The minute Halloween was over and cobwebs taken down, blow-up turkeys and harvest decorations were put up in place. Now, Christmas is in full swing and I have yet to wipe the cranberry sauce off my face. This is not complaining, just a mere observation. I happen to lurrrrvv this transition.
The launch of Christmas starts the day after Thanksgiving for my family, all out balls-to-wall style. Music in the car and on the iPod dock, movies to fall asleep to in bed, colors in our wardrobe...it's all one big Griswald freakshow that we wait the whole year for. If there really was a Whoville, my family would have the brightest house, the biggest roast beast, and hold the record for undefeated Holiday Cheermeisters.
It's a bit much for my British husband to handle (he's still recovering from the shock of Thanksgiving traditions such as ambrosia and marshmallows on top of yams) though he's a great sport nonetheless. He'll endure Bing Crosby at 7am, multiple trips up the stairs with tubs of Christmas decorations, endless shopping trips at the mall, and moving then re-moving things around the house to see how they look when his 8 1/2-month pregnant wife can't.
He'll also brave the batches and batches of holiday goodies that come one-after-another out of the oven. And begrudgingly admit that he actually enjoys that weird-tasting anise stuff cooling on the counter. How annoying.
This recipe is one of the very first from my archive of favorites from friends. It comes from my mother's good friend, Carolyn, who makes tins of it as Christmas gifts every year. So, in essence, she's the one to blame.
Because it's so easy to make and so easy to keep coming back to for another taste, another dunk, another batch. The best thing about it is it's unfussy: virtually anything can be added to the dough (though chocolate-almond is classic and flawless) and if it goes stale, you can pop it back in the oven for 10 minutes to crisp up. It hasn't lasted long enough in my house to go stale but there's comfort in knowing it will be fresh anytime you ask it to. And the minute I can have coffee again I'm SO making a giant batch to celebrate with.
Adapted from Carolyn's recipe
3 3/4 -- 4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (assumes unsalted butter)
1/2 cup butter, slightly softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon anise seed (or 2 teaspoons anise extract)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Add to dough:
1 1/2 -- 2 cups raw almonds
1 1/2 -- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
*(you can pretty much add whatever you want to the dough, in various quantities, whatever it will take)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Mix dry ingredients and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients in order.
3. Gradually add flour mixture to wet ingredients. (You can leave out some flour if it's getting dry. A lot depends on size of eggs etc. The dough will be a bit drier and harder to mold than chocolate chip cookie dough.)
4. Add almonds and chocolate chips to dough and mix until incorporated.
5. Divide dough into 4 pieces and roll, then pat, into long loaves 3" wide by 3/4" thick or high.
6. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool until you can get a knife through loaf without squashing, about 30 minutes.
7. Cut loaves in diagonal pieces 1/2" to 3/4" wide. Lay them on their sides and rebake for 10 minutes.
8. Cool completely before packing or they'll be soggy.