I make treats for teachers as gifts for Christmas every year. Homemade treats take time, effort and a lot of love (and patience) and I prefer giving them all of that over any store bought gifts. They are getting my best, after all. They so deserve it. I don't know if they truly love my treats as they say they do but I receive many thanks with references to specific ones. My Chocolate Peanut Toffee is a big hit annually.
This year's treat making was especially meaningful because after Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy on December 14th, I HAD to keep my mind off of the sad news. I was putting off baking until midweek but the event made me think of Em's wonderful teachers. I got to work right away. This is her last year in high school and I really REALLY wanted to honor her teachers and staff for all that they do. And in light of what happened in CT, I felt I needed to put in extra care in telling them how appreciative we are of their dedication.
So, I decided to challenge myself to make something new and very special for them.
Note to self: don't ever bake anything new unless I have at least a month to test out the recipe.
It's all Etsy's fault
I found this mouth watering Bourbon Balls recipe from Etsy and I immediately knew this was going to be my prize winning treat of the year. Their rendition had ginger snaps, pecans, and booze. What's not to love, right? Not only that, there is no baking involved. That's right! No baking! It's a cinch and it takes no time at all. So I thought.
made a huge, quadrupled the original recipe, tweaked a bit here and there, and made the batter. Smell of booze filled the house and I was getting woozy just inhaling the alcohol in the air.
Then, with giddy excitement (maybe I was drunk?) I ate one. I gagged. My tongue stung. I thought, maybe it was just me. May be I smelled too much booze while making them. So I gave one to my hubby. He spitted it out, cringing and groaning, "Um...what is that suppose to be?". Curiously grumbling that he's being critical, I gave one to Em. (Why I thought a kid who can't even smell alcohol without gagging would think this was going to be tasty is beyond me. I must have been drunk.) She turned to me calmly and said, "Do you want me to get "F's" in all my classes?"
I could just imagine her teachers, stumbling out of classes, all drunk.
I don't know what I did but it did not taste good at all. But if Etsy posted the recipe, it had to be a great recipe, right? Maybe I used the wrong type of alcohol? It said I can use rum instead of bourbon so I thought I was being smart by using my homemade vanilla extract made with rum. Could that be it? Maybe I used the wrong amount? No, I know I used the right amount.
Regardless, I had to fix it. I had a HUGE bowl of the batter. I couldn't throw it out.
Refusing to accept defeat, I had another idea. I wanted my trusty neighbors to see if we, the non-drinkers, were wrong and see if they can appreciate this alcoholic holiday treat. I ran across the street to the lovely couple who has two young kids that Em used to baby sit. The wife is a teacher, coincidently, so I told her to give me her honest opinion and said, Em's grades depended on it. I suggested that they taste it after I leave so they can tell me what they really thought of them. She texted me 20 minutes later (I knew she didn't like it when she didn't texted me right away. I mean, how long does it take to say, "I LOVE 'em!")
This was her text.
- We love you.
- We are not a big fan.
- There is too much alcohol
- Refer to No. 1
ROFL. Then, she texted again, "If we finish these, Em will have to come over to put the kids to bed." I love my neighbors.
Back to the kitchen
So, I went back to work. I added melted dark chocolate to add extra flavor to temper the alcohol. I added more crushed ginger snap cookies - a lot more - to the dough to absorb the alcohol.
Annnnnnd.....O, Lord, what a difference. It tasted soooo~ much better. It was mellower, sweeter, and less alcoholic. It was fudge-y and chocolate-y. Emily breathed sigh of relief. She wasn't going get an "F"! (See recipe below)
I rolled half in cocoa powder and the other half in confectioners sugar.
I added the boozy rum balls with the annual favorite, Chocolate Peanut Toffee and another new treat I made (but this one came out really really tasty), Amaretti Cookies (Recipe below) in a festive tin can with a listing of ingredients and allergy info.
And it was a HUGE, no, BIG GINORMOUS hit with the teachers. They LOVED the rum balls! One teacher stopped me in the parking lot today and said, the treats never made it home. He finished ALL of my treats during the day. When I asked if rum was too strong, he said, "Are you kidding? Not at all. I LOVED them!" I got an email from one teacher, "The treats were DELICIOUS!!!"
Make these rum balls. I made adjustments to the recipe so you won't have to worry about your child getting an "F" or getting your neighbors drunk. And the thing is, if you like them strong, be my guest and pour more rum. It's totally up to you.
It will be kinda strange next Christmas when I don't have to bake for teachers anymore. Bittersweet indeed. What's more strange is that Em is waiting to hear from colleges for elementary education programs. I know. Don't even think it. I still get chills. I know she'll be a great teacher. My baby. A teacher. I'm crying. Again.
Chocolate Pecan Rum Balls
(Adapted from Etsy's Bourbon Ball recipe)
1 ½ cups crushed ginger snaps
1 cup pecans
¼ cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more for dusting
⅛ cup rum ((I added my homemade vanilla extract made with rum and skipped adding more vanilla extract)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup cocoa powder for dusting
2 tablespoons honey
8 oz of melted dark chocolate
Pulse ginger snaps and pecans in a food processor until they are coarsely ground. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until smooth and well incorporated. Refrigerate the dough for about 2 hours or freeze for about 45 minutes until it gets hard. Roll a bout teaspoon of the batter into small balls. Dust them with cocoa powder or confectioners sugar. Store in the fridge about a week. But they won't last. Trust me.
Amaretti Cookies (Almond Macarons)
7 oz Almond Paste
⅔ Cup of granulated or fine sugar
2 Large egg whites (slightly beaten)
½ teaspoon Almond Extract
Blend all the ingredients in a food processor for about 3 minutes. Preheat oven 350°. Dollop about one teaspoon of the batter onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, 2 inches a part. Piping bag will be easier to dollop batter. Bake for about 15 minutes, watching to make sure the bottom doesn't burn. Every oven is different and my convection oven takes about 13 minutes before they start to burn. Cool the cookies on a cooling rack.
What did you give your teachers this year? Do you give treats? Gift cards? Homemade gifts?