Wednesday, November 24, 2010

the perfect hostess gift - recipe: grand marnier pecan christmas cake

Sometime between Labour Day and Halloween, I start thinking seriously about what my hostess gift will be for the upcoming holiday season.

It has to be edible and it can’t take too much time to prepare, because this is by far the busiest season for me at the store. I have a ritual of sorts – I dig out my boxes (and boxes) of holiday cookbooks and magazines to see if I can drum up any new inspiration.

I dog ear several of the pages and always ask my husband David for his opinion. We’ve been together for 10 years so you think I’d know better than to ask him, because his response is always the same, “Sure, sounds good to me.” To which I reply something along the lines of: “But what do you think, do you like the idea?” To which he replies: “Sorry honey, I just can’t get too excited about this sort of stuff.”

Fair enough. Truth be told, a good part of the fun is the first step — looking through the various recipes and “dreaming” about what I might create and how I will present it. In all honesty, I’d say about half the time I’m successful in actually making the particular item, and the other half of the time, I end up giving gourmet gifts from my store.

Here’s a delicious fruitcake recipe that I plan on making this year (the key word being “plan”).

It’s rich and sinful but worth the calories. The recipe comes from my mother and it’s been years since she made it — which is giving me an extra push to make it because she is sure to receive one!

grand marnier pecan christmas cake


  • 1 lb. golden seedless raisins
  • 1 lb. pecan pieces
  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lb. butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier


  • Preheat oven to 250 F.
  • Butter the inside of a 10-inch, 12-cup tube pan.
  • Sprinkle liberally with flour and shake out excess. Combine raisins and pecans in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with all of the flour and salt. Toss with your hands until blended. Set aside.
  • Place butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer.
  • Start beating and gradually add sugar. Cream mixture well and add the egg yolks one at a time, beating constantly.
  • Blend the soda and water together and add it to the butter-egg mixture. Beat in the Grand Marnier. Pour this mixture into the nut mixture and blend together with your hands. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them in with the hands. Continue folding until whites are not apparent.
  • Spoon and scrape mixture into prepared pan smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake for two to 2 1/2 hours. Remove from pan shortly after it is baked.
  • Wrap and store in the fridge at least 10 days. It also freezes well.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

the best chocolate chip cookie recipe - recipe: kelly's chocolate chip cookies

"Kelly baking?” That’s what my little guy John asked me last weekend when I told him that we were going to visit our good friends Kelly and Marc, and their children Avery and Callum, for a Halloween party.

Even John, at just two-and-a-half, knows when to expect good eats.

David and I met Kelly just over a year ago, and it didn’t take long for us to realize that she’s an incredible and generous baker. In the short time that we’ve known her, she’s treated us to a heap of goodies.

We’ve been fortunate enough to sample many of her creations including her mouthwatering muffins, cupcakes, vanilla cake with cream cheese icing, lemon bars, and last but not least, her fantastic chocolate chip cookies.

Rest assured that this is not just any old chocolate chip cookie recipe. This is, by far, the best chocolate chip cookie that I’ve ever tried, hands down.

A few nights ago, Kelly dropped off a batch and a new Curious George video for John. She stopped by the shop today and I managed to work up the courage to ask her for the recipe (and permission to share it with all of you!).

I’m so pleased that Kelly said yes, as many wouldn’t dare to share an amazing “signature recipe” such as this one.

Trust me — add this cookie to your holiday baking repertoire or at the least, cut out the recipe for a rainy day in the future. These are amazing with a glass of milk or for a decadent treat, try them with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce.

kelly’s chocolate chip cookies

makes 16 jumbo cookies or about 32 regular sized cookies


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cooled, melted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips Method Preheat the oven to 325F.


  • Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.
  • Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about three inches apart.
  • Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

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