Welcome to the 2nd Annual 12 Days of Christmas Series on Cooking is My Sport! Baking goodies is one of my all-time favorite ways to get into the Christmas spirit, so I thought that I would share some of that spirit with you guys in case anybody out there needed some inspiration for baking ideas, or a way to get that ‘Scrooge’ out of you- because no one can resist food.
It’s funny the way that you can hold onto Christmas memories like no other kind of memories. I’ve certainly found that to be the case for me; whether the memories are pleasant, unpleasant or just flat out embarrassing, when it comes to Christmas I can retain an awful lot. When I sat down to write this post, there was one Christmas memory that kept surfacing in my mind over and over again.
I was five. It was Christmas time and our church was holding the annual Christmas pageant that all of the kids participated in. It was kind of a big deal- or at least it seemed that way to five year old me. The Preschoolers and Kindergarten kids had one ‘big number’ in the pageant. It was a song called “C’mon and Ring Those Bells”. As such, all of us would be holding little bells to shake while we sang along with our teacher. We’d been practicing it for several weeks and by the time that the day of the show came along, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I mean, I could actually sing on key, I knew how to shake my bell to the actual rhythm and beat of the song (which was a lot more than I could say for the boy that stood next to me). This performance was gonna be a lock….or so I thought.
The Big Day of the Christmas pageant finally came around. Now listen guys; it would be one thing if we had just been performing in front of maybe a hundred people- but we weren’t. My church wasn’t all that small. Quite the opposite, actually. The auditorium could seat a few thousand, and on that night it happened to be full. Take a five year old and suddenly put her in front of a few thousand people and what do you suppose it gonna happen? She’s gonna start getting a little stage fright. Even as nervous as I was, I was still determined that I was gonna own this song. Like, totally own it. I have a very clear recollection of not wanting to embarrass my mom and my grandparents who were in the audience watching. So butterflies or no butterflies in my stomach, the show was going to go on.
My mom had dolled me and Jas up in our brand new, stiff, uncomfortable (and in retrospect extremely ugly) Christmas dresses and Black Mary Jane shoes. I had a shiny gold bell on a green cord. And wouldn’t you know it, I ended up in the very front row. Everything started off just fine. I had a momentary rush of anxiety just before going on the bright, decorated stage, but it was gone after a few seconds. The house lights were down so I couldn’t see the audience, but I was still determined to make my family proud of me. When the music started and we began singing, I was ready; SO ready. I began shaking my bell-holding hand up and down furiously. We were about a quarter of a way through the song- when suddenly, without any warning…the unthinkable happened.
Guys. There are no words to describe the panic…the horror…the trauma, of what my poor little 5 year old self felt at that moment. I felt absolutely certain that everybody; my mom, my grandparents, the pastor, EVERYBODY in the audience had noticed my mistake. I had ruined the enormous, beautiful Christmas pageant. Skip that, I felt like I had ruined Christmas. If I close my eyes right now, I can STILL see that darn bell on the green cord sitting on the ground by my feet. It seemed like it was staring at me for the rest of the song, taunting me for completely blowing my huge stage debut.
“But Jess,” You all are probably thinking, “Why didn’t you just pick the bell up?”
Guys, you don’t get it. I was in the front row. In front of two thousand people. I couldn’t break the formation of the children’s choir line by bending down. If I bent down, everyone really would notice that I had done something wrong. All the other kids would simultaneously stop singing and laugh at me Peanuts-Gang-Style. I’d get in trouble afterward. My teacher would never let me be in another pageant again. My family would be disgraced.
(These were actual thoughts I had in that moment; I’m so not kidding.)
So I endured the remainder of the song while simply holding my hand and shaking it back and forth as if the bell were still really there; hoping, praying, begging Jesus to please let me not get into too much trouble when this entire ordeal was over. When the Christmas pageant was over, I took my twin sister Jas (who had been standing right next to me) aside and asked her if she thought something terrible would happen because I dropped me bell. You know what she said?
“Jess, what are you talking about?”
Apparently, she hadn’t noticed a thing.
Yesterday, I posted a recipe for Cranberry Clementine Sauce as a prequel to the First Day of Christmas in our series. When I wanted to use up some excess sauce, I got the idea in my head to use it in a recipe for homemade toaster tarts. Because let’s face it: most Pop Tarts taste awesome, but the contents of the ingredient list on the side of the box are…not so awesome. With these, you know exactly what’s in them: sweet and tart cranberry/clementine filling in buttery flaky pastry. I added a simple icing to them to make the tarts look as festive and Christmas-y as possible, but honestly they do taste good enough to eat plain.
I’ve got quite a few, so I’ll also be taking them to this week’s Fiesta Friday #46, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Margy @La Petite Casserole and Juju @cookingwithauntjuju. C’mon over guys, I’ve got plenty of tarts to spare.
Also, be sure to stay tuned: The 12 Days of Christmas on Cooking is My Sport will be continuing tomorrow with another great recipe 😉
Cranberry Clementine Toaster Tarts
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup cranberry clementine filling (recipe follows)
- 12 oz. fresh cranberries
- 6 clementines, peeled and sectioned
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup cranberry juice
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 1-2 tbsp. of milk
- 1-2 tsp. light corn syrup
- Sprinkles (optional)
1. For tart filling: In a small saucepan combine fresh cranberries, clementines, orange and cranberry juices, sugar, cinnamon stick, and star anise. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the dried cranberries and simmer for 10 to 15 more minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Set aside, cool completely.
2. For tart dough: combine the flour, confectioners sugar, salt in a bowl. Add the butter and cut in until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add milk and egg yolk and mix together, just until dough comes together. (You may need to add a bit more milk here. I did, adding just enough until it held together in a ball.) Wrap dough ball into two sheets of plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
3. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. On a floured work surface, divide dough in half and form each into a rough rectangle. Roll 1 rectangle until it measures about 16×9 in. Using a ruler and pizza cutter, cut dough into 12 small rectangles, each about 3×4 in.
4. Lay half the rectangles on the work surface and lightly brush with the beaten egg. Spoon about 1 tbsp. of the filling into the center of each, spreading it over the dough but leaving a 1/2 inch border.
5. Top with a plain dough rectangle, crimping the edges together with a fork– try not to let any filling ooze out.
6. Preheat oven to 375°. Place 6 tarts on each baking sheet, spacing them out evenly. Lightly prick the tops with a fork to create steam vents– be careful you don’t prick through both layers so the tarts don’t leak while baking!
7. Position 2 racks evenly in the oven and bake the tarts for 15-18 minutes, rotating halfway through. Let cool on a wire rack.
8. To decorate, combine all ingredients (except for spinkles) together in a small bowl, adding additional milk if glaze is too thick to spread. Spread or drizzle glaze over tarts, topping with sprinkles is desired. Allow to set up and harden, about 15-3o minutes.