Feature: Kat McGee and the School of Christmas Spirit

Kat McGee Kat KcGee and the School of Christmas Spirit
by Rebecca Munsterer
Publication: November 2013 from In This Together Media

If Kat McGee had one Christmas wish, she’d wish to be special. Instead, she’s the boring middle in a family packed with sparkly siblings, including three sisters who have all starred as Mary in Totsville, Maine’s annual big-deal Christmas Pageant. All Kat’s done is wet her pants on a rollercoaster and earn herself the horrible nickname, “Kat McPee.” When she doesn’t get the part of Mary, Kat’s convinced that Christmas will be just another Kat McPee failure. But then Kat’s beloved Gram lets it slip that she went to school with Mrs. Claus. The Mrs. Claus. Before Kat knows it, a magical snowglobe whisks her away to the North Pole, where she makes friends, checks naughty and nice lists, and takes classes in cookie baking, reindeer training, and toy designing. It’s a Christmas miracle… But something is wrong. The North Pole is being threatened, and only Kat McGee can help. Kat McGee and The School of Christmas Spirit is about a modern girl in a magical adventure. Kat is about to learn who you can be if you believe in Christmas…and yourself.

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Thanks to JKSCommunications and Rebecca Munsterer, I have a wonderful recipe to share with you today. At the back of each Kat McGee book is a recipe created by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, and to help with the candyfruit recipe in the back of The School of Christmas Spirit is Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery.

The recipe for Candyfruit comes to you from the kitchens of Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery. Pure ingredients mixed together in thoughtful and creative ways, this New York City-based bakery transports the curious on a delectable journey of mystery & desire. http://www.mahzedahrbakery.com

Yield: approximately 3/4 pound of candied fruit
3 large oranges
4 cups water
4 cups granulated sugar + 1 cup granulated sugar for coating the peel
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces (or you can use dark chocolate chips)

Rinse oranges under cold water, then wipe them dry. Cut about a quarter-inch o! each end of the orange. With a sharp paring knife, cut through the peel and into the white pith. Slice through the peel from the top of the orange to the bottom. Cut almost all the way through the pith but stop before you get to the fruit. Make that same cut about a quarter of the way around the fruit, making a total of four cuts into the orange. Cut a shallow cut into the top of the orange at the edge of the peel, all the way around the orange. These cuts are meant to create sections that you can peel o! easily. Wiggle your finger between the orange and the peel. Work your finger down under the peel to separate the peel from the fruit. Once you’ve removed the whole peel section, repeat the finger wiggle thing on all the other peel sections. Do the same with the other oranges.

Slice each piece of orange into thin strips, each a little less than a centimeter wide.

Now, blanch the orange peels. This is done to take the bitterness out of the pith. Boil a few inches of water in a medium sized pot over high heat. Once the water is boiling, drop in all the sliced orange peels. Stir the slices to soak them in the water. Boil for 20 minutes. Drain the peel pieces in a colander. Run under cold water until the peels are cool to the touch, for about a minute. Now simmer the peel pieces in the sugar syrup. Put 4 cups water and 4 cups sugar in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot. Whisk to combine. Over high heat, bring the syrup up to a boil. Whisk occasionally until all the sugar melts. Once the sugar syrup is boiling, carefully add the balanced peels to the pot. Be very careful when adding in the peel pieces so as to not get burned. Stir the peels a bit. Maintain a rolling boil (lower the heat a little) and boil the peels for 45 minutes. Keep checking the pot, especially after 30 minutes, to ensure the pot doesn’t boil over. When the peels are done, they will be translucent and look clear and jellied. Now drain and dry the orange peels. Take a baking sheet and lay paper towel on it. Then place a cooling rack on top of the paper towel-lined baking sheet. This will catch all the dripping syrup. Using a fork, take out a few pieces of peel at a time. Set the pieces on the prepared rack to drain. Repeat until all the peel pieces are on the rack. Separate the pieces out so they’re not touching. Let the peels drip dry for about 15 minutes.

Now decide if you want to dip the pieces in chocolate or roll in sugar. For all the pieces you want to eat without chocolate, you will roll them in sugar. Separate out the pieces you want to dip in chocolate. For the others, put 1 cup of sugar in a medium- sized bowl. Drop a few pieces of the peel into the sugar.

Roll the pieces around to coat them all over. Shake o! the excess sugar and place on a clean cooling rack set on top of a baking sheet covered in paper towel (don’t put them back on the original rack because that one is already full of sticky syrup!).

Repeat this process with the rest of the peels you’re not dipping in chocolate. Space them out so they’re not touching. Leave them uncovered overnight to dry out. If you just can’t wait, place the sugar-coated peels on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a 200 degree oven for 15 minutes. That should
dry them out faster. If you want to dip the peel pieces in chocolate, melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl at high power for 1 minute. Remove the bowl and stir the chocolate. If it’s not fully melted, put the bowl back in the microwave and heat for an additional 30 seconds. Remove and stir until the chocolate is completely smooth. After the peels have dried for 15 minutes, take the peels one at a time, hold at one end and dip them into the melted chocolate. Leave about 1/4 to 1/2 of the peel naked, and cover the rest in chocolate. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet to set and dry overnight.

Now don’t forget, you have some delicious orange-flavored syrup. You can use it to flavor sparkling water, iced tea, and for the parents, some wonderful cocktails!

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