Shades of Why (Album) by J. Mascis
10. These Days by The Black Keys
11. Cruel by St. Vincent
12. Abducted by Cults
13. Father Sgt. Christmas Card by Guided By Voices
14. We’re Going To The Country! by Sufjan Stevens
15. Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis by Tom Waits
16. Christmas Without Santa Claus by Victoria Spivey
17. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? by Nancy Wilson
18. Fur Elise by Vince Guaraldi
Hope you like the chocolates and mix and have a happy festive holiday!
Anyway You Like ‘Em Chocolate Clusters
Yield about 1 pound or 24 1-inch clusters
8 ounces high-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (or a mix of both), chopped
1/2 to 1 cup salted pretzels, broken into small pieces
1/2 to 1 cup toasted nuts (hazelnuts, macadamia, pecans, peanuts, etc), coarsely chopped
optional truffle-like add ins:
1 tablespoon good bourbon
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/4 cup heavy cream or soymilk
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate (along with the optional bourbon, maple syrup, and cream add-ins) in a double boiler over simmering water (if you don’t have a double boiler, use a stainless steel bowl over small saucepan with water). Once the chocolate is melted and shiny, stir in the pretzels and nuts until they are fully coated in chocolate. Spoon 1-inch clusters onto the lined baking sheet. Chill the clusters in the freezer for 20 minutes in order to set the chocolate. Eat and share.