Wow, mango IS better than apricot!

Last year I tried a new recipe from a Betty Crocker Christmas Cookies book from 2010 (you know, the little ones they sell right up by the cash registers at grocery stores. I’m a sucker for those). The Apricot-Chai Almond Bark recipe had a lot of potential, but it didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. The dried apricots made it rather bitter, and the almond topping ended up all over the other cookies and candies. Sadly, it was the only thing left when I took the cookie tray home from work.

This year I changed it up a bit and it turned out pretty good. In fact, I’m eating the little reject pieces for breakfast as I write this. Since the annual hunt for the hand-written gingerbread cookie recipe* every December is such a pain in the ass–I’m setting down this new recipe so I don’t forget it.

If you’d rather try the original recipe, here’s the link to it on the Betty Crocker site: Apricot-Chai Almond Bark

And here’s my take on it:

Mango-Chai Almond Bark

1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
24 oz vanilla-flavored candy coating (almond bark), chopped
1/4 cup mango nectar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped dried mangos

  1. Sprinkle almonds in ungreased heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently until nuts begin to brown, then stirring constantly until nuts are light brown. Cool 10 minutes. In food processor, process almonds and coconut until finely chopped; set aside.
  2. Line 15x10x1-inch pan with waxed paper. In medium microwavable bowl, microwave 12 oz of the candy coating on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring after each, until melted. Quickly stir in the almond and coconut mixture. Spread evenly in pan. Refrigerate 15 minutes or until set.
  3. In small bowl, mix mango nectar, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon peel; set aside.
  4. In medium microwavable bowl, microwave remaining 12 oz candy coating on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring after each, until melted. Quickly stir in mango nectar mixture and dried mangos.
  5. Pour and spread over chilled bark. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Cut diagonally into one-inch diamond-shaped pieces.

Makes approximately 48 servings

Variation: I changed up the measurement for the almonds from the original recipe because I had a lot of leftover unsweetened coconut from a birthday cake last month. I’m still not sure the inclusion of the coconut added anything or not (toasting it didn’t make much of a difference either), so next year I may change it back to 3/4 cup of almonds and leave the coconut out completely.

I also doubled this recipe for my cookies trays. Yes, it’s really that good now.
*Hopefully I’ll finally convert the measurements for the gingerbread cookies and get it added to my working cookbook so every time I want to make awesome gingerbread cookies I don’t have to hunt down that tiny slip of paper with the recipe my old pastry chef scribbled down for me.

Cramming for Christmas Baking

It took two and a half days to get the annual Christmas cookies done this year.  Because I was out sick for so long, I had to cut down the variety of cookies and candies to fit them into the shorter time span.  That sucked.  So did having my beaters dye after 7 years of heavy use right in the middle of making divinity (also known as Shiny Ferret Sugar Crack at work).  The divinity was salvaged, but I had to purchase new beaters last night so I could make the gluten-free cake for a family who wasn’t included in the gluten-filled cookie list.

The cookie plates had: Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Cookies, Sugar Cookies Christmas Trees with a lemon glaze, Almond Chai Bark, Divinity, Chocolate Covered Coconut Balls, and little bags of the Peppermint Popcorn I blogged about last month.  I was rushing it so much that I forgot to take photos until after the last of the deliveries went out today.  Oh well.

The final family in our list of cookie recipients is the gluten-free family.  Instead of trying to sort out the whole cookie issue just to juggle one family, I decided to try out the Betty Crocker Gluten Free cake mix that our grocery store now carries.  A word of warning.  Not only is the box of gluten free cake mix twice as expensive, it also makes half as much.  So it ran almost $6 for enough mix to make a two-layer 8 inch round cake (Target has it the cheapest around here).

The batter had an odd whipped and grainy texture, and it took a hell of a lot longer to bake.  The baked cake has a very fine crumb and it’s a little dry, but that’s fine since it will be sliced into four layers with fruit spread and ganache filling…maybe even buttercream.  Thankfully, it doesn’t taste bad at all.  In fact, it came out better than I expected after some of my recent experiments with gluten free pastries.

I’ll remember to snap a photo after decorating it tomorrow night.