LESLIE BUDEWITZ: My mother was a tremendous Christmas cookie baker. Quite literally, she’d make a dozen varieties each December, and friends and neighbors would eagerly await the trays she brought: Date Pinwheels, Russian Teacakes (aka Mexican Wedding Cakes and Pecan Sandies), Bourbon Balls, Date Coconut Balls, Spritz, Pfeffernus, Berlinkranzer, Peppermint Candy Canes (perfectly shaped, unlike my poor imitations), and more. Some she made every year; others moved in and out of rotation. A few were recipes she was given by two neighbor women, always referred to as the Frank girls, in the small German farming community where she was raised in Minnesota.
None of these cookies appeared any other time of year. They were Christmas cookies.
And one kind of fudge. She occasionally tried a hard candy or a brittle, but those recipes rarely earned a second year.
Some years, I have attempted to follow her example and cookie up a storm.
Glazed Spiced Nuts and Pretzel Mix, and went a little overboard with barks—white chocolate, dark chocolate, mocha, and more. And we threw our annual holiday brunch this past weekend---the opening photo is a peek at our table.
But I’ve given most of those away, and still wanted a little sweetness to share with Mr. Right. So—fudge. I find her recipe, made with marshmallows, too sweet. This version is a classic, made with sweetened condensed milk. If you’re nut fond of nuts, leave them out—that leaves more for me.
The title of this post is a tribute to our late brother-in-law, who swore he made the world’s best fudge. I kinda think I do. In truth, we probably used the same recipe, which sums up our relationship pretty well!
Classic Dark Chocolate Fudge2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks (3- 6 ounce packages or 1-1/2-12 ounce packages)
1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
dash of salt
½ to 1 cup chopped nuts (I prefer walnuts, but pecans work, too)
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Line an 8" or 9" square pan with foil and spray or butter generously.
Melt the chocolate, condensed milk, and salt in a heavy 2 or 3 quart sauce pan over medium heat.
Remove from heat. Stir in nuts and vanilla.
Spread evenly in the pan—a rubber spatula works beautifully.
Cool 2 hours or until firm. Turn onto a cutting board and cut in 1-2" squares.
Store in a sealed container at room temperature.
At Seattle Spice in the Pike Place Market, owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer…
Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun.
While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. after Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth.
But as Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?
Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The 2015-16 president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.
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