Holiday Baking Roundup
Now the sweet things...
1. Lemon-buttermilk pudding cake. Recipe from my latest acquisition, the Tartine cookbook (my new approach to buying cookbooks is to get them at the library first, to make sure there are enough interesting recipes in them to merit buying them. Tartine passed this test). I made this to use up some buttermilk (of course) and some of the lemons from our garden (they all ripened at once!). This cake was very lemony. I liked the pudding layer, but the cake layer was too insubstantial for me. If I had buttermilk and lemons to use up again, I might make this again.
2. For my company's winter solstice/white elephant party this year, I made spritz cookies again (same recipe as last year) and cherry-orange florentines (also from the Field Guide to Christmas Cookies). I made a single batch of spritz this year, and they were easier to press this time around, though still a little difficult at times. The flavor was better than I remembered. This year, I dipped them in dark or white chocolate, then rolled them in crushed candy cane, pistachios, or nonpareils. I made a few dark-chocolate-dipped apricot jam sandwiches for Patrick again.
The florentines took a lot of work. I couldn't find nice candied orange peels at the store (just the imported glaceed stuff), so I made my own (this time with pith included, which added a nice chewiness to the candied peels). On top of this, the florentine-making process is pretty involved, requiring the use of a candy thermometer. The cookies were doing well until I started spreading chocolate on them, at which point many of them broke (they're very fragile). The whole process was very frustrating, and since I had hardly any left intact after the chocolate step, I didn't end up taking them to work. Instead I smashed the remaining cookies (a very satisfying activity), froze the cookie pieces, and used them to top ice cream. They're actually really tasty, but not worth the time and mental anguish.
I had candied orange peels and melted chocolate left over, so I made orangettes. Yum!
3. Chocolate friands, again from the Tartine cookbook. I made 1 1/2 times the recipe, which yielded about 50 little cakes. I baked them in freestanding mini paper cups (not quite the dimensions called for in the recipe, but they worked fine), which just barely had the structural integrity to hold the batter as it baked (some of them flopped over, and the batter flowed out a little bit, but they still tasted good).
The cakes were amazingly rich and chocolatey even before the ganache was applied, and I was worried the ganache would make them excessively rich, but it actually complimented them nicely. The ganache dipping step reminded me of Cat and Dog and the Mixed-Up Week. The finished friands were very yummy, and they were well received at the party I took them to. I would definitely make these again.
4. There was about 1/3c of ganache left over after I made the friands, so I added about 2 cups of milk and made it into hot cocoa, which we drank while decorating our Christmas tree. It was nice.
This year, I wrapped our gifts using brown Kraft paper (can be purchased at Walgreens or the hardware store, for future reference) tied with butcher's twine (from the Flood St. Curiosity Shop) with little punched out tags. We have a huge cone of butcher's twine left, so I think we will wrap our presents like this for years to come, or else open a butcher shop.
5. We had a small amount of heavy cream left over, so I made chocolate pudding, also from Tartine. I used 1% milk instead of whole milk, and it was still very rich and chocolatey. Patrick and I disagreed as to which we liked better--friands or pudding. I preferred the former, he the latter. Both were very yummy.
6. We celebrated Christmas proper with Patrick's family this year. His dad and sister took care of making dinner, so I brought dessert--oatmeal stout cake with a chewy oat topping and orange-date ice cream (from In the Sweet Kitchen). The ice cream was a disappointment--it froze up too hard, and the flavor wasn't that great. The cake was yummy, and reminiscent of gingerbread (I still like normal gingerbread better). When I first tried broiling the topping, I burned it, but I just scraped it off and tried again, and it turned out better the second time. Phew! I would make this cake again, but definitely with a different ice cream.
I also brought coffee cake for Christmas breakfast. This time I departed from my family's tradition and tried a new recipe--sour cream coffee cake with chocolate chips. The cake and streusel were very good, but the chocolate chips turned out to be an unwise addition. They clumped together and made hard patches. It was still a good coffee cake, but I think my mom's recipe is better. Teaches me to try something new...
After the Christmas festivities, we headed home and decided that instead of watching It's a Wonderful Life, we would keep watching Veronica Mars (Tree and Andrew have gotten us hooked on it, and we're halfway through the second season right now). Not very festive of us, but we can't help ourselves. Maybe we'll watch It's a Wonderful Life when we visit my family in Colorado this weekend.