Many families have a Christmas cookie exchange that fits so neatly in to their traditions, and my family is no exception. When I was little, all the baking was done by my grandmother. She would spend the entire week leading up to Christmas baking! After she passed, the duties were divided among the households of the family and we each had a particular cookie or two to bake. Being the youngest involved in this tradition, I was assigned carêmes – these are a no-bake treat, made with just four ingredients. Super easy, and one of my favourites (just behind gingerbread – yum!). Here is how they’re done:
Our four simple ingredients are Unsweetened Baker’s Chocolate, Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, Shredded Coconut, and Graham Crumbs (you can also use graham wafers and crumb them yourself).
The first step is to melt the chocolate. My grandmother used to melt it over the oven but in later years switched to the microwave. Once it is good and melted, add the condensed milk and mix.
Now comes the graham crumbs – and this is where it gets tricky. You want to add enough graham crumbs that the mixtures is thick, but not dry and crumbling.
And mix, and mix, and mix! We have always used wooden spoons for mixing, but I would think a spatula or plastic or metal spoon would work just as well.
I add roughly half a cup of graham crumbs at a time, then mix. Add more graham crumbs and mix some more. Somewhere between the 2-3 cup range is where you really want to pay attention to the consistency of the mixture.
At this point it will become more and more difficult to mix, and your wrists will be cursing you. I find it easier to ‘fold’ the mixture, rather than stir it. It really doesn’t matter, so long as it’s evenly mixed.
You’re about ready when your spoon almost stands up in the mixture – it should slowly fall over. The mixture itself will look slightly gritty with the crumbs when agitated, but will settle fairly smooth.
Now it’s time for you to take a break! Stick that bowl in the fridge and grab yourself a cold one.
The fridge isn’t entirely necessary – this just helps lessen it sticking to your hands. You can choose to skip chilling it if you are in a rush, or don’t mind half the mixture ending up on your hands and having to remove it – with your mouth, of course.
Give it about 20 minutes, or the space of a beer, and remove your mixture from the fridge. It should be solid but soft. Add a bit of the coconut to a small bowl. Grab a teaspoon, and start scooping dollops – the amount you scoop will depend on how big you want the end results. We typically make them bite-size, and grab about a third of a teaspoon at a time.
Now the messy part – take that dollop and roll a ball in your hands. Ours are about the size of a large marble. Take that ball and toss it in the bowl of coconut. Roll it around to get the coconut all over, then pick it back up and flatten it in your palms.
Note: If you find the mixture is still very sticky and doesn’t form the balls well, even after being in the fridge, you may need to add more graham crumbs.
Tip: If it progressively gets more sticky and difficult to form the balls, stick it back in the fridge for a bit.
Tip: Use butter, margarine or shortening on your hands to helps keep some of the mixture from sticking to you – re-apply often.
Once you flatten them, lay them out on a cookie sheet, on wax or parchment paper. You can stack layers of them on the same sheet, with more paper in between.
After you have rolled, covered, and flattened all the mixture and laid it on the sheet, stick the entire sheet back in to the fridge and have yourself another drink. This will ‘harden’ the Carêmes up a bit, so you can transfer them to a cookie tin. They should remain in the fridge until you are ready to serve them (but leaving them out won’t hurt anyone – they will just be softer and maybe not hold their shape so well).
- 2oz. Unsweetened Baker’s Chocolate
- 1 can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
- ~400g graham crumbs (2-3 cups)
- shredded coconut (to roll)
- Melt the chocolate and combine with condensed milk in a mixing bowl.
- By hand, gradually mix in the graham crumbs. Continue to add graham crumbs until the mixture meets desired consistency; the spoon will stand for some time, then slowly fall over and the mixture will appear granular when agitated but settle fairly smooth.
- Put mixture in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to chill.
- Remove from fridge; begin to roll mixture to form balls then roll in coconut to cover.
- Flatten the coconut covered balls and lay on wax paper on cookie sheets.
- Place cookie sheets with Carêmes in to fridge for 15-20 minutes to chill.
- Move Carêmes to a cookie tin and return to fridge until ready to serve.
And there you have it – an easy, yummy, no-bake treat perfect for the holidays!
What is your favourite Christmas cookie? Link your family recipe in the comments below.
Merry Christmas, everyone!