Paula has been making Christmas treats for us. She chose some great recipes from our cooking magazines along with some old favorites.

Yesterday she made Chocolate Fudge with Bourbon Sugar. It w as recipe that I found in Bon Appetit. It tasted really, really good!

To make the sugar, combine 1 vanilla bean scraped lengthwise, 3 cups demerara sugar and 2 tablespoons of bourbon. Spread on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 150° or as low as yours will go. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and let dry out in oven overnight, leaving door slightly ajar. Mixture should feel like demerara sugar again in the morning.

To make the fudge, start by lining an 8×8″ baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on 2 sides; lightly coat with nonstick spray. Heat 10 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (preferably 72%), coarsely chopped and 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let bowl touch water), stirring occasionally, until almost completely melted. Set aside.

Combine 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 10 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of bourbon, 1 tablespoon of light corn syrup, and 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt in a small saucepan; scrape in the beans from 1 vanilla bean and add the pod. Heat over medium until barely hot (same as the chocolate).

Gently stir one quarter of milk mixture into chocolate with a rubber spatula. Add another quarter of milk mixture, stirring to incorporate (it might look broken and greasy; don’t worry, it will come back together). Continue with remaining milk mixture in 2 additions, stirring vigorously until fudge is very shiny and almost elastic, about 5 minutes. Scrape into prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle with bourbon sugar and sea salt. Let cool, then cover and chill at least 4 hours.

Turn out fudge onto a cutting board and slice into 2×3/4″ rectangles, 2″ squares, or triangles. This was very rich but very tasty.

Paula also made some Fruitcake Biscotti, a recipe that we discovered in the December issue of Rachel Ray magazine.

To make this biscotti, start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees . In a bowl, toss the dried 1/3 cup each of dried apricots (chopped), cranberries and raisins with 3 tablespoons of orange liqueur. In another large bowl, whisk 3 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

In yet another (medium) bowl, whisk 3 eggs. For the egg wash, transfer 1 tbsp. whisked egg mixture to a small bowl and whisk in 1 tablespoon of water. Whisk 1 stick of melted butter and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract into the remaining eggs in the medium bowl. Add to the flour mixture. Using an electric mixer, beat at low speed, occasionally scraping down the bowl, until just blended. Stir in the fruit mixture and 2/3 cup of shelled pistachios.

Divide the dough in half; form each half into a 12-inch loaf. Place the loaves 3 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the loaves with the egg wash and bake until the tops are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the loaves to a rack; let cool 30 minutes.

Cut each loaf crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Stand slices, rounded side up, 1 inch apart on the same parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the biscotti until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the biscotti, on the parchment, to a rack; let cool completely.

To finish the biscotti, place 15 ounces of white chocolate (chopped) in a small microwavable bowl. Microwave on high in 15-second increments, stirring in between, until the chocolate is melted. Add another 5 ounces of chocolate and stir until smooth. Dip the biscotti into or drizzle with the chocolate. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until set, 30 minutes.

These biscotti were really delicious and they tasted excellent with and without the chocolate – in case you just want to eat them and skip that last step.

Besides the two treats that I described above, Paula also made Mendel Bread (Chocolate Chip Biscotti). My mom always made this recipe for the holidays and now Paula is keeping up the tradition.

Start by heating the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine 3 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl. Beat 1/2 cup of butter and 1 cup of sugar in a mixing bowl until fluffy. Add 3 large eggs, one at a time, beating well after adding each one. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Beat in the dry ingredients until just combined. Stir i 1 cup of mini semisweet chocolate chips that have been finely chopped.

With floured hands, shape the dough into 2 12-inch logs on a prepared cookie sheet. Keep them about 4 inches apart. Baker 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes.

With a serrated knife, slice the logs into 1/2 inch pieces. Place the cut side down on the cookie sheet. Bake 8 minutes. Turn the cookies over and bake another 8 minutes or until just golden. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container and enjoy throughout the holidays!

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