Thursday, December 20, 2012

Homemade Sweet Shop: Favorite Family Recipes

by Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

It's just a few days before the big family Christmas gathering, and I never did find the time to figure out how to make fancy hand-crafted chocolates and caramels to give away. So tonight you'll find me stocking up on the ingredients for my favorite quick-to-make and popular holiday give-away: homemade hot fudge.

During the holidays, I tend to put a few of my good health habits aside and indulge in a day or two of intense baking. I’d tell you that the tasty treats I make are full of whole grains and nuts, but it’d be a lie. This time of year, I want nothing less than the festive sweet treats I learned how to make from my mom. These recipes do get a little bit of an upgrade. Crisco has been replaced with organic shortening made from palm oil. My organic, grass-fed butter is so yellow it gives my sugar cookies a golden hew.

These recipes are truly yummy and make great gifts! If you’re turned off by the amount of sugar and butter in such treats, remember that moderation is key. One of my thin sugar cookies has less than 35 calories, and a heaping teaspoon (1/2 ounce) of hot fudge has about 50 calories. I never eat a whole batch, either. Remember: These are gifts that you'll primarily be giving away. They freeze well, too.

Brigham’s Hot Fudge Sauce
My mother got this in a homemade book of recipes as a wedding gift. Supposedly it is the original recipe, and it is the best hot fudge you’ll ever have! This recipe makes a QUART of hot fudge, so plan to bring it to a party, give some away, or freeze it in smaller containers. It keeps for about a month in the fridge. When cold or room temp, it will be very thick, almost fudge-y, so you’ll want to warm it to pour over ice cream or brownies. Buy the best quality chocolate you can find or afford; your fudge will be much better for it. Hershey’s brand will NOT do. Trust me. I tend to use twice the chocolate and half the sugar of the original recipe, but you can make yours to taste.
  • 4 oz to 8 oz of quality, unsweetened baking chocolate
  • Up to 1 package of confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 stick of butter (no substitutions!)
  • 1 can (13 1/2 oz) evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Melt butter and 4 oz of chocolate in a saucepan. Alternately add milk and half of the sugar. Taste to and add more sugar and/or chocolate as desired. Stirring, bring to a slow boil (bubbles just around the edge of the pan). Remove from heat, add vanilla, stir. Pour into one quart jar or into smaller jars. Keep refrigerated or freeze. (It is not shelf stable.)

Sugar Cookies
Absolutely delicious, but very time-consuming to make. Use a variety of cookie cutters like snowflakes, stars, and Christmas trees, but try to opt for simple designs with pieces that won’t break off easily. Visit your local kitchen shop for unique cookie cutter shapes. I have a collection of snowflakes and other nature-inspired cutters from Things Are Cooking in downtown Concord. A basic confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, butter, and milk frosting is great on these cookies, though I also leave some of the batch unfrosted. You probably don’t need to double the batch; a single batch makes about 100 cookies!
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
Mix dry ingredients, then mix in wet ingredients thoroughly.
Cover and chill for one hour.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Roll 1/8-inch thick, cut into shapes.
Carefully transfer to ungreased baking sheet with spatula.
Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until golden. Watch carefully – they burn easily! Cool on a rack.
Click here for more holiday tips and recipes for Molasses Cookies, Italian Anise Cookies, and Toffee.


  1. Hi, I just came across your recipe for Brigham's Hot Fudge.........question........when you say you double the chocolate and use half the sugar........are you using the 8 oz of chocolate and just half the package of confectioners sugar? Thanks :)

    1. That is correct. The original recipe calls for 4 oz chocolate and 1 lb sugar, but I prefer the flavor of 8 oz chocolate and 1/2 lb sugar. More sophisticated (and a tad healthier, too). Enjoy!