One of my favourite features in the December issue of Martha Stewart Living is Delicious by Nature on page 168: a gallery of holiday cookies and confections inspired by the elements of a wintry forest. I love how the food is styled and presented on the page but I am most impressed by the combination of ingredients and the unique shapes that are used to simulate natural winter woodland findings, from acorn meringues to chocolate-gingerbread twigs. I would love to see all of these goodies styled together on one big table with subtle woodland motifs used in the table decoration as well. I have posted photos of each of the confections from the feature along with a link to the recipe on marthastewart.com.
COFFEE MERINGUE ACORNS: Coffee extract tints the meringue ''kisses'' a nutty shade of brown while flavouring them with a gentle hint of mocha. The bases are dipped in chocolate and then rolled in crushed pecans and pistachios to create the effect of an acorn cap. Click here for the recipe.
CHOCOLATE GINGERBREAD TWIGS: The spiced dough in this recipe gets a double dose of delicious thanks to the combination of cocoa and dark chocolate. Once it is rolled out, it is cut into freeform twig shapes and then glazed with a thin layer of melted white chocolate applied with a pastry brush to create a "faux-bois" effet. Click here for the recipe.
CINNAMON LOG SLICES: Layers of buttery dough are covered with a fragrant mixture of cocoa and cinnamon, then rolled and squeezed together to create a slice-and-bake cookie log. The slices look like the cross-sections of tree trunks. Before slicing, the log is covered in a layer of raw sugar to create a bark-like effect around the edges. Click here for the recipe.
CHOCOLATE PEANUT-BUTTER HEDGEHOG TRUFFLES: The cuteness of a curled-up hedgehog was the inspiration for these chocolate and peanut-butter truffles. Nubby cocoa nibs mimic their spiny brown quills. An outer layer of crunchy, bittersweet chocolate conceals a moist peanut-butter center. Click here for the recipe.
CREAM-CHEESE & JAM ICE DIAMONDS: Ice crystals on windowpanes were the inspiration for these diamond-shaped sandwich cookies. The cream-cheese cookie dough masks a thin layer of raspberry jam between its layers. The finished cookies are then dusted with a layer of icing-sugar snow. Click here for the recipe.
GINGERED SESAME-ALMOND SHORTBREAD BARK: The pretty texture of a white oak dusted with snow inspired this batch that uses sliced almonds and spinkled sesame seeds to replicate the bumpy bark. Ground ginger mixed into the shortbread dough brings an earthy flavour to the sweetness. Slice into squares while it is still warm and then let it cool before serving. Click here for the recipe.