Candied Spiced Pecans
Sweet and Salty Popcorn
Garlic Parmesan Popcorn
Thyme and Cheddar Drop Scones
Brie with Sour Cherry Spread and Crackers
Habanero Spice Cookies
Yule Stump Cake
The centerpiece for the party was the Yule Stump, a less traditional take on a Buche de Noel. There are one or two stumps on our new property, and quite a few trees, so it seemed fitting to try something new. It was a brown sugar cake with dark chocolate frosting, marzipan mushrooms, apple ring mushrooms, and a little matcha tea for moss. The dirt was made with toasted cake crumbs and cocao nibs. And although I hadn't planned on dusting it with snow, the morning of the party it snowed a few inches, so I took that as a sign and added it.
The sweets are always what I go for at parties, and this one was no exception! My Habanero Spice Cookies are an intriguing twist on a classic molasses gingersnap. It's nearly impossible to have just one, and they are perfect with a cappucino or eggnog tipple. I've included the recipe below and highly recommend tracking down the ingredients and adding them to your Christmas cookie rotation.
Would it really be a Christmas party without some kind of candy cane or peppermint? I prefer the small ones; perfect to sneak into a pocket on your way out the door. My mom even surprised me with an extra treat- Christmas candy! I remember having this mix every Christmastime as a kid. And despite the fact that I always pick out the one or two things I really like and leave the rest for someone else to finish, it just wouldn't be a party without it.
Now you may be thinking, "Where is the tea in this tea party?" To which I reply, I put it in the punch! A festive punch is always welcome at a holiday party, and is an easy way to serve a large number of people. I made mine with Celestial Seasoning's Cinnamon Apple Spice Tea, wonderful fresh apple cider from a nearby orchard, and vodka. The tea added a good amount of zing and depth to the cider without any additional sugar, and it's an herbal blend, so my guests were able to dream of sugar plums when they finally got home to their beds! A festive ice ring added just the right amount of flair to the vintage punch bowl.
Habanero Sugar Molasses Cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 scant tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light or dark molasses
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
Habanero sugar* and regular granulated sugar for rolling
Place oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 375. Whisk all the dry ingredients except sugar together in a medium bowl. In a stand mixer, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add egg and molasses and gently beat until combined, making sure to scrape the sides down. Slowly add the flour and stir until uniformly mixed. This is not a particularly wet dough, but can be over mixed, so I would take it out of the mixer once it looks cohesive and use a spoon to get any dry flour pressed into the rest of the dough.
Once dough is mixed, scoop out in small amounts, about 1/2 -1 tablespoon in size.** Roll into balls and then roll in the habanero sugar and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Oddly enough, these bake better on non-insulated, regular bakeware (no fancy non-stick surfaces). If you think the straight habanero sugar will be too much for you, combine it with regular granulated sugar to your liking.
Start the cookies on the upper rack, bake for four minutes, switch to lower rack, bake for three minutes, then remove from sheet and place on a cooling rack. This short cooking time ensures chewy cookies. Repeat until you run out of dough.
**My habanero sugar came from this store, but you might be able to find it in a local spice store or online.
***You want these cookies small! The dainty size keeps them from being too overwhelming.
A big THANK YOU to my Mom, who made this tea possible in more ways than I can count. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone! May you find tea in your stockings and under your tree, and happiness in every cup.