By Kara Kimbrough
Borrowing a phrase from a former college student of mine who once said, “Wow, you lecture a LOT about stuff you’re passionate about!” I’m continuing my series (not lecture) on the joys of gifting others this Christmas with homemade candy, cookies and other treats. I even have a story from Christmas ’22 to back up my claim that home-baked gifts are the best – and it’s a good one.
Last year, I gave a friend a bag full of homemade treats a few days before Christmas that include a tin of orange balls. This is an old-school Christmas treat best served chilled due to its butter content. Unbeknownst to me, she and her husband were about to embark on a day-long journey to their son’s home in Tennessee.
Halfway there, she texted me to say they were parked on the side of the road devouring the contents of the bag. I was concerned a lunch of sugar and spice pecans, sugar cookies and lukewarm orange balls was less than filling; however, she assured me it was a lifesaver in their quest to reach their destination before dark.
Now that I’ve convinced you (without lecturing) that gifting homemade Christmas treats might just turn into a lifesaver for those on your list, I’ll share a few more of my favorite old-fashioned Christmas treats.
After previously publishing my favorites - the recipe for my grandmother’s buttermilk fudge and microwave pecan pralines - and hearing from readers about sugar-related disasters, I vowed never to share them in print again. However, if you’d like these two recipes, drop me an email and I’ll send it to you.
In the meantime, get into the kitchen and starting compiling your own “Lifesaving Christmas Treat Bags!”
Scottish Shortbread Cookies
1 pound cold unsalted butter, sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
4 cups all-purposed flour
In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until soft. Add the sugars and salt, and continue to mix until the texture is fluffy. Scrape down the bowl once or twice along the way. Add the flour in two additions, mixing on low until just combined. Turn out onto the countertop, form a ball and press into a thick disc shape. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until completely chilled, minimum of a couple of hours.
Heat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center. Roll the dough out 3/4-inch thick and use a cookie cutter or knife to create as many cookies as possible. Use a cookie stamp to imprint a design on top, if desired. Arrange an inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheet. Return the cookies to refrigerator, on the pan, for another 15-30 minutes to prevent spreading.
Bake for 20 minutes, rotate pan, and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until cookies are golden.
Old-Fashioned Orange Balls
11 ounce box Nilla Wafers Vanilla Wafer Cookies, crumbled
1 Stick of Butter, melted
6 ounces Orange Juice Concentrate (I used half a 12 ounce size)
½ cup Chopped Pecans
2 cups Confectioner's Sugar
3 cups Flaked Sweetened Coconut, more if needed
Add the crumbled vanilla wafers, orange juice concentrate, pecans and melted butter to the large bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment; mix on a medium speed until combined. Add confectioner's powdered sugar, then continue to mix until combine. Dough will be sticky.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper then use a one inch scoop to form orange balls, placing them on the lined baking sheet. After all the balls are formed, gently roll them in the flaked coconut to coat and transfer the orange snowball back to the lined baking sheet; repeat until all are coated. Refrigerate the orange snowballs until ready to serve.
Note: Orange balls do need to be refrigerated before and after serving.
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup pecan halves
24 individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick spray. Arrange 3 pecan halves in a "Y" shape on the prepared cookie sheet. Place 1 caramel candy in the center of the "Y". Repeat with remaining pecans and caramels. Bake in preheated oven just until caramel is melted, 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat chocolate chips and shortening in a saucepan over low heat until chocolate is melted. Spoon chocolate over candies and refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer and travel agent from Mississippi. Email her at email@example.com.