I put away the last Christmas decoration a few days ago, and I have to admit the house seems empty and drab without them — especially the living room without the Christmas tree. I love sitting there during the holidays with only the light from the tree and the fireplace illuminating the room. A glass of wine in hand only adds to the ambiance.
Every time I sit down with a cup of hot cocoa, I'm transported back to my childhood and days spent with the other kids in the neighborhood sliding down a hill near Mark Hopkins School, now MCLA's …
I spent Christmas with my son and daughter-in-law and my 5-month-old grandson. Grammie’s “sleigh” was a challenge to pack — I bought way too many things for the baby. I shared the front seat of my Jeep with two suitcases, a large gift bag concealing a huge Tonka dump truck and my pocketbook. Just when I thought everything was packed and ready to go, I discovered a large box with gift baskets I had made for my daughter in law’s family sitting on the side of the driveway. Sigh.
The gift baskets had mason jars of cocoa mix, marshmallows and jumbo peanut butter M&M cookies — all homemade — and two holiday-themed mugs. As I write this column, the Berkshires are covered with a sheet of ice and I wish I had saved some of the cocoa mix and marshmallows for myself. There’s nothing else on my agenda today, so I’m going to make them for myself. The cocoa mix can easily be halved and, if cinnamon isn’t your thing, it can be left out. Don’t be intimidated by making the marshmallows. It can be a sticky mess, but they are well worth it!
HOT COCOA MIX
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder (I use Hershey's Special Dark)
3 cups powdered sugar
5 cups powdered milk
1 cup powdered coffee creamer
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
In a large mixing bowl, combine milk powder, confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder, and creamer. Stir till thoroughly combined. Store cocoa mixture in an airtight container. Makes about 7 to 8 cups mix, or enough for about 23 servings.
For 1 serving, place 1/3 cup cocoa mixture in a coffee cup or mug, and add 6 ounces (3/4 cup) boiling water. Stir to dissolve. Top with dollop of whipped cream or a few marshmallows, if desired.
(Courtesy Ina Garten, barefootcontessa.com)
Makes 20 to 40 marshmallows
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the syrup.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 F on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.
With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.
With a sieve, generously dust an 8-by-12-inch nonmetal baking dish with confectioners’ sugar. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top, and dust with more confectioners’ sugar. Allow to stand uncovered overnight until it dries out.
Turn the marshmallows onto a board and cut them in squares. Dust them with more confectioners’ sugar.