Lucky me! This past week I was invited to join the Alida Baking Club which meets each month to make bread. I know what you’re thinking…
Wait! You’re Gluten Free!
Yes, but for December, the group makes Christmas treats; all candies that I can enjoy. There is also a cookie exchange and many of these I cannot enjoy but Dan sure will! I can enjoy almost half of the cookies: my Catshit Cookies (this is what we call the oatmeal no-bakes); the cereal, marshmallow, nut clusters from Glenda; and Ada’s crispy rice treats. Ada uses the big bag of cereal that is Gluten Free, not the one with the little elf dudes… which are NOT GF. What’s weird about this is that “real” Rice Krispies USED TO BE GF but they can no longer be because it’s “too expensive”. But the big bag of cereal is far cheaper than the boxed original stuff. How can this be? Anyway, back to the baking.
We joined at 8:30 in the morning, expecting to be finished by noon. We started with the first recipe, Chocolate Fudge. This is no ordinary chocolate fudge. This fudge has 6 bars of chocolate, marshmallows, and loads of walnuts. It is so rich, you can only eat a small piece at a time. Lavonne started this recipe with Lillian. Once we had the sugar mix to a hot boil, we added the marshmallows and all that chocolate and the mix became very tough to stir so Connie took over. Then I added the nuts before it became set. We pressed it into the large cookie sheet as it became harder and harder. This stuff will definitely set up!
Next we jumped into the Peanut Brittle. This one took a long while to get up to the hard crack temp of 300 but we got there, Lillian stirring as this is her recipe. We added the soda, then the vanilla, and then the peanuts. quickly we saw it start to harden so I grabbed the spoon and finished the stirring and then dumped the mix from the heavy cast iron pan and onto the buttered cookie sheet. We smooshed it even harder than we had to smoosh the fudge, but we got it pressed out. It did not appear to be a very big piece for 7 of us to split. But we took it out to the cooling porch where the fudge was waiting.
Then we started the one about which I was most excited… the Divinity! This was Ada’s recipe and it was started by Esther but we had to move the pot to the back burner and as she is kind of short (just over 5′), I took over the stirring. Connie had mixed up the egg whites in her big mixer so we were ready for the hot candy. Again, it took some time to get to temp but we got to soft ball stage and dumped half into the egg whites. We left those stirring while we took the remainder of the sugar mix back to the burner to bring it to just under hard crack stage, at which point we poured it in with the egg white/sugar mix and beat it until it was no longer glossy. Then Esther, Glenda, and Lavonne (I think!) grabbed spoons to plop the hot candies onto the waiting parchment paper before it could harden in the bowl.
We decided against the last recipe but I plan to make some Almond Joy Bark before year end as it seems like the easiest of the four recipes. While all these candies were a bit of work, it was made easy with the company of friends. And now it was time for the fun part… making the cookie platters!
We each pulled the 3 dozen cookies we’d brought for sharing and began loading our platters with 5 of each of these. Then Connie brought in the fudge that she’d cut on the cooling porch – 117 pieces so we each got 16! With 55 pieces of divinity, we each got 7. Then Connie brought in the peanut brittle. She grabbed a cleaver to break it up and, what do you know? We each got a nice stack of pieces!
In the end, we all walked away with a lovely set of cookies and candies for the holidays. And we all got some hugs and smiles and a warm feeling of friendship. And we finished early. All this fun in just two and a half hours. While I won’t likely be able to join them for their normal baking each month, I’m sure hopeful to be invited back for next year’s Christmas Baking Club Meeting!